A series of new legislation introduced by U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier is taking aim at a longstanding complaint of many Coastsiders and other residents on the Peninsula: airplaine noise.
Speier, who represents parts of San Mateo and San Francisco counties, is focusing on noise from major airports, particularly in early hours of the morning.
One of her bills, titled “Restore Everyone’s Sleep Tonight Act,” would allow airports, at their discretion, to impose a curfew at any time between 10 p.m. to 7 a.m.
Some say airport noise got worse in 2014, when the Federal Aviation Administration started using Next Generation Air Transportation Systems that directed navigation of flights by GPS rather than ground control. The change created efficiencies but resulted in many Bay Area airport flight patterns over areas of the Peninsula.
Under the proposed act, it would permit airports to fine airlines that violate the quiet period once enacted.
“The nonstop noise from flights is seriously affecting residents’ sleep, mental health and overall quality of life,” Speier said in a prepared statement. “… Our legislation would create new pathways for change and improve overall responsiveness by the FAA – a public agency that has a responsibility to be accountable to the people.”
In 2018, the San Francisco International Airport Aircraft Noise Abatement Office issued a report studying Half Moon Bay. Of the 189 overhead flights on an average day, 58 exceeded the noise threshold. SFO aircraft contributed to 82 percent of all aircraft noise events over Half Moon Bay.
Residents in the Bay Area, including on the Midcoast, have spoken out against FAA changes resulting in more air traffic noise. They have participated in local committee meetings on the topic and signed petitions calling for a ban of flying low over the Coastside.
Speier is also calling for greater soundproofing. The Serious Noise Reduction Efforts Act would insulate about 200 homes a year that are located in proximity to SFO against noise from the airport. This includes installing noise dampening windows and residential noise insulation to reduce the impact of noise, according to the bill. SFO already has a program to help insulate homes from aircraft noise, but at present that includes just mitigating noise from 60 to 80 homes per year.
Additionally, Speier is looking to include southbound noise abatement flight procedures for nighttime departures from SFO. While there are already procedures in place for northbound and eastbound flights, southbound flights currently take off over the bay but then turn back,
flying over homes at lower altitudes.
In her proposed legislation, Speier is asking the FAA to review the current flight procedure and include community input during the process.
U.S. Reps. Anna Eshoo and Jimmy Panetta are co-authors of some of the legislation.
“Our constituents are exhausted by the intensified airline noise they are experiencing due to the implementation of NextGen,” said San Mateo County Supervisor Dave Pine in a prepared statement. He is a longtime SFO Community Roundtable participant.
“These bills seek to hold the FAA accountable for the noise and health impacts aircraft have on communities,” he said. “The proposed voluntary nighttime curfew could provide some relief – and maybe some sleep.”