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L.A. City Atty. Feuer sues FAA over airplane noise in south San Fernando Valley

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Los Angeles City Atty. Mike Feuer, center, announced on Thursday that his office is suing the FAA over the noise issues stemming from Hollywood Burbank Airport.
(Anthony Clark Carpio)

Los Angeles City Atty. Mike Feuer’s office filed a lawsuit against the Federal Aviation Administration Thursday in an attempt to seek relief for residents in the south San Fernando Valley who say they have been bombarded by airplane noise for the last two years.

The lawsuit filed in the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in Los Angeles alleges that the FAA has not abided by the departure procedures the agency published in 2017 and instead has allowed airplanes departing from Hollywood Burbank Airport to fly over areas where they have historically not flown, predominantly over some communities in the southern part of the San Fernando Valley.

“We’re fighting to get relief for tens of thousands of residents and businesses who have borne the brunt of increased noise and other impacts from these flights, and we’re urging the court to take a couple different steps,” Feuer said Thursday during a press conference announcing the suit. “We’re urging the court to return these flights to their previous patterns.”

The lawsuit seeks to have the FAA redirect flights to the paths that were used before the implementation of the Southern California Metroplex of its Next Generation Air Transportation System, known as NextGen.

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On Oct. 18, the L.A. city attorney’s office gave the FAA 30 days to comply with departing flight procedures out of Hollywood Burbank Airport as they were in 2017 before NextGen was implemented.

However, Feuer’s office received a letter from the FAA on Nov. 19 stating that flight paths could be affected by variables such as weather, traffic volume and aircraft capabilities.

“They did not grant our request at all,” Feuer said. “The FAA didn’t deny that flights were persistently intruding into new airspace, but instead the FAA tried to disclaim responsibility altogether.”

Along with the lawsuit, Feuer’s office filed several Freedom of Information Act requests on Thursday asking the FAA to hand over the departure procedures out of Hollywood Burbank.

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NextGen is a satellite-based navigation system that aims to make flights throughout the country safer and more efficient.

However, the new system has proven to be more troublesome than helpful for some communities.

In several cases, NextGen moved flight paths over neighborhoods and communities in California and other states that had not previously experienced aircraft overhead.

Communities in Phoenix and Seattle, to name a few, have sued and won their cases against the FAA over the noise issues reportedly stemming from the new radar system.

Residents in the south San Fernando Valley have lived with airplane noise, mostly from departing flights out of Hollywood Burbank, since March 2017, when the FAA implemented the Southern California Metroplex of NextGen in the region.

NextGen metroplexes and satellite-based navigation procedures have been rolling out in regions across the country for almost two decades.

Before the new radar system, flights out of Burbank would depart to the south and make northbound turns near the 101 Freeway.

After NextGen was implemented, airplanes began drifting farther south and started making their northbound turns over Studio City and Sherman Oaks.

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Reports conducted by several consultants as well as the FAA have confirmed that departing flights out of Hollywood Burbank and Van Nuys airports have shifted farther south over the past two years.

After many residents in those communities complained about increased aircraft noise for two years to the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority — the agency that oversees operations at the Burbank airport — a task force was formed to find a solution to the issue.

The Southern San Fernando Valley Airplane Noise Task Force — made up of local officials and federal representatives — has met four times in the past five months to hear from community groups and aviation experts about how to resolve residents’ concerns.

During that time, FAA officials have said NextGen does not become a factor in flight departures out of Hollywood Burbank and Van Nuys airports until the airplanes are north of the airfields. Additionally, they have said the departure procedures out of Hollywood Burbank have not changed.

During a meeting on Dec. 4, task force members made their frustrations known to FAA officials in attendance, criticizing them for not responding to any of the questions and concerns brought up by the task force and the community.

Brent Robinson, district director for Sen. Kamala Harris’ Los Angeles headquarters, told FAA officials that thousands of residents have complained about the noise issues, and that the FAA continues to be unresponsive despite several requests made by the senator.

Los Angeles Councilman Paul Krekorian, who is vice chair of the task force, was alongside fellow Councilman Paul Koretz — another task force member — and Feuer on Thursday when the lawsuit was announced.

As a Studio City resident himself, Krekorian said there was a “sudden and dramatic” change when NextGen was implemented in the region.

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Krekorian said that, although he wants the FAA to move the flight paths back to their routes prior to NextGen, the lawsuit’s goal is to spread the noise over the San Fernando Valley and not have it concentrated over a handful of neighborhoods.

“It would not be acceptable to me to simply move the same intensified noise to another neighborhood,” he said. “It’s not just that [the flight paths] have moved south, it’s that they were much wider before and every neighborhood shares in some of the burden and no neighborhood is unduly compromised.”

FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said he could not comment on the lawsuit but added that the FAA is committed to working with the task force to find a solution.

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