Guest opinion: Is the county for corporations or for citizens? | October 14, 2015 | Almanac | Almanac Online |

Almanac

Viewpoint - October 14, 2015

Guest opinion: Is the county for corporations or for citizens?

by Margy Kahn

Three years ago Warren Slocum was elected to represent District Four on the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors. Before being elected he talked about how much he cared about the quality of life in the neighborhoods of North Fair Oaks (NFO). For a while after he was elected, he regularly held open houses for people to come and tell him what needed to be fixed after years of neglect and high-handed policies by the previous incumbent.

Citizens stepped forward with issues that had been plaguing them for years. One issue that was raised was about an obnoxious, loud, low-frequency rumbling noise that was keeping people awake at night. I had heard this noise too, but after calling the county and being told I was imagining things, I had managed to tune it out, or so I thought.

Other neighbors pursued this problem. They found out where the noise was coming from — a data connectivity center that had probably been forced to move out of Menlo Park proper because of noise complaints there. Moving into NFO has been the answer for many businesses that want to evade any oversight. But newly elected Supervisor Slocum took the complaint seriously. He ordered a noise study done and met with officials at the company. The people at the plant refused to cooperate. They even denied that they had been causing the noise, and the county took no action.

Another case of business interests taking precedence over the rights of citizens arose several years ago. Neighbors complained after a county planner allowed a catering business with a fleet of trucks and a 24/7 kitchen to operate on a tiny lot surrounded by residences. When nearby neighbors complained about stench, noise, and traffic all hours of the day and night, county officials wrung their hands and said they were powerless to change anything. Finally, the business was shut down. But not because of its numerous documented violations of county codes, but because someone finally checked the records and found they had not paid their taxes for several years in a row!

Now we have Surf Air and the county's dereliction of its duty toward tax-paying citizens seems to have risen to new heights. Apologists for Surf Air fill the online blogs with their rants about what whiney babies the rest of us are. Don't we realize that this is the price of progress? What's a little noise?

Other people talk about how the noise needs to be studied more. Teachers in the neighborhood have reported little children running to them in fear when Surf Air flights come in for landing. Do we really need a study when neighbors have to stop their conversations while Surf Air planes are overhead? And does San Mateo County truly have no power to regulate the number of flights landing at a county-maintained airport? Is the sky the limit when it comes to elite "charter" flights bearing a few passengers who don't want to be bothered with the security procedures that apply to the rest of us?

Kudos to the members of the Atherton City Council. They have no problem standing up for their residents when their rights are being trampled on. They held a community meeting over a year ago to let neighbors speak to the issue. In addition they wrote a strongly worded letter letting county officials know what we want from them.

Now is time for supervisors Don Horsley and Slocum to step to the fore and show true leadership. Not to convene costly and lengthy "study committees" to obfuscate the issues. They need to tell us the powers they have and how they will use them to help us.

I especially call on Supervisor Slocum to come forward. After all, he ran specifically on the issue of improving the quality of life for the residents of North Fair Oaks. It is time to put the interests of citizens ahead of corporate power. Contact Warren Slocum at 650-363-4570 and wslocum@smcgov.org and Don Horsley at 650-363-4569 and dhorsley@smcgov.org with your views about Surf Air.

Margy Kahn has lived in North Fair Oaks for over 34 years.

Comments

9 people like this
Posted by Beata
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Oct 14, 2015 at 3:02 pm

Thank you Margy. I too have been awakened and kept awake by The Noise for close to a decade. After trying with the Company, the County Environmental Health Division and Warren Slocum, I have given up. All sorts of promises, delays, and no relief.

As for Surf Air, they and their passengers are just plain rude. I am old enough to remember when companies did not just go for profit but for reputation...and wealthy people more often had manners! I could not agree more that all the analyses of decibels and flight patterns miss the point.....it wakes people up and interrupts their conversations, music, TV, & concentration. Progress is "gradual betterment" for all...not for a few.


11 people like this
Posted by John in NFO
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Oct 14, 2015 at 3:21 pm

Noise is no different than sewage - hazardous to one's health. Had this been a sewage spill there would be immediate action, fines and corrective business practices.

Additionally the county has not been enforcing its own code: 4.88.220 "Noise disturbance"
Any sound which (1) endangers or injures the safety or health of human beings or (2) annoys or disturbs persons of normal sensitivities, or (3) endangers or injures personal or real property, or (4) violates the factors set forth in section 4.88.380 of this chapter, or (5) violates the quantitative standards set forth in section 4.88.360 and section 4.88.370.

Thanks for bringing this up Margy! Many of of us have written many, many emails to the county regarding the problems. Actions speak louder than words. To date, it has all been a veritable charade at the expense of the citizens.


10 people like this
Posted by Joe NFO
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 14, 2015 at 6:44 pm

Thanks Margy. What a powerful statement. We will continue to fight to reclaim our neighborhoods. If we allow erosion of our rights, eventually even the naysayers will be affected. That is the part they miss with their negativity. Your comments are inspiring and right on. Check the Surf Air efforts on calmtheskies.org. Sign up and send us an email. Would like to talk to you further.
Joe


8 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 14, 2015 at 6:46 pm

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

joe NFO:

they already fly over my house with great regularity. so what? I live in an area with a population of over 5 million, 3 international airports and numerous smaller airports. I wouldn't expect anything less. Why do you?


10 people like this
Posted by Joe NFO
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 14, 2015 at 6:54 pm

Joe give me back my name. The part you miss is that Surf Air could fly/behave differently than they do. If they do not bother you, then find a cause and contribute. It is fact that Surf Air could fly in a safer, quieter way than they do. They choose to ignore the requests to do so. The are a poor corporate citizen. Read the website articles and you will see why their behavior adversely affects many and should be stopped.


Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 14, 2015 at 7:42 pm

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

joe NFO:

I guess everyone should stop flying if they fly over your neighborhood, eh? Otherwise they're a "bad corporate neighbor." Riiiiight.


8 people like this
Posted by Jim Phill
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 14, 2015 at 9:30 pm

It appears that Mr. joe misses the point. I hear no one suggesting that airplanes should not fly over our neighborhoods. We all know where we live. Surf Airlines is unique in their ability to provoke. We do not wish our corporations to act selfishly. That is a race to the bottom. There are cities around the country who are working to protect the interests of all for the benefit of all against the influx of airplane noise. Sarcasm only exposes weakness and ignorance and does not advance the discussion.


Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 15, 2015 at 6:39 am

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

Jim:

Surfair is not acting selfishly. In fact, they are acting quite the opposite. They have been spreading their flights out and flying "clean" to reduce their noise impact. This not anything they HAVE to do it is something they have CHOSEN to do. If they were truly selfish they would go back to flying the AMEBY approach and tell everyone to stuff it. But they haven't have they? Selfish?


22 people like this
Posted by 2nd level noise
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Oct 15, 2015 at 8:42 am

"Is the county for corporations or for citizens?"

Silly me, I clicked on that thinking there might be a discussion of substance; certainly there is much to list about the current "hyper" version of our capitalistic system to discuss (I am not against the corner grocer, but concerned about undue influence from large corporations, etc..)

Nope. Just another NIMBY/surf air rant.

Let me settle down with a cuppa while I read.

WHOOPS! Let me close the window first. The gardeners are blowing my neighbor's lot....

And here comes the 8:39, blowing it's horn, gate bells clanging....

And that woman nearby that takes in kids for a little pirate daycare, geez, that new 2 year old has a set of pipes on him!

Sorry, where were we?


12 people like this
Posted by 2nd level noise
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Oct 15, 2015 at 8:44 am

Oh, yes, right here.

Imagine my horror, having to add a stick of bourbon to my morning cuppa upon realizing Mr Menlo Voter and I are on the same page.

The Horrors!

;-)


4 people like this
Posted by Former Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Oct 15, 2015 at 10:43 am

This isn't exactly on the subject, but tax collection seems to be a problem in San Mateo County.

When my mother died and the Assessor quickly moved to reassess, I asked several times for an extension so I could get my own appraisal. I didn't get a really firm answeer, but was also too buisy with other matters of her estate to focus on a noncomittal bureaucrat.

Right after the time limit, I was clearly told that there would be no extension of time -- and your time is up.

So, when I received my appraisal, it was too late and was ignored by the Assessor. That seems somewhat crooked!


10 people like this
Posted by Mona
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 15, 2015 at 12:19 pm

Thank you, Margy Kahn, for raising this issue! I have been wondering for the past two years about the increasing noise level over my office in Palo Alto and my home in Menlo Park, day time, night time, weekends.
I support and use public transportation and yet I am annoyed by the noise level Cal Train produces at the intersection in Menlo Park, let alone the chaotic traffic. I've spent a good amount of time in a similar, dense urban area in Europe, living next to the intersection of a subway line. It was very quiet. My question is: why does the administration in the land of the most visionary brains allow such low tech planes, trains and intersections? It's time for smart, high tech solutions in the public space as well!


8 people like this
Posted by Marie
a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Oct 15, 2015 at 7:29 pm

Like many others, I have contacted the county and supervisors and San Carlos Airport regarding the excessive noise caused largely, but not solely, by Surf Air. Like many others, I have received no meaningful response. Apparently the vested interests of a few are more important than the voice and concerns of residents. I resent being expected to snatch a few hours of sleep between the late night flights--11-12 midnight--and the early morning flights starting at 6:00 am. To those who do not consider the negative health effects of noise and the lack of sleep on residents--shame on you for your self centered attitude.

Incidentally, does this excessive noise have to be disclosed on real estate sales contracts? If I had anticipated the booming noise of overhead flights, I would have bought a home elsewhere.


Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 15, 2015 at 7:58 pm

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

"Incidentally, does this excessive noise have to be disclosed on real estate sales contracts? If I had anticipated the booming noise of overhead flights, I would have bought a home elsewhere."

Perhaps you should have looked at a map before you bought your house. The airport has been there for at least 50 years.


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 15, 2015 at 9:06 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

""Incidentally, does this excessive noise have to be disclosed on real estate sales contracts?"

How can a property owner claim that they have no knowledge of a nuisance about which they have filed a complaint?

IF you have complained about airplane noise then you have an absolute obligation to disclose that your home is subjected to airplane noise.


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 15, 2015 at 9:13 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"What Must Be Disclosed?

The statute includes a disclosure form ("Real Estate Transfer Disclosure Statement") in section 1102.6. Disclosures made pursuant to the statute must be on a copy of this form. The form covers such information as

Items on the property (appliances, water heater, burglar alarm, hot tub, etc.).
Operating condition of certain items.
Defects in walls, ceilings, floors, sidewalks, etc.
Existence of environmental hazards, easements, construction without permit, zoning violations, flooding problems, earthquake damage, deed restrictions, and neighborhood noise problems or other nuisances. (For a court case dealing with the duty to disclose noise, see Shapiro v. Sutherland, 2nd District Court of Appeal, 1998, 64 Cal.App.4th 1534.)

Some property owners are required to disclose that the property is near an airport (see below).

What Is the Nature of the Disclosure?

The disclosure is the representation of the seller, not the seller's agent. The information disclosed is based on the seller's personal knowledge, but the disclosure must be made in good faith ("honesty in fact in the conduct of the transaction"). The disclosure is not a warranty. However, the disclosure form states: "The seller discloses the following information with the knowledge that . . . prospective buyers may rely on this information in deciding whether and on what terms to buy the subject property."


10 people like this
Posted by Zolik
a resident of Atherton: other
on Oct 15, 2015 at 10:07 pm

Thanks, Margy - and please, keep pressing on. We need these articles and updates in every issue of every local paper.

The matter is really simple, and it is not about SurfAir. SurfAir happens to be the "straw that broke the camel's back". That is all. When SurfAir added their flights to the amateur flights and other random chartered flights to and from SC airport - then all these flights combined with SFO traffic made the situation for many unbearable.

We can not, and should not do anything about SFO. They serve millions of people, and we have to recognize and appreciate this.

SurfAir and other "chartered" operators are a different matter.

They serve very few people/day (e.g SurfAir has ~ 40 flights serving ~ 4 persons/flight; this makes ~ 160 people/day) while disturbing lives of tens of thousands of people. Fights now start ~ 5 am and continue through 1 am.

SurfAir is not guilty of any crime - they obtained their permit fair and square. The fact that they do not care about the community is not a unique trait. They are not the only ones.

The people who have to be held responsible for this issue are our Supervisors - Slocum and Horsley. They have to be concerned about the well-being of the community. These flights affect people's sleep, rest and general family matters. This ultimately affects productivity, earning potential, taxes people pay, family issues, etc. These flights affect at least 3 schools: Menlo-Atherton, Encinal, Garfield. There are numerous studies about the negative effects of constant airplane noise on students ability to understand, comprehend and retain the information they study.

While ordinary people typically do not think about such issues - the Supervisors should.

Those who benefit from SC airport activities, and those who enjoy watching their neighbors suffer, have designed a simple argument, that the entire problem is caused by the FAA which has "all the power" over the airport. This is a red herring.

FAA has no power whatsoever. They do have a "contract", called "GRANT ASSURANCES ACT", which says that in exchange for FAA funds ( ~ $1M/year) the airport will be kept by the County in adequate shape, and no operator will be discriminated against. That is all. The "act" further says in paragraph 22h that " the sponsor (i.e. the County) can impose REASONABLE restrictions on all operations". This paragraph is being conveniently ignored.

The power is with the airport sponsor (owner) - the County of San Mateo, which means us, the taxpayers - and our Supervisors.

The FAA, being a federal organization, is naturally interested in having as many functional airports and trained pilots on all kinds of aircraft as possible - this an understandable and a commendable cause. They are happy to pay ~ $1M/yr for this. The FAA could not (or should not) care less whether or not any SC airport operator makes money or not - they just want the airport in top shape, and pilots have as many flight hours as possible on as many aircraft types as possible. They know that the sure road to this is to allow as many flights as possible. However, if the airport owner (sponsor) imposes restrictions, the FAA has a chance to challenge them - but they do not have any right to just say "no". They have to justify their position. They do not have any "blank" veto power.

Our Supervisors have to tell the FAA in plain and simple language that:

* the airport will be kept in excellent shape at all times; this is not under any discussion
* all flights will be allowed to take place between, say, 8 am and 10 pm.
* no more than 1 take-off or landing will be allowed per hour (only along safe routes approved by the FAA)
* this frequency should be sufficient to train all the pilots possible on all aircraft available

This stand will demonstrate that our Supervisors really care about the community.

If this detailed explanation of the issue at hand is not 100% accurate, and our Supervisor's hands are tied in any other way - then they have to come out with clear explanations of why they can not IMMEDIATELY impose these restrictions.

Some opponents of this view may say that the conditions for use if the airport are spelled out in the operator permits.

This is another red herring.

The Supervisors have the right to impose any restrictions they deem necessary at any time.

If the FAA does not consider the proposed restrictions REASONABLE, they will have to challenge them, but they will have to justify their challenge.

If the operators consider the SUDDENLY IMPOSED RESTRICTIONS contradicting their permit conditions - they will have to challenge them in court. Again - they will have to overcome the common sense clause: if their operation appears to hurt the community, they do not have a leg to stand on, no matter what any permit says.

Before any of this can happen, however, both Slocum and Horsley have to declare that their campaigns do not take any money from any of the SC Airport beneficiaries. If they did take $ from them in the past - they have to stop. Otherwise there is an obvious conflict of interest here.

Once this item is cleared, we can proceed.

If this item is not cleared - then it is obvious why the issue is on the table, and is not being resolved. It will never be resolved.


Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 16, 2015 at 7:04 am

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

" the sponsor (i.e. the County) can impose REASONABLE restrictions on all operations".

Define "reasonable" in this case.


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 16, 2015 at 7:58 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" no more than 1 take-off or landing will be allowed per hour "

Given the number of planes using SJC this would certainly not be reasonable.


1 person likes this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 16, 2015 at 9:05 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Correction - Given the number of planes using San Carlos Airport this (one take off or landing per hour) would certainly not be reasonable.

"The San Carlos Airport is home to approximately 500 aircraft and over 25 aviation related businesses. Last year, San Carlos Airport generated over 130,000 aircraft "operations". Approximately half of the operations are business related or revenue generating."

That is 356 operations per day.


Like this comment
Posted by Roy Thiele-Sardiña
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 16, 2015 at 11:08 am

Roy Thiele-Sardiña is a registered user.

@Zolik

SQL averages 425 airport operations per day. Assuming that those happen during a 16 hour period that means the airport averages 25 operations (take offs or landings) per HOUR. Your 11 per hour thought is never going to happen.....

like the previous authors have noted, a more reasonable approach might be needed.

Governments operate for ALL of the people, and your "wish list" is the ULTIMATE of a NIMBY response.

But thanks for the thought. You are learning that participating in governance will help out elected officials understand the impact of their decisions. I urge you to continue to participate in this discussion.

Roy Thiele-Sardina
SEL, MEL, Instrument Rating


Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 16, 2015 at 12:11 pm

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

Roy:

Zolik is suggesting 1 per hour not 11. That's REALLY not going to happen.


6 people like this
Posted by neighbor
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Oct 16, 2015 at 1:01 pm


Thank you Margy,

I really appreciate your keeping this in front of the Supervisors.

[Portion removed; stick to the topic and don't attack other posters.]

I've been listening to surf air flights all day. Has anyone heard anything from Slocum or Horsley?


Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 16, 2015 at 1:09 pm

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

"I've been listening to surf air flights all day."

So have I.


8 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Oct 16, 2015 at 1:21 pm


There goes another one, It seems like every 15 minutes,

After living here 25 years and never complaining about air traffic, the conclusion is it's the type of aircraft Surf Air flies. For some reason it's paticurlaly noisy. I also think its the regular schedule.

Mr. Slocum,, Horsley,, where are you?


8 people like this
Posted by Marie
a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Oct 16, 2015 at 7:55 pm

@Menlo Voter "Perhaps you should have looked at a map before." Oh dear me! I've been here for only 38 years and yes the airport was there, but the excessive noise was not there nor could it have been expected that there would be turbo jets roaring overhead from 6:00 a.m.until midnight. Sadly, today there are people who put money over other people's health considerations and peaceful enjoyment of property.


Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 16, 2015 at 8:02 pm

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

Marie:

to assume things would always remain the same and that there would never be an increase in air traffic at an airport is naive at best.


8 people like this
Posted by Marie
a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Oct 16, 2015 at 8:17 pm

Menlo Voter: [Portion removed] It is not naïve to expect a small airport's use to be kept at a level that does not harm or infringe on the rights of thousands of residents. If I or others had bought near an international airport, that would be quite a different matter.


1 person likes this
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 16, 2015 at 8:57 pm

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

Marie:

I'm sorry, but expecting ANY airport in the bay area to maintain the same level of use given the growth of this area is indeed, naive. Assuming that the area would not experience growth is naive. Sorry if you don't like hearing that, but that's the way it is.


8 people like this
Posted by Marie
a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Oct 16, 2015 at 9:27 pm

Menlo Voter. Did I say that I expected airport use to be kept at the same level? No, I did not say that. I did say that I expect a small airport's use to be "kept at a level that does not harm or infringe on the rights of thousands of residents." My comment does not intimate no growth; however, it does allow for a level that recognizes that this is not a a noisy, big city environment, but is largely residential communities. Unmitigated growth is not always desirable. MV, with your 9 comments here, please realize that your point of view is already thoroughly made. ('nuff said.)


1 person likes this
Posted by Roy Thiele-Sardiña
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 16, 2015 at 11:10 pm

Roy Thiele-Sardiña is a registered user.

@Marie

In reality the number of airport operations at both of the area airports has diminished significantly. there was a time when Palo Alto was among the busiest airports in the country during flight training hours....so you should be relieved that the number of pilots and aircraft has been decreasing annually. perhaps if you wait long enough they will reach a level you find tolerable.

Roy Thiele-Sardina
SEL, MEL, Instrument Rated


4 people like this
Posted by Dave
a resident of Portola Valley: Portola Valley Ranch
on Oct 17, 2015 at 3:58 pm

People are overlooking a key element here. Whether or not there are fewer flights is not the only issue; light aircraft do not create the noise nor lasting echoes that large swathes of the area are now subjected to. Using turbo jets which are known for their very loud noise level is significant in the noise complaints. I have lived here for decades and have never heard very noisy early morning (6:a.m.)and late night (12:30a.m. sometimes later) flights; that noise unprecedented.

I realize that those flights are convenient for some executives and company owners, but convenience does not mean that they are essential to doing business. My business has always been well served by this areas international airports.


Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 17, 2015 at 5:41 pm

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

Dave:

I don't think Surfair is flying past 10 pm. I could be wrong. The turbo jet aircraft you're hearing that late most likely are SFO traffic.


Like this comment
Posted by neighbor,
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Oct 17, 2015 at 8:40 pm



Has anyone heard anything from or about Slocum or Horsley on this issue?


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Email:


Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields

 

Meet the winners!

The results are in. Check out The Almanac readers' favorite foods, services and fun stuff in the area.

View Winners