The Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority on Monday took under consideration a noise control study, bitterly protested by neighbors and the city of Los Angeles, which concluded that nothing more can be done to reduce aircraft noise.
The draft study recommends buying some nearby homes and demolishing them, and paying all or part of the cost of sound-muffling insulation in other homes and some schools.
Monday’s action brought the local phase of the study to the brink of conclusion after three years of contentious meetings and negotiations. At their next meeting, Oct. 17, the nine airport commissioners can vote to accept, reject or modify the report before forwarding it to the Federal Aviation Administration, which also can reject or modify it.
Commissioners are expected to adopt the study with no major changes and request at least $49 million in federal funds to carry out the recommendations.
Airport commissioners accepted the draft after hearing three hours of bitter denunciations by airport neighbors.
“I am disgusted. Our life style is being poisoned,” one woman complained.
“This is an evil thing, interfering with the homes of Americans,” another said, drawing applause from a group of about 70 mostly anti-airport spectators packed into an improvised meeting room in the airport terminal.
Heather Dalmont, deputy to Los Angeles City Councilman Joel Wachs, said the Los Angeles members of the study committee were “profoundly disappointed” at the results. “We implore you to please withhold action,” she said.
Wachs has been a leading figure in attempts by Los Angeles officials to persuade the authority to adopt a “share-the-noise” policy, routing half the departing jetliners toward the east over Burbank and Glendale.
Currently, virtually all jetliners take off to the south and circle westward and north over the Los Angeles neighborhoods of Sherman Oaks, Studio City, North Hollywood and Van Nuys.
The airport authority refuses, arguing that it is powerless to regulate takeoff decisions, which are reserved for pilots in coordination with federal air traffic controllers. Pilots prefer the present takeoff patterns for safety reasons: The southbound runway is longer, runs downhill and faces into the usual winds and away from the nearby Verdugo Mountains.
Los Angeles--which had six council members and representatives of the city planning and city attorney’s offices on one of the report committees--will carry the fight to the FAA if the airport authority endorses the study, Dalmont said.
The study, carried out by the airport under an FAA anti-noise program, has cost $450,000 to date, with 60% of the cost covered by a federal grant, mostly for computer studies aimed at showing the noise impact of the expected growth in traffic at the airport by the year 2000.
The most controversial finding of the study was that nothing could be done to reduce aircraft noise.
“Many potential abatement measures were evaluated,” a summary of the draft said. “It was found that most have already been implemented at the airport; others were not feasible or showed no clear-cut benefits.”
The major tool for reducing noise at other airports--forcing airlines to use newer planes with quieter engines--is useless at Burbank because only the quietest airliners use the airport now, the study said. Burbank is the only airport in the United States that has banished all older, noisier planes.
The most controversial recommendation in the study calls for the airport authority to discuss with the city of Burbank the possibility of buying and razing a neighborhood of 54 houses just south of the airport, between Victory Boulevard and Valhalla Memorial Park.
The homes are in a neighborhood where aircraft noise is and will remain too great to live with, the study said.
Residents of the area told the commissioners Monday that they will fight to remain. Airport administrators responded that the future of the neighborhood will depend on negotiations with the residents and with the Burbank city government. They pointed out that the airport authority was specifically denied authority, under the state law that established it, to condemn residential land, as other local government bodies can do. The city of Burbank could condemn the houses, however.
In other nearby areas, the study suggests that the airport use federal funds to pay some or all of the cost of installing insulation and double-pane windows to reduce inside noise.
Residents complained that insulation does not work, can increase their electricity bills by making the sealed houses dependent on air conditioning and imprisons them in their homes.
The study also suggests that the airport help homeowners in some neighborhoods to sell their houses, reimbursing them for the amount the airport’s proximity reduced the sale price, as determined by independent assessors.
In return for insulation or compensation, homeowners would have to grant the airport “avigation easements"--the right to inflict aircraft noise on the property. The easements would prevent the property owner and subsequent buyers from bringing anti-noise lawsuits.