- I don’t notice more aircraft noise. Why should I be concerned?
- I’m a healthy person who exercises and eats right. Wouldn’t that protect me from harm from airplane noise to which I’m oblivious?
- My children seem unaware of the noise, so why is it a problem for them?
- Shouldn’t we expect more noise because there are so many more flights now going into SFO? Aren’t the folks opposing noise being unrealistic, given our area’s growth?
- Is this as bad as the noise will get, or is it going to get worse?
- We live in a beautiful area. A little more noise doesn’t really affect our lifestyle, does it?
- How is all this going to affect our property values? This is still a highly desirable location, isn’t it?
- Why is the FAA implementing NextGen?
- Shouldn’t we be supportive of NextGen – isn’t greater aviation efficiency a good thing?
- If NextGen and the new flight paths are so bad, why aren’t more people complaining?
- Is anything being done to stop this problem?
- What can I do to help?
- Where can I get more information on this issue?
1. I don’t notice more aircraft noise. Why should I be concerned?
Whether you notice the noise or not, wide-scale studies conducted over the past decade prove that aircraft noise at the levels and frequency we are experiencing raises blood pressure, causes a significant increase in coronary heart disease and strokes in affected populations, and increases local hospitalizations for cardiovascular disease. Your personal health is at risk and employer, employee, and taxpayer costs for health care will likely go up. back to top
2. I’m a healthy person who exercises and eats right. Wouldn’t that protect me from harm from airplane noise to which I’m oblivious?
Living under a flight path is unhealthy. Studies show that even health young adults experience harmful cardiovascular impacts, despite sleeping straight through airplane noise. The risks increase even more for the elderly, persons who already have cardiovascular disease risk factors, and children. Also, low-flying aircraft produce large amounts of air pollution that descends on residents. Pollution from airlines kills more people each year than plane crashes. back to top
3. My children seem unaware of the noise, so why is it a problem for them?
Children’s still-immature neurological systems are harmed by frequent aircraft noise exposure. Noise affects memory, reading comprehension, and learning in general. The British medical journal Lancet stated, “schools exposed to high levels of aircraft noise are not healthy educational environments.” Parents should be on the lookout for learning and behavior problems in their children living under the flight corridor. Los Altos and Los Altos Hills may have one of the best school systems in the state, but we no longer have a healthy learning environment for our children. back to top
4. Shouldn’t we expect more noise because there are so many more flights now going into SFO? Aren’t the folks opposing noise being unrealistic, given our area’s growth?
Traffic growth at SFO is essentially flat. The increased noise over Los Altos and Los Altos Hills is due to the fact that much of the traffic that used to be spread out over a wide area is now being concentrated into quarter-mile flight path that creates a 2 ½ mile wide “noise shadow”– think of it as more or less a straight line between Foothill College and SFO, although there are also other paths and “waypoint turns” that bisect our area. And the jets are no longer descending over the Bay and circling the airport to reach ground level – rather, they are descending over us, speed brakes shrieking, air pollution spewing, engines roaring. Noise levels outside the “corridor” are lower – but why should Los Altans’ peace be sacrificed? back to top
5. Is this as bad as the noise will get, or is it going to get worse?
The concentration of flights could potentially become much worse in the next two years if the NextGen system continues as planned, as SFO implements time delays that will increase the numbers of airplanes in the corridor. back to top
6. We live in a beautiful area. A little more noise doesn’t really affect our lifestyle, does it?
Low flights over our area tripled overnight. If you are an indoor person, the noise might be blunted. But people who enjoy the amenities of our California environment — hiking in the lovely open space above our town, walking their dog in their neighborhood, hosting backyard BBQ’s, gardening, playing soccer, participating in swim meets – are being hammered by noise. In particular, hiking in Black Mountain, San Antonio Park, Enid Clark Park, Arastradero Preserve, and other local areas feels like walking on the edge of a battlefield as the grinding engine noise ricochets through the hills. You have to wonder what the noise is doing to the wildlife up there. back to top
7. How is all this going to affect our property values? This is still a highly desirable location, isn’t it?
Homes under a new flight path lose value, according to the Appraisal Journal. In the high end home market losses over time can range from 3.3 to 22.5%. On a typical $2 million local home that would be a $66,000 to $450,000 loss. It is likely we will be required to disclose the noise problem in real estate transactions going forward. Many of us have already decided to do this because we don’t want to risk a lawsuit by disaffected buyers down the road. This will mean fewer buyers, since even folks who are not bothered by the noise may be reluctant to purchase a home that is subject to future property devaluation. Data on damage to property values from new flight paths has been available for at least 15 years but the FAA has gone ahead and imposed this harm on us anyway, without any prior notice, offer of compensation, or plan for relocation to a quiet area. back to top
8. Why is the FAA implementing NextGen?
The FAA, a moribund 46,027-employee government behemoth, is under intense criticism by the airline industry and legislators on both the right and left to modernize and become more “efficient”. NextGen, which is being rolled out in metropolitan areas across the country between 2012 and 2025, utilizes GPS and other new technology to give pilots a direct route for airport descents, thus supposedly reducing use of non-renewable fossil fuels and shaving time off flights. Contrary to expectations, however, fuel savings have have not materialized. And we wonder – if put to a vote, would a majority of Los Altos and Los Altos Hills residents opt for harmful noise and a few minutes’ faster flights, or would they prefer to preserve our historically quiet, rural, “village” atmosphere and slightly less speedy planes? It is also important to recognize that any future aircraft fuel savings will likely be offset by residents’ need to install air conditioning (many Los Altos and Los Altos Hills residents currently do without) so that they can keep their windows closed against the noise in summer months. That’s likely a net loss on efforts to reduce the “carbon footprint” for our area and merely shifts the costs from the airlines to private citizens – a tax we did not vote for. back to top
9. Shouldn’t we be supportive of NextGen – isn’t greater aviation efficiency a good thing?
The concept of “efficiency” warrants closer scrutiny. Historically, government “efficiency” in foisting drastic changes on society has often resulted in the trampling of citizens’ rights. In the case of NextGen and its enabling of concentrated, low flight paths, the FAA partnered with the airline industry and airports, while residents on the ground were left out. Any major corporation today that failed to take into account the needs of one of its major stakeholders would be penalized, taxed, and regulated to within an inch of its life. But supported by the cozy relationship between the FAA and airlines, NextGen is being rammed down residents’ throats. Don’t be fooled: only a fraction of the flying public benefits from a few minutes’ faster flight on the relatively few occasions per year most people fly. (Most airline customers don’t care about efficiency – they care that their flight takes off and lands when the airline promised it would.) But the airlines benefit hugely from even a few minutes shaved off each of thousands of flights. And SFO – which already boasts a mind-boggling $370 million annual profit – benefits from greater “throughput” (more arrivals and departures). The airlines’ and SFO’s profits from NextGen-enabled flight path changes are at our expense. back to top
10. If NextGen and the new flight paths are so bad, why aren’t more people complaining?
They are! Phoenix filed a lawsuit in June 2015 when a neighborhood of historic homes became the target of low-flying aircraft; months later the FAA had not even responded. In California, Culver City, Sacramento, and Point Loma (San Diego) are affected. Nationwide, citizens in Chicago, Brooklyn, Charlotte, Minneapolis, and many other cities have formed groups to fight this plague. Locally, Palo Alto, Woodside, and Santa Cruz are protesting. These local cities are actively involved helping their citizens forge solutions – Los Altos and Los Altos Hills need to do the same since the best solutions for those other cities may or may not be best for us. back to top
11. Is anything being done to stop this problem?
Rep. Anna Eshoo is actively working on this issue. That’s the good news. She has introduced legislation in the House that would restore the EPA’s Office of Noise Abatement and Control, require the EPA to conduct a study of airport noise, and require the FAA to work with local communities to limit noise impacts when implementing new flight paths. The bad news is of course such legislation could take years to make its way through Congress, and may or may not be passed. And involving the EPA is unfortunately a very indirect way to get the FAA to change. To her credit, Rep. Eshoo is also helping communities converge on a regional solution, and has brokered meetings between the FAA and community groups. Most recently, a Select Committee has been formed. Only one member is from Los Altos Hills; representatives from two of the most-impacted cities by population, Los Altos and Palo Alto, have only “alternate” status members on the committee. Finally, state Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, after months of inaction, recently sent strongly-worded joint letter on the issue to the FAA. Unfortunately, no one appears to have “control” over the FAA. back to top
12. What can I do to help?
The most important action you can take right now is to complain to your elected officials so that the number of voices in protest will reach significant levels, and register noise complaints on individual flights so that SFO statistics are impacted. Go to How to Take Action for a list of links and tools to facilitate your complaints. back to top
13. Where can I get more information on this issue?
Go to Sky Posse Palo Alto Web Site’s FAQ Page: http://www.skypossepaloalto.org/faqs/