The Coastal Post - June 2000

Supervisors Respond To Complaints
About Flight Noise Over Marin

By Jeanette Marie Pontacq

The continuing assault on Marin skies by Bay Area airports and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) took a new turn with the May 16th hearing by the Marin Board of Supervisors. To date, residents had been filing complaints about the ever-increasing noise levels with airport noise abatement offices and elected public officials with no result. Demands for information on why such a large increase in overflights had suddenly occurred over Marin were met with stony silence from both SFO and the FAA.

Residents had even had to suffer through the disgraceful "public meeting" held on April 13th by the Regional Airport Planning Commission-RAPC (see Coastal Post, May 2000), where RAPC officials from San Mateo and Alameda counties simply left the meeting while Marin residents were testifying. The Marin Board of Supervisors' hearing, then, was hoped to be a real forum for both public comments and official strategic planning to alleviate the problem for Marin residents.

The official notice of the meeting was "to consider a report from the Marin County Community Development Agency on the status of air traffic and flight paths, airport expansion plans, the Regional Airport System Plan, FAA regulations, and the ways in which these activities are likely to have regional effects." The Community Development Agency had retained an aviation expert consultant and a planning consultant to research these activities and prepare the report for the Board of Supervisors."

Residents attending wanted to be assured that their county supervisors would take an aggressive and strong stand on their behalf to demand valid information both on what is flying through Marin skies now and what is planned if airport expansions take place. Further, residents were anxious to hear that their elected supervisors supported them in demanding that the present noise and intrusion levels of overflights be reduced to livable proportions, now.

Residents were not disappointed, although the strange ending of the meeting made many go away a bit uneasy. The meeting started at 2:30 p.m. as efficient, to-the-point, and gave respectful attention to residents' comments, suggestions and complaints. Tom Roth, a Senior Field Representative for Congresswoman Woolsey, was there along with Chris Norem from Senator Feinstein's office. Quietly witnessing the meeting were representatives from San Francisco International Airport.

Supervisors Rose, Murray, Kinsey and Kress listened as resident after resident outlined the deteriorating noise situation in their respective communities. Assistant Superintendent Frank Dean of the Point Reyes National Seashore spoke eloquently about the loss of solitude and wilderness within the park boundaries. Tim Haddad, the county planner in charge of the analysis of this situation, did an excellent job of describing the present situation over Marin skies and what steps need to be taken to both relieve residents and position the county to have representation on what the airports and the FAA plan to do here in the future.

Supervisors Rose and Murray, who both have large numbers of constituents suffering from the present noise situation, expressed support for an aggressive approach by the county and seemed to "stand" with their residents. Supervisor Kinsey, who presided as President, left a somewhat different and uneasy final impression with most participants. Although Supervisor Kinsey obviously had paid attention to the litany of evidence, comments and complaints by residents in his own district (West Marin), his final comment of the day seemed to be addressed more to positioning himself for future upward political mobility outside of Marin than to the problem at hand for his constituency.

Kinsey, in his final remark before closing, reminded citizens that the noise situation over Marin is part and parcel of a life style "we all enjoy," and that "there are no bad guys" here. What came across to many of those present from his full remark was that he felt the noise now and in the future needs to be considered as a possible and acceptable trade-off for what "we all enjoy." What it is that we all "enjoy" so much that we would be willing to accept a decreasing quality of life in order to retain it was not commented upon. The comment did seem to be quite out of step with the rest of the meeting and was much discussed afterward.

The majority of those interviewed after the meeting expressed real concern that an elected official would even hint that the deterioration of residents' quality of daily life in their homes, along with the destruction of the wilderness definition for the local national park, may be acceptable trade-offs for what others may term "progress."

Many just shook their heads when repeating the "there are no bad guys" comment. It seemed obvious to those I interviewed that there are indeed some real Bad Guys out there on this issue... some willing to quietly reroute flights, formerly elsewhere, over Marin... all willing to ignore the people of Marin... and spend billions of dollars to politically ram through acceptance of the airport expansions no matter what the environmental destruction and community deterioration. His comment, reported blandly in the Marin IJ the next day, was fodder for skeptics that the county will be aggressive on this issue.

Supervisor Kinsey's final comment aside, the Board of Supervisors did well and the end result of the May 16th meeting was that Tim Haddad has been instructed by the supervisors to continue his research and strategic planning on how to proceed and present his findings at a subsequent public meeting. Mr. Haddad is well versed on the issue and many believe Marin residents are fortunate to have him involved at the county level.

In the meantime, it is important that Marin residents understand they need to consistently insist their public officials take aggressive action to reverse the trend in Marin skies. If you have not yet written a letter, sent an email or made a phone call to these officials, please begin now.

Marinites need to remember that the FAA is widely considered to be a monolithic federal agency that considers airlines and airports its constituency, not the American public. To make an impact on FAA route decisions and how airport expansions affect Marin in the future, Marin residents need to make sure their elected officials are strongly on their side.

To keep informed as more and more planes appear over more and more homes, please see < >, a brand new web site on this important issue. If you are in West Marin, please register with the West Marin Coalition on Aircraft Noise at Box 960, Inverness 94937 (send name, mailing address, and email, phone or fax) so that you will be kept informed on what is going on (and get in line for one of their new bumper stickers). Feel free to contact me via [email protected] and I will pass on your comments and registration to West Marin C.A.N. This overhead noise will only stop if people speak up and insist their elected officials act on their behalf.

Contact: Supervisors: 499 7331 FAX 499 3645, 3501 Civic Center Dr., #329, San Rafael, CA 94903 email: , , , , and .

Rep Lynn Woolsey (415) 507 9554 email: [email protected] 1101 College Avenue, Santa Rosa, CA 95404.

Senator Barbara Boxer: (415) 403 0100 email: 1700 Montgomery St., #240, San Francisco, CA 94111.

Senator Dianne Feinstein: (415) 536 6868 email: , 525 Market Street, #3670, San Francisco, CA 94105.

Coastal Post Home Page