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Noise Plan Would Shield 90% of Airport Neighbors : Van Nuys: Phasing out many private jets would shrink the area that is exposed to more than 65 decibels.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A proposed noise ordinance for Van Nuys Airport would reduce by about 90% the number of people in neighboring communities who are exposed to significant aircraft noise, according to a new environmental study.

The ordinance, tentatively endorsed in June, 1990, by the Los Angeles Board of Airport Commissioners, would phase out the noisiest jets using the airport over a six-year period. Final adoption of the ordinance is expected next spring.

By ordering a gradual elimination of the noisiest aircraft--most of them privately owned jets--the measure would shrink the area around the airport regularly exposed to more than 65 decibels.

Airport noise of 65 decibels or louder now reaches 1,445 houses and 3,263 residents, but those totals would shrink to 121 houses and 271 people by the end of the six-year period, according to a draft environmental impact report completed this month by the city’s Department of Airports.

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A 65-decibel noise level is equivalent to that produced by normal conversation three feet away. Noise from a typical power lawn mower measures 97 at the same distance.

Because the noise requirements would force pilots to replace older, noisier jets with more efficient ones, they would also reduce by 2% jet emissions that cause air pollution, according to the study, which estimated that daily fuel consumption would drop from 5,157 gallons to 4,886.

Despite the improvements, the proposal has been criticized by some nearby homeowners, who say it does not go far enough, and by airport-related businesses, who say it will cause some jet owners to move their craft elsewhere.

When adopted, the proposal would bar takeoffs by planes rated by the Federal Aviation Administration as producing 85 decibels of noise on takeoff--a standard that airport officials said would affect only a handful of older planes, mostly private jets.

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Between then and January, 1998, the noise maximum would gradually be lowered to 77 decibels.

Airport officials estimate that the 77-decibel level would force out about half of the 90 jets now based at Van Nuys. About 800 piston-engine planes also are based at the airport.

Among those banned would be the Boeing 727-100 flown from Van Nuys Airport by the Los Angeles Kings hockey team. That jet, according to an FAA study, produces 82 decibels of noise on takeoff.

Exempted from the ordinance would be all jets used in fire or rescue operations.

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In addition to phasing out the older jets, the ordinance would extend a current nighttime noise curfew that restricts aircraft that exceed 74 decibels from taking off between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. The curfew would be moved up one hour to 10 p.m. in 1996.

Gerald A. Silver, president of Homeowners of Encino, said Thursday that his group wants airport officials to immediately set the maximum noise limit at 74 decibels during the day and prohibit all jet takeoffs at night.

Silver said the proposed ordinance is too lenient. “It just means that a few of the tenants will have to get quieter jets,” he said.

Rick Voorhis, president of the Van Nuys Airport Assn., has in the past opposed the ordinance, saying the gradual phasing out of the noisiest jets will “shrivel up much of the businesses at the airport.”

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But Steve Crowther, an environmental manager for the city, said the ordinance would have almost no negative side effects.

“It had no impact that we could see,” he said. “All the impacts were beneficial.”

Nevertheless, Crowther said, he expects the environmental report to draw formal written protests from both tenants and neighbors. Before the ordinance can be approved by the Board of Airport Commissioners, the city staff drafting the study must address those concerns.

While the city considers the ordinance, another federally mandated noise study of the Van Nuys Airport area is being carried out by a group that includes residents, pilots and airport officials.

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NEXT STEP: The Los Angeles Department of Airports will provide a 45-day public review period for the environmental study, ending Feb. 10. During that time, residents and government agencies can ask questions and comment on the study. Airport officials estimate it will then take at least two months to prepare a final environmental study. The proposed noise regulation will then go before the Los Angeles Board of Airport Commissioners and, if adopted there, will become airport policy. It will not become law, enforceable by fines and prison terms, however, until it is adopted by the City Council.


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