Unfriendly skies over the Santa Cruz Mountains

Planes fly over Santa Cruz Mountain communities on way to SFO.

Point…

Here is a response from proponents of keeping the SFO inbound flight path where it is.

The FAA is the determiner of flight routes. That’s what they do – regulate all aspects of civil aviation and manage air traffic.

The Don Lane amendment (have the FAA select the best route) didn’t prevail on Dec. 6 because Supervisor Leopold negotiated votes between meetings in order to achieve his predetermined outcome at the expense of the other Santa Cruz County representatives. He also violated the June 2015 directive from the Board of Supervisors “to discuss remedies that do not impose a hardship on other Santa Cruz County residents.”

The Select Committee was formed to take input and offer a recommendation. They made a bad one. Bonny Doon was not represented. None of the stakeholder communities was consulted or represented when Quiet Skies NorCal came up with their proposal to create a new NextGen flight path over Santa Cruz, SLV, Bonny Doon, and west Scotts Valley.

 Communities under BSR in Santa Clara County and San Mateo County also oppose the ground track shift and did not consider the issue regional when they intentionally omitted stakeholders.

The Select Committee recommended to revert to the BSR ground track because of political pressure. Two wrongs don’t make a right. A new NextGen flight path over BSR should be rejected as another wrong. If “low and noisy” problems on SERFR are solved, then why move the path?

The FAA did not offer any assurances that altitudes would resemble anything in the past. Supervisor Leopold did. However, the FAA has stated that adjustments to any new path would apply equally to SERFR. Then there would be no reason to move the path.

 The FAA stated that it would use noise measurement tools that the Select Committee described as “inadequate and unacceptable.” The FAA stated that the agency never measured BSR. Again, if a new path can be made quiet, then so could SERFR, and residents there would find relief.

The Bay Area is one of the most congested airspaces in the world.

A flight overhead impacts more than a pencil-thin line on the ground. The sound shadow extends on either side. Los Gatos and Happy Valley advocates do not acknowledge the actual boundaries of the San Lorenzo Valley.

Switching back to the BSR route impacts west Scotts Valley, east San Lorenzo Valley, Santa Cruz. Then 50 percent of flights are noisily vectored to the west.. Those flights will be very noisy for all of San Lorenzo Valley, west Santa Cruz, and Bonny Doon.

 The FAA presented a slide that shows elevations under BSR are higher (up to 3,134) than those under SERFR (up to 2,574). Those state parks and quarries are in the San Lorenzo Valley - 37,000 residents. Any comparison between the two routes must match higher elevations to higher elevations, not a picking and choosing of elevations to serve one cause. SLV, Bonny Doon, Skyline elevations are higher. 

 The FAA has not promised the assortment of claims being made - Supervisor John Leopold has made those promises. The FAA’s exact words were “we make no guarantees for noise” and “it will look a lot like SERFR.”

Residents under BSR from Santa Cruz to SLV to Palo Alto complained about jet noise for decades, but we didn’t have an app where 1 person can hit the complaint button hundreds of times a day.

Ellsworth Wente IV and Rebecca Stoller,  Bonny Doon

Counter Point…

Here are “bullet points” from proponents of moving the flight path over the San Lorenzo Valley.

The selection of a route was not the FAA's to make. It was the Select Committee's job. Both the FAA and the congressional offices said that the FAA could not and would not make the decision for us.

The Select Committee considered a pure criteria-based approach (The Don Lane Amendment) and the amendment didn't even get six votes, not to mention the required eight votes.

The Select Committee was the regional body formed to deal with this issue.

Everyone was represented (except for Los Altos and Mountain View) and an explicit return to BSR won a super majority. Santa Cruz County had 4 votes - two supervisors, and two city representatives. The city of Santa Cruz and District 5 each had a vote and used it.

The ground path affects communities from the Santa Cruz coastline, through Summit, and Saratoga, and into Los Altos - it is a regional issue covering both counties.

The Select Committee chose to revert to the BSR route because A) it should never have been moved to begin with, and B) ample assurance was given that the problems that made SERFR "low and noisy" were solved. Therefore there are no "adverse impacts" on anyone.

The FAA assured us that flight altitudes over Santa Cruz County will be practically the same as they were before 2015, and that planes would use idle-power at least as often.

The FAA showed a noise analysis comparing BSR and DAVYJ and they came out within 1 dB of each other over Santa Cruz County.

Overhead flight at 12,000 flight and idle power (like between the coastline and Pasatiempo) is proven to be a non-issue.

Even under BSR, the route still passes closer to Summit and Las Cumbres than it does to Boulder Creek, but at 2-3 miles away, it's far enough to not make an impact on either.

BSR crosses Mt. Hermon Road over the quarries, half way between Scotts Valley and Felton.

The FAA showed a noise analysis comparing DAVYJ and SERFR and the high impact zone of SERFR reaches further into the hills, and directly over high elevation SERFR overflies high-elevation mountain communities at under 5000 feet.

BSR avoids doing so by flying over state parks and open land.

DAVYJ Traffic will cross the shoreline at practically the same altitudes as pre-NextGen, and fly at idle power, much as it did for 30 years, without any complaints.

These facts have been promised by the FAA.

The FAA also said they'll attempt to work on flight altitudes over MENLO, which is an issue that is completely unrelated to NextGen and to the selection of ground track.

(2) comments

KCarter

This format below might be more helpful in trying to understand the debate from both sides. Bullet points are the claims from the people who want to move the path to SLV/SantaCruz/BonnyDoon/ScottsValley. Counter-point is the response from those communities who have no desire for a new NextGen flight path that they never had before.

Also, why is there no name attached to the counter point part, which actually should be the “point” part?


• The selection of a route was not the FAA's to make. It was the Select Committee's job. Both the FAA and the congressional offices said that the FAA could not and would not make the decision for us.

Correction - The FAA is the determiner of flight routes. That’s what they do – regulate all aspects of civil aviation and manage air traffic.

• The Select Committee considered a pure criteria-based approach (The Don Lane Amendment) and the amendment didn't even get six votes, not to mention the required eight votes.

Correction - The Don Lane amendment (have the FAA select the best route) didn’t prevail on Dec. 6 because Supervisor Leopold negotiated votes between meetings in order to achieve his predetermined outcome at the expense of the other Santa Cruz County representatives. He also violated the June 2015 directive from the Board of Supervisors “to discuss remedies that do not impose a hardship on other Santa Cruz County residents.”

• The Select Committee was the regional body formed to deal with this issue.

Correction - The Select Committee was formed to take input and offer a recommendation. They made a bad one. Bonny Doon was not represented. None of the stakeholder communities was consulted or represented when Quiet Skies NorCal came up with their proposal to create a new NextGen flight path over Santa Cruz, SLV, Bonny Doon, and west Scotts Valley.

• Everyone was represented (except for Los Altos and Mountain View) and an explicit return to BSR won a super majority. Santa Cruz County had 4 votes - two supervisors, and two city representatives. The city of Santa Cruz and District 5 each had a vote and used it.
• The ground path affects communities from the Santa Cruz coastline, through Summit, and Saratoga, and into Los Altos - it is a regional issue covering both counties.

Correction - Communities under BSR in Santa Clara County and San Mateo County also oppose the ground track shift and did not consider the issue regional when they intentionally omitted stakeholders.

• The Select Committee chose to revert to the BSR route because A) it should never have been moved to begin with, and B) ample assurance was given that the problems that made SERFR "low and noisy" were solved. Therefore there are no "adverse impacts" on anyone.

Correction - The Select Committee recommended to revert to the BSR ground track because of political pressure. Two wrongs don’t make a right. A new NextGen flight path over BSR should be rejected as another wrong. If “low and noisy” problems on SERFR are solved, then why move the path?

• The FAA assured us that flight altitudes over Santa Cruz County will be practically the same as they were before 2015, and that planes would use idle-power at least as often.

Correction - The FAA did not offer any assurances that altitudes would resemble anything in the past. Supervisor Leopold did. However, the FAA has stated that adjustments to any new path would apply equally to SERFR. Then there would be no reason to move the path.

• The FAA showed a noise analysis comparing BSR and DAVYJ and they came out within 1 dB of each other over Santa Cruz County.

Correction - The FAA stated that it would use noise measurement tools that the Select Committee described as “inadequate and unacceptable.” The FAA stated that the agency never measured BSR. Again, if a new path can be made quiet, then so could SERFR, and residents there would find relief.

• Overhead flight at 12,000 flight and idle power (like between the coastline and Pasatiempo) is proven to be a non-issue.

Correction - There is no guarantee of OPD in congested airspace and the Bay Area is one of the most congested airspaces in the world. And overhead flight at 12,000’ and idle power can and should apply to SERFR.

• Even under BSR, the route still passes closer to Summit and Las Cumbres than it does to Boulder Creek, but at 2-3 miles away, it's far enough to not make an impact on either.

Correction - A flight overhead impacts more than a pencil-thin line on the ground. The sound shadow extends on either side. Los Gatos and Happy Valley advocates do not acknowledge the actual boundaries of the San Lorenzo Valley.

• BSR crosses Mt. Hermon Road over the quarries, half way between Scotts Valley and Felton.

Correction - Switching back to the BSR route impacts west Scotts Valley, east San Lorenzo Valley, Santa Cruz. Then 50 percent of flights are noisily vectored to the west.. Those flights will be very noisy for all of San Lorenzo Valley, west Santa Cruz, and Bonny Doon.

• The FAA showed a noise analysis comparing DAVYJ and SERFR and the high impact zone of SERFR reaches further into the hills, and directly over high elevation SERFR overflies high-elevation mountain communities at under 5000 feet.

Correction - The FAA presented a slide that shows elevations under BSR are higher (up to 3,134) than those under SERFR (up to 2,574).

• BSR avoids doing so by flying over state parks and open land.

So you agree! BSR flies over the San Lorenzo Valley because - Those state parks and quarries are in the San Lorenzo Valley - 37,000 residents. Any comparison between the two routes must match higher elevations to higher elevations, not a picking and choosing of elevations to serve one cause. SLV, Bonny Doon, Skyline elevations are higher.

• DAVYJ Traffic will cross the shoreline at practically the same altitudes as pre-NextGen, and fly at idle power, much as it did for 30 years, without any complaints.

• These facts have been promised by the FAA.

• The FAA also said they'll attempt to work on flight altitudes over MENLO, which is an issue that is completely unrelated to NextGen and to the selection of ground track.

Correction - The FAA has not promised the assortment of claims being made - Supervisor John Leopold has made those promises. The FAA’s exact words were “we make no guarantees for noise” and “it will look a lot like SERFR.”

Residents under BSR from Santa Cruz to SLV to Palo Alto complained about jet noise for decades, but we didn’t have an app where 1 person can hit the complaint button hundreds of times a day.

Seth Knoepler

This is remarkably detailed - thanks very much. I, too was troubled by the Press Banner editor's decision to publish an unsigned "counterpoint." Here's the letter which I emailed to him:

The December 9 issue of the Press-Banner included a fairly lengthy “counter point” to a commentary about the political machinations surrounding the attempt to shift the flight path of arriving SFO planes over the San Lorenzo Valley. The commentary itself was signed by Bonny Doon residents Ellsworth Wente and Rebecca Stoller. However, the “counter point” was published unsigned.

It has long been customary for newspapers and magazines to identify the authors of pieces which express opinions about important issues affecting their readers. Indeed, without such identification a newspaper allows itself to serve as a mouthpiece for the opinions of individuals who for one reason or another are unwilling to make their identities known. The Press-Banner’s own policies - published in every issue of the paper - state that “commentaries and letters to the editor reflect the opinions of the authors” and “letters must include the writer’s name and hometown (for publication) and phone number (for verification.”) Why did the paper decide to deviate from standard journalistic practices and its own policies in this case?

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