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Sky Posse Palo Alto Offers Information Packet

Click to Read Packet    Sky Posse Palo Alto’s analysis of aircraft noise situation in Palo Alto and point of view on solutions.




FAA Initiatives offer No Relief for Palo Alto or Surrounding cities.



Letter sent to our members:   May 18, 2016

Dear Friends,

The FAA released yesterday their long awaited Updated Initiatives Document, an analysis of the changes they think are “feasible” for noise relief. To the best of our understanding, the report offers nothing that will help Palo Alto or surrounding cities.  The proposed changes focus on requests to move routes in the Santa Cruz mountains and departures over San Mateo County. The FAA rejected all ideas that might have provided some relief to mid Peninsula residents as “not feasible”.

The Select Committee was to work on Arrivals problems over the Peninsula and Santa Cruz County, but the FAA inexplicably added Departures initiatives from San Mateo County while eliminating all our suggested mid-Peninsula Arrivals initiatives as “unfeasible”. (Note that many of these principles have been adopted successfully at other airports.) Once again, the FAA chose to move noise for some communities, while doing nothing to reduce noise overall. The Updated Initiatives Document does not offer any relief to large mid-Peninsula cities which have been most affected by years of politically-initiated moving of routes over the Peninsula and by the FAA’s 2015 NextGen concentration of routes and lower approach altitudes over our cities.

The FAA document suggests yet another round of non-transparent politics in FAA route decisions.  The FAA committed on July 24, 2015 to come back to communities with short-term and long-term remediation initiatives for public consideration.  Instead, the Updated Initiatives Document makes clear that the FAA has already created its short list based on input from just a few organizations and political figures.  This short list, and only this short list, will now be presented to the Select Committee, whose voting members include many communities who will benefit, but not those most harmed, like Palo Alto and Los Altos.

The FAA never delivered on their July 24, 2015 commitment to return with short-term and long term remediation. Instead, side technical conversations occurred outside the public process. Suggestions and requests made by Sky Posse Palo Alto six months ago are blatantly ignored in the FAA document.

Palo Alto and other mid Peninsula cities have been disproportionately affected by the moving of aircraft noise over the past ten years, yet Palo Alto and Los Altos have been explicitly excluded from direct representation from the two main political groups who influence aircraft route locations – the SFO Roundtable and the recently congressionally appointed Select Committee.

Bottom line: Once again, the children, elderly, families, and working men and women of Palo Alto and neighboring communities are denied any aviation noise and pollution relief.

This happened the day after a record 13,416 complaints were logged on stop.jetnoise.net with Palo Alto being #1 in terms of number of complaints (29%) and number of people who complained (25%).  Our neighbors in Los Altos were right behind us with 24% of the complaints and 22% of the people who complained. On May 15, 2016, Palo and Los Altos combined had 53% of the complaints and 46% of the people who complained. 

Be assured that we are already in contact with the City of Palo Alto. We do not agree with their position to wait until the last Select Committee meeting on June 29th to respond to the FAA feasibility analysis, especially in light of the fact that the City has retained aviation consultants. We will also continue to put pressure on the City to schedule the Community Meeting on aircraft noise that they have agreed to hold. In addition, we will provide Select Committee members facts and suggestions to evaluate solutions and measure progress.
However, we need you to express your voice as well.

Here are things you can do:

·         Email, call, write, or meet elected officials to express your profound disappointment at the FAA analysis results and demand that elected officials put pressure on the FAA to identify solutions within the next 3 months that will provide relief, short-term and long-term, to Palo Alto residents.   See contact information for SC members and elected officials below.

·         Attend Select Committee meetings regardless of the location to hear, speak up, and put pressure on elected officials to find solutions short-term and long-term. The meetings are open to the public and have a section for public comments.

  •    NEXT WEEK: Wednesday May 25 6-8:30PM – Select Committee Meeting. Location: Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium, 307 Church Street, Santa Cruz
  •   Wednesday June 15 6-8:30PM – Select Committee Meeting. Location: San Mateo County (exact  location TBD)
  •   Wednesday June 29 6-8:30PM – Select Committee Meeting. Location: Santa Clara County (exact location TBD)

·          Attend SFO Roundtable meetings next week and in June, These are also open to the public

  • Technical Working Group to evaluate and discuss the FAA Initiative feasibility results. These meeting will both be at the airport, exact location to be announced. Tentative dates are:
    •   Thursday May 26, 9AM-noon (location TBD)
    •   Wednesday June 22, 9AM-noon (location TBD)
  •   Full Roundtable meeting to discuss and act on the Technical Working Group’s findings:  Monday June 27 in the evening (location TBD)

Thank you for doing your part.
With warm regards,

Sky Posse Palo Alto

Contact Information


Email United States Congressional Representative Anna Eshoo

Or contact her by mail or phone: District Office, 698 Emerson Street, Palo Alto, CA 94301, (650)323-2984 or (408) 245-2339Washington, D.C. Office, 241 Cannon Building, Washington, D.C. 20515, (202) 225-8104

Email Palo Alto City Manager James Keene

Email the Palo Alto City Council

Email US Senator Barbara Boxer Phone (510) 286-8537

Email US Senator Diane Feinstein  Phone (415) 393-0707


Select Committee Members in 18th District:
Supervisor Joe Simitian Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors (Chairman of Select Committee) https://www.sccgov.org/sites/d5/contact-joe/Pages/contact-the-office.aspx

• Councilmember Ann Wengert Town of Portola Valley

• Councilmember Mary-Lynn Bernald City of Saratoga

• Mayor Pro Tem Gary Waldeck Town of Los Altos Hills

Select Committee Alternate Members:
1. Supervisor Mike Wasserman, Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors

2. Mayor Elizabeth Lewis, Town of Atherton

3. Councilmember Jean Mordo, City of Los Altos

4. Vice Mayor Gregory Scharff, City of Palo Alto

Mark your calendars! Select Committee meeting dates announced

Congressional Representatives Eshoo, Far, and Speier issued a letter on April 18 describing some next steps for the Select Committee. The Committee is the group that will receive the FAA proposals for reducing noise pollution. They will then attempt to develop regional consensus on whether these proposals are acceptable. At the May 6 meeting, the group will select its chair and co-chair. The FAA leadership and SFO director will be present to answer questions. All Select Committee meetings are public.

We encourage everyone to attend the Select Committee meetings, which are open to the public. Please mark your calendars for:
• Friday May 6 2PM at SFO (exact location to be announced)
• May 25 6-8:30PM in Santa Cruz County
• June 15 6-8:30PM in San Mateo County
• June 29 6-8:30PM in Santa Clara County
As always, we encourage you to contact Anna Eshoo’s office https://eshoo.house.gov/contact/
or any of the following members from the 18th District with any questions or comments you may have:

Select Committee Members:
• Supervisor Joe Simitian Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors https://www.sccgov.org/sites/d5/contact-joe/Pages/contact-the-office.aspx

• Councilmember Ann Wengert Town of Portola Valley

• Councilmember Mary-Lynn Bernald City of Saratoga

• Mayor Pro Tem Gary Waldeck Town of Los Altos Hills gcwaldeck@losaltoshills.ca.gov

Select Committee Alternate Members:
1. Supervisor Mike Wasserman Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors mike.wasserman@bos.sccgov.org

2. Mayor Elizabeth Lewis Town of Atherton

3. Councilmember Jean Mordo City of Los Altos

4. Vice Mayor Gregory Scharff City of Palo Alto

Breaking News! Great support from Senators Feinstein and Boxer! 


Read the letter that our Senators sent to the FAA Administrator Michael Huerta on April 12 in which they specifically asked him “to take all practicable steps to address the noise impacts of the NextGen initiative on California communities”. Our senators eloquently articulate the issue we face and some of its negative impacts, including a slight increase in greenhouse gas emissions. The ask Mr. Huerta to “identify any remedies that would fairly and safely reduce overall impacts and to implement them as quickly as possible.” In addition, they urge the FAA “to consider the best available science and the actual experience of people on the ground” when reviewing noise metrics and thresholds.

Please continue to speak up because your voice makes a difference. Keep using stop.jetnoise.net because your noise reports reflect actual human impact. And don’t forget to thank our Senators for their support!

Contact US Senator Barbara Boxer

Contact US Senator Diane Feinstein

History of NextGen


Our neighbor Mark Shull has written and carefully documented the misdevelopment of the NextGen program, particularly as it relates to Northern California.

You may read it in the long form here and in the slightly condensed form here. It is probably much as you suspected.









Materials to Help Inform Our Neighbors


Our elected reps look at the number and distribution of noise complaints as support for their efforts to get the FAA to make changes. Many neighbors who are disturbed by the noise and pollution do not realize that complaining is vital to this process. Moreover, many do not appreciate the clearly documented effects of our level of airplane noise on health, learning and productivity.

You can help by discussing these points with your neighbors and community groups. Here are some materials that might be of assistance. Feel free to download, print and distribute widely.

This is a one page flier that gives a brief overview of the situation and how to approach solving it.

Here are some myths dispelled and answers to some Frequently Asked Questions.

This is a referenced one page fact sheet that gives more details about the situation.

Here is a detailed explanation on how to report aircraft noise in one click through stop.jetnoise.net. The program can be accessed via a browser on your smartphone, iPad/tablet, or laptop. Here is some info in Spanish.

This is a comprehensive and up to date summary of the effects of aircraft noise on health, sleep, learning and memory. It is published by two British noise groups. Highly recommended! If you dont have time to read all this, here is an excellent short summary.

This is a brief explanation of some of the terms used to measure noise. California uses CNEL but this measure is obsolete and needs to be replaced.

Here is a nicely illustrated bifold FAST FACTS brochure prepared by our friends in Los Altos. It summarizes the problem in brief bullet points and describes what can be done to help.


Documentation: It Is As Bad As We Hear


Our friend Don Gardner has done some wonderful analysis of our FOIA flight track data. Imagine a geometric plane (black line) extending along Embarcadero Road from Stanford to Highway 101. Each time an airplane intersects this plane, it registers a ‘blip’ on a heat map and the altitude is recorded.



Above is a heat map showing all the flights that pass through the ‘window’ during the month of September, 2013. The most sound energy (particularly at low frequencies) is delivered not immediately under the flight track vector, but in 2 swaths adjacent to the vector. Walter Hayes and Castelleja Schools are getting a good dose of noise.


Here is a similar graph for September, 2015. Note that the number of flights passing through this corridor has almost doubled. Remember when SFO was saying “Nothing has changed”?” The path has shifted slightly to the northeast. The proportion of flights near the bottom of the 4000-5000 foot altitude window has increased. The altitudes have a bimodal distribution.

Sky Posse advocates for “Equitable Distribution” This is not equitable distribution.

FAA Issues List of Suggestions to Address Noise Concerns


Over the past few months, the Western Regional Director and several of his technical staff held a series of site visits with elected representatives and representatives of advocacy groups to hear about noise concerns and to gather suggestions for remediation. In mid-November, they issued a document listing a series of initiatives which they plan to study. We are very grateful to Rep. Eshoo and her staff for arranging this meeting. To our knowledge, the FAA has never responded to community concerns in this way.

Although there are no timelines given for any of these initiatives, Rep Eshoo is pressing them to return with followup.

It is the view of Sky Posse that the long term solution is a reorganization of Bay Area air space. In addition to safety and efficiency, the reorganization take health and well being of groundlings into consideration. The re-design would be done in an open, transparent manner. It would minimize noise over populated areas and what noise could not be eliminated would be distributed equitably.



Growth of Traffic Near MENLO Waypoint


As you may know, flights from the north, south and west converge over a waypoint near the intersection of Willow Road and 101. They aim for an altitude of 4000 feet at MENLO and from there, they take the final approach into SFO. Our friend James Sun has analyzed the growth of traffic between 3K and 5K feet into a 7 mile radius ‘cylinder’ around MENLO. The results are presented here. This information was obtained from information received from the FAA via a FOIA request. The circles represent radar pings rather than the actual number of flights. The largest circles represent 15K pings per month (the results could be inaccurate if the ping rate has changed over the years). As you can see, the number of flights from the south and southeast appears to have grown substantially.














Airbus 320 Whine/Howl/Keening


You are probably aware that certain jets flying over us emit a high-pitched whining noise that is particularly offensive to the human ear. These are the older (pre-2014) Airbus 319 and A320 jets, flown by many airlines into SFO. (They account for 17%-20% of the noisiest SF Peninsula over flights). United, Virgin America, American, Jet Blue, and Air Canada Rouge, and fly the majority of these planes. Luckily, there is an inexpensive solution to this huge noise issue–but the airlines need to be motivated to invest in noise abatement.

We have a petition to airlines asking them to spend less than $5000 per jet to retrofit their fleets of the Airbus A320 series with simple air flow deflectors that STOP the horrible loud “whistling” sound affecting millions on the peninsula. The petition explains the problem and solution in detail. Thanks for passing this link along to your neighbors! This is an issue nationwide, as residential communities up to 30 miles from airports where the A320 series jets land are affected–with every A320 series arrival–many times, every day. (The A320 series includes A318-A321 jets.) So, share with friends and relatives who live under arrival paths.Airbus+RetrofitImage


Click here to be flown to the petition!

Palo Alto City Council Approves Actions to Reduce Aircraft Noise

We are delighted to report that on Aug 24, City Council unanimously approved a number of measures designed to improve the aircraft noise pollution situation over our city. Specifically, they:

  1. Directed Staff to issue a Request for Proposals for a technical noise study
  2. Asked Staff to arrange a meeting with surrounding cities to address the noise issue
  3. Elevated aircraft noise as a City priority and requested advocacy at appropriate levels
  4. Authorized the Mayor to appoint a Council Member as a liaison to Sky Posse and as a non voting member to the airport Roundtable
  5. Asked the City Manager to continue to work with residents
  6. Approved a resolution urging the FAA to address aircraft noise in Palo Alto [this resolution was suggested by Congresswoman Eshoo].
  7. Asked the City Attorney to meet with residents to review relevant statutes and provide information on pending legal proceedings.

You can view the collected measures here. Additionally, the City Manager has put up a fine new web site related to aircraft noise. Click here to have a look.




Palo Alto Weekly

Spectrum – August 21, 2015

Guest Opinion: A Groundling’s Lament and a Call to Action

by Rachel Kellerman

This summer I became a reluctant advocate for quiet skies. I say reluctant because I am a teacher-librarian, not a rabble-rouser. I’ve been busy raising a family in Palo Alto for the past 23 years, and I’ve never considered addressing the City Council. I appreciate our local aviation heritage, and I fly to visit family and friends.So why am I campaigning for responsible aviation? The short answer is that Palo Alto is now plagued by a disproportionate level of aircraft noise severely diminishing our quality of life. The long answer is months of research that ultimately led to my decision to contact Sky Posse Palo Alto, a group of neighbors who are working toward decreasing low, loud and concentrated aviation noise.

My investigation began by contacting Bert Ganoung, the aircraft-noise-abatement manager at San Francisco International Airport (SFO). When Ganoung discovered where I lived he emitted a sympathetic sigh. Palo Alto is 20 miles distant from the airport, yet over the years air traffic has gradually shifted over our town, including three main approaches into SFO.

His office emailed a graphic to me showing Palo Alto cowering under what looks like a Los Angeles freeway interchange. I grew up in Los Angeles and thought I’d left the 405 far behind.

Adding to our misery, the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) new NextGen protocols direct arriving flights along rigid corridors at altitudes of lower than 5,000 feet. Arrival routes that were once dispersed high above many Peninsula communities now converge into high-decibel, low-altitude “superhighways” directly over our heads.

A Sky Posse Palo Alto (SPPA) analysis of data secured by a Freedom of Information Act request confirms these gradual shifts in flight patterns. SPPA obtained 10 years of flight track data from the FAA and compared total flight growth into SFO to flight growth over Palo Alto. Among other comparisons, they took a snapshot of two months of data from July 2006 and July 2014. Overall, total arrival traffic at SFO increased by 28 percent, while lower altitude arrival traffic over Palo Alto increased a whopping 76 percent.

I’ve heard our mounting noise problem compared to boiling frogs. Frogs will jump into a cool pan of water and stay there even as the heat gradually rises. They don’t realize they are in trouble until it’s too late.

This is not the first time Palo Alto has sought regional solutions to aircraft noise and been stonewalled. The SFO Roundtable is “a voluntary committee to address community noise impacts from aircraft operations at San Francisco International Airport (SFO).” The FAA looks to the SFO Roundtable as a way for communities to address noise abatement, and the SFO Roundtable is structured to influence routing and procedures decisions with the FAA. City Council minutes show that Palo Alto was denied membership to this important body three times, twice in the 1990s and most recently last October, because the Roundtable wants to limit its voting membership to San Mateo County.

After sorting through these thorny regional issues, I called the FAA and described jets flying low overhead, sometimes 100 a day, resulting in missed sleep, disruptions at work and interrupted family time. My FAA contact denied there was a noise problem, offering as proof the FAA’s computer modeling study done prior to the implementation of NextGen. In other words, FAA’s flawed computer models know more about our reality than we do!

The FAA can’t comment further because it is getting sued. Private citizens in Portola Valley and Woodside are suing on the basis that no full environmental-impact study was performed before starting NextGen in our area.

The hard truth is that the FAA has never bothered to measure our actual noise. Even if it did, we would not benefit because its noise harm test is a poor diagnostic for Palo Alto’s pain. Briefly, the FAA calibrates harm by averaging noise over a 24-hour period, giving more weight to nighttime noise. Noise mitigation occurs when an area reaches the California Community Noise Equivalent Level (CNEL) of 65 decibels. The 24-hour average noise impact of all our Surf Air planes and 747s may not average 65 dBs, but each 70-80 decibel blast assaults our senses. By the time the bruise begins to fade we are hit again.

The strict way the FAA measures noise is an issue for the Congressional Quiet Skies Caucus. Luckily Rep. Anna Eshoo is a leading member. On July 24 at Palo Alto City Hall, Eshoo’s office invited key FAA officials to a closed meeting with regional stakeholders. I understand that the FAA was presented with some solutions, such as raising flights to higher altitudes, applying curfews to protect sleep and using our wide Bay as a low approach instead of directing grinding aircraft down over our communities.

Unfortunately there is no immediate relief, so citizens should complain repeatedly to offending airports and to the FAA. Support Eshoo and county Supervisor Joe Simitian as they deal with an intractable FAA. Advocate for change by writing our local, state and national politicians, and sign the petition on the Sky Posse Palo Alto website. Palo Alto is planning to conduct a comprehensive study, and this information will be vital for our town’s future.

For those of you who do not consider aircraft noise and pollution to be a problem, consider that your neighbors have a right to a good night’s sleep and our school children require quiet classrooms and fresh air. We all pay dearly to live in this town, and our homes are an important investment.

There is more at stake here than any one individual voice. Groundlings, I’m calling on you to leave your reluctance behind and assert your rights! How else will our community learn to balance progress with peace?

Rachel Kellerman is a local educator who has lived in Palo Alto for 23 years.


Excellent Presentation on Outdated, Inadequate Metrics Used by FAA in Measuring Noise

This video, produced by colleagues in Minneapolis, shows that if FAA used the WHO-recommended threshold of 55 dB DNL to determine who is adversely affected by aircraft noise (health, learning, quality of life, property values), approximately 20x more people would be included than currently. Moreover, the FAA proposes to use the current in-house rules to determine whether a full environmental assessment is necessary for route changes. This is the clearest explanation we have seen in some time.



Quantitative Analysis of Aircraft Noise over Palo Alto

Our friend Tom Rindfleisch has published a well thought out, systematic analysis of of aircraft noise over the Crescent Park neighborhood. It is well worth a look.

Read it here.



Residents near London’s Gatwick airport are having similar problems. They prepared this excellent video describing the problem.


Palo Alto Weekly publishes most excellent editorial on aircraft noise.

Read it here!

Fine Meeting with FAA Officials and Elected Representatives!!

On Friday, July 24, three members of Sky Posse were able to meet with elected representatives from around the 18th Congressional District, the Regional Director of the FAA and his staff, Palo Alto City officials and with representatives of SFO. This meeting was graciously arranged by Congresswoman Eshoo. We feel it was an excellent meeting in which all sides of the issue were heard. We will post more details soon. In the meantime, here is a San Jose Mercury News article briefly describing the meeting.




An excellent article by Sam Levin in the East Bay Express on aviation noise pollution in Northern California, particularly with regard to parks.


READ HERE the City of Palo Alto’s Policy and Services Committee Staff Report about Air Traffic Over Palo Alto Skies

Congresspeople assist groundlings in their districts to mitigate noise. Read about it here.

Palo Alto residents successfully sue to get relief from aircraft noise (of course that was in 1934).



A particularly elegant analogy

“…the routes that airplanes follow are like highways in the air. They have value and serve very legitimate purposes. But like highways on the ground, these aerial highways have impacts on people and the environment around them. We do not allow trucking and transportation companies to dictate the routes of cars and trucks through residential areas and it would be considered absurd if the trucking industry proposed building freeways through residential areas simply because doing so would reduce their own expenses or fuel consumption.”
Peter Dorfman
For the complete post, please click here.


Click here to see the letter Sky Posse sent to the Palo Alto City Council introducing the issue

Please sign the petition! Click here!

If you would prefer not to use change.org, please click here.

Our elected representatives seem willing to help us but they have competing priorities. They need to hear that a substantial number of people care about this problem. By signing, you will let your voice be heard!


Petitioning: Palo Alto City Council, Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, Congresswoman Jackie Speier, Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian, State Senator Jerry Hill, Assembly Member Richard Gordon, and United States Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer.

Aircraft noise is increasing at an alarming rate over our communities. This has a significant impact on our quality of life, including disruption of sleep. The FAA is instituting a new air traffic control system called NextGen, which concentrates flight paths over our homes and schools. Over the past 15 years, SFO arrivals have increased 23%, but flight paths have shifted, increasing flights over Palo Alto 185%, from 70 to 200 arrivals per day. With six airports routing traffic over Palo Alto and neighboring communities, it is critical to monitor and apply best practices to abate aircraft noise.

Furthermore, in 2000, Congresswoman Anna Eshoo and then-Mayor Gary Fazzino, announced an agreement with the FAA and SFO to route flights at a minimum altitude of 5000 feet over Palo Alto in an effort to reduce noise, but planes are now flying much lower. Oakland, San Jose and San Carlos airports are also increasing traffic over our communities with flights as low as 2000 feet.

We ask you, our elected officials, to exercise your full influence and resources to address this problem. In addition to your working with the airports conducting traffic here, we ask you to appeal urgently to Congress, the FAA, and air traffic control to work effectively with communities on noise abatement.




San Francisco Bay Area Major Jet Arrival and Departure Routes courtesy of SFO Noise Abatement Office; see Maps and Charts for more

Palo Alto is at the intersection of three major routes into SFO carrying domestic and international traffic. The San Francisco Metroplex is the 7th largest airport metroplex in the nation. SFO, Oakland, and San Jose all share this same airspace, as do local airports.

Changes in FAA flight procedures have already led to increases in air traffic over Palo Alto neighborhoods. Air traffic over Palo Alto will continue to increase, if paths remain the same, as the FAA institutes a new system of landing patterns called NextGen which will concentrate flight paths into narrow corridors. The FAA carefully crafted the definitions of flight procedures to sound like they have not changed, but there have been significant changes to the flight patterns, not in our favor.

Please join us to share information, work with our representatives, and coordinate with our neighbors to act on this issue! Air traffic noise is only going to increase; please act now.

You may email us directly at info@skypossepaloalto.org or join@skypossepaloalto.org


Over 200 planes transit Palo Alto airspace every day… want to learn more? See a full-size map and our FAQs