First published in the Sept. 3 print issue of the Burbank Leader.
San Fernando Valley communities are still a far cry away from peace and quiet.
Hollywood Burbank Airport, BUR, will receive $805,900 in federal infrastructure grants to conduct a noise compatibility planning study for neighborhoods near the airport. Congressman Adam Schiff announced the funding last month, but that study doesn’t do enough to address the concerns of residents who say the airport will be unable to fully investigate the impact of aircraft noise on residences beyond the study’s reach.
“A Part 150 Noise Study measures noise and can help residents immediately surrounding the airport, but not those in communities many miles away,” said officials from Studio City for Quiet Skies, SCQC, in a press statement.
SCQC and other residents in southern San Fernando Valley communities have voiced their disapproval of noise levels from the airport since the Federal Administration of Aviation, or FAA, shifted flight paths south in 2017 in accordance with satellite-based routes. As a result, planes now fly over homes that previously did not experience noise.
The new flight paths involve a greater concentration of planes flying 5-12 miles south of the 101 freeway than ever before. The number of flights coming out of BUR also increased between 2016 and today.
Residents say that noise has gotten much worse since flight paths moved south.
“One day in the spring of 2017, we heard a roar over our home that literally shook the windows … Now, we have 737s and other aircraft flying directly overhead at 20-second intervals all morning and the early evening hours, and 30-60 second intervals throughout the rest of the day,” said Julia Bricklin, a resident of Studio City since 1999.
“We cannot watch a movie indoors, we cannot sit outdoors, we cannot take important phone calls here without constant interruption.”
The goal of the noise study is to identify noise and depict it over land use maps to show its relation to streets, neighborhoods, and other features said Patrick Lammerding, Deputy Executive Director of Planning and Development for the Hollywood Burbank Airport.
Results could lead to residential sound insulation programs for homes under the umbrella of the part 150 study.
But airport staff is only required to study areas near the airport where the Day-Night Sound Level, DNL, is higher than 65 decibels – just areas directly near the airport – discluding residents like Bricklin in neighborhoods miles away along the frequently trafficked flight paths who experience DNLs lower than 65 decibels, but still report quality of life issues related to aircraft noise.
This is because the FAA considers DNLs below 65 decibels as acceptable noise levels for residential areas, though their own 2021 Neighborhood Environmental Survey shows an increase in the percentage of people who are highly annoyed by aircraft noise over the entire of aircraft noise levels considered, including at lower noise levels.
The study shows that between 65% and 70% of people surveyed in areas with noise levels at 65DNL reported being highly annoyed by aircraft noise. 50% of people in areas where aircraft noise is measured at 60DNL reported being highly annoyed.
According to Studio City for Quiet Skies, “Highly annoyed doesn’t even begin to cover it.”
The group of Studio City Residents, made up of volunteers, are fighting to secure changed and dispersed flight paths, runway rotation and other noise mitigation techniques “to ensure that no one neighborhood suffers disproportionately from the roar of almost 200 jets departing Burbank Airport daily,” according to their site.
“DNL is measured in decibels and averages noise over a 24-hour period, while most events occur between the hours of 7am and 10pm, thereby diluting the average … Unless you live near the runway, it is impossible to meet this standard. For communities living 5+ miles away, it takes 1,000 loud 84.4 decibel events per day to reach this unattainable FAA standard [of 65 decibels],” stated the SCQS.
“Those who have been forced to live with these unacceptable impacts need relief now,” Congressman Brad Sherman wrote in a letter to the FAA following the 2021 Neighborhood Environmental Survey. “It is unacceptable to further delay taking reasonable and necessary actions to alleviate the documented effects in the San Fernando Valley and in other communities across the country.”
The airport is planning to include a citizen’s advisory committee in the Part 150 study and will allow for residents from communities surrounding the airport to have their concerns heard and incorporated into the process, said Lammerding. “Hollywood Burbank Airport remains committed to including all voices throughout this process regardless of geographic location or socioeconomic status.”
“Most importantly, the process of developing a noise compatibility plan involves community involvement and consensus in creating a noise abatement plan that will provide the most effective results without shifting noise or creating safety issues,” Lammerding said.
“Burbank Airport will form a Community Action Committee as part of the Part 150 process. However, it will grossly underrepresent those heavily impacted by BUR. The Committee will act in the service of the Airport and will be limited to the issue of the Part 150,” SCQC wrote.
The airport can choose to consider the effects of lower noise levels during the Part 150 study under the National Environmental Policy Act, but its unclear if BUR officials will choose to do so.