A ‘Carmageddon’ noise test

After the first closure of the 405 Freeway, nearby residents complained about the noise made by helicopters that hovered above their homes.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

Sherman Oaks resident Bob Anderson recalls the Friday of Carmageddon as “wonderful” and “quiet,” despite all the warnings of a traffic nightmare.

He enjoyed a glass of wine with his wife, watched TV and drifted peacefully into a sound slumber without the sounds of cars zipping down the northbound 405 freeway near his house. Then the roar of a helicopter jolted Anderson awake at 11 p.m.

“It sat above our house for two hours until 1 a.m. Then it went away,” Anderson said. “We were thrilled, slept for a couple hours, and then it came back at 5 a.m.”

Anderson was angry enough to grab a pair of binoculars and call the news station that owned the helicopter to complain. More than a year after the closure of a section of the 405 Freeway to remove the southern half of the aging Mulholland Drive bridge, Anderson has become the chairman of the Sherman Oaks Homeowners Assn.'s Helicopter Noise Committee, a position he has used to demand that those flying over this weekend’s sequel “stop having wine and cheese parties on helicopters to watch the bridge come down.”


Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, U.S. Rep. Howard Berman and Assemblyman Mike Feuer (D-Los Angeles) joined Anderson earlier this week in asking that pilots flying above the closure of 10 miles of the 405 between the 10 and 101 freeways be mindful of residents. The officials asked operators not to hover over homes, and to fly higher.

Mike Cavender, executive director of the Radio Television Digital News Assn., cautioned it would be “difficult” to set an “arbitrary limit” before an event.

“You use whatever angle or whatever distance or whatever location for the photo or video that will best illustrate your story,” he said. “I would expect the media in Los Angeles to take note of the concern, but ultimately if it’s a newsworthy story they’re covering, they have an obligation to cover it.”

After the first closure, Berman (D-Valley Village) introduced legislation that would require the Federal Aviation Administration to establish rules on flight paths and minimum altitudes for helicopter operations in Los Angeles. The proposal has stalled.

Berman said helicopter pilots have asked to move away from regulation and toward voluntary compliance.

“Next weekend is a very important test of whether self-restraint and self-regulation will make it better for the people whose quality of life has been damaged,” Berman said.