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Congressperson wants to shut up night flights around SFO

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Jackie Speier responds to deafening number of noise complaints around SF airport

An airliner taking off, with the large tail of a different plane in the foreground. Via Shutterstock

Congressperson Jackie Speier has a message for flights at San Francisco International Airport (SFO): Keep it down already.

Speier, who represents part of San Francisco and San Mateo County, said this week that she’s introducing a new legislation aimed at shutting up the noise at major airports, at least in the small hours of the morning.

Her bill, which comes with the typically congressional flourish of the zippy and on-the-nose title of “the Restore Everyone’s Sleep Tonight Act,” would grant airports the right to “impose an access restriction between the hours of 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. for aircrafts.”

The new rule’s effectiveness as a deterrent would depend entirely on whether airports bother to impose the sanction themselves. It would also allow SFO and other airports to fine airlines that violate the quiet period.

It’s no secret why Speier would try to ground airport noise, given that complaints are (pardon the phrase) soaring around SFO in recent years, up more than 22,000 percent—yes, really—between 2015 and 2017 compared to the previous three years, not coincidentally right after federal approval of new SFO flight paths in 2014.

A second bill, the Serious Noise Reduction Efforts act (dubbed “SNORE”) specifically singles out the area around SFO to fund insulating some 200 homes annually against noise from the airport

Via email, Speier acknowledged that people who live near a major airport have to make certain concessions for noise but claims that the current status quo “crosses a line” and says that one aim of the new laws would be to give communities more influence over the Federal Aviation Administration.

On Twitter, Speier called air traffic racket a “serious health issue.”

The federal Bureau of Transportation Statistics singles out San Francisco and the peninsula as unusually noisy transit areas in general, but the area around the airport particularly so.

SFO is situated so that most of the airport’s noise contour is supposed to fall across the bay. However, parts of San Bruno, Daly City, Burlingame and Millbrae still end up regularly buzzed by passing jets.

The airport’s online air noise tracking map records complaints as far away as Redwood City and the northern tip of San Francisco. SFO already has a program to help insulate homes from encroaching sounds (and itself from more public ire), spending $192 million since 1983 just to keep it down in nearby neighborhoods.