MAY 20, 2000
VAN NUYS, CALIFORNIA
State transportation officials on Friday renewed a crucial permit for Van Nuys Airport, quashing hopes by anti-noise homeowners to limit loud jet and helicopter operations at the nation's busiest general aviation airport. Complying with a ruling by an administrative law judge, the state Department of Transportation issued a three-year variance that allows the airport to continue operations even though it exceeds state-mandated noise limits.
The ruling by Judge Samuel D. Reyes rejects all proposed restrictions on aircraft and flight operations, instead endorsing airport plans to reduce noise impacts on neighbors by soundproofing homes and apartments.
Calling state noise laws "bogus, a sham," anti-noise activist Gerald Silver of Sherman Oaks said the ruling "represents a total and major loss for the community and a 100% victory for the airport." Silver said homeowners may seek to appeal or overturn the decision, possibly by filing a lawsuit in Superior Court. "Here we have a state noise law that doesn't protect the residents. It works against them," Silver said. The airport and its tenants "get to do everything they want to do with no constraints short of soundproofing."
Reyes specifically rejected all key requests by anti-noise forces, including a curfew on helicopter operations, a phaseout of noisier, older jets and prohibitions against allowing additional noisy jets to be based at the airport.
The decision, signed last month but not issued until Friday, followed 10 days of hearings last fall after the transportation department was asked to impose new restrictions on airport operations. The hearings were requested by Sen. Tom Hayden (D-Los Angeles) after residents complained no hearings had been held since a three-year variance was last granted in February 1989 and automatically extended in 1992. The latest variance will take effect June 19. A spokeswoman for Hayden said the senator had not yet seen the decision.
In his findings Reyes noted that the number of aircraft, flight operations, extent of impact on the neighborhood, and people detrimentally affected by noise has grown steadily since the last hearings 12 years ago. He noted, for instance, that the number of residences within the excessive noise area increased from 177 homes and units with 386 residents to 1,053 homes and a population of 2,468. "The impact of granting the variance will be the continuation or increase of existing noise impacts," Reyes wrote.
He cited, however, economic studies that found the airport provides $1.2 billion in direct and indirect benefits, as well as more than 10,000 local jobs. The transportation department "may grant a variance if to do so would be in the public interest," Reyes ruled.
He also said plans by the city-owned airport to insulate homes for sound and phase out incompatible land use around the airport could eliminate the illegal noise impact area in four to five years.
Source: Los Angeles Times
Note: Documents from the administrative hearing on the variance for Van Nuys Airport (commenced September 13, 1999) are posted at www.vanguardnews.com/van/variance.