Neighbors seeing red over “Greener Skies”

Robert Bismuth of the Magnolia Community Council spoke at last night’s NBHC meeting. Photo by Wendi Dunlap.
West Seattle Blog recently captured the frustration of many South Seattle residents at a Ballard meeting regarding proposed changes in flight paths and landing patterns that may negatively affect Southeast and Southwest Seattle.

Many of the 60+ attendees at last night’s North Beacon Hill Council (NBHC) meeting were there to discuss their concerns with the proposed FAA changes—and especially the confusion and frustration about location and tone of the FAA outreach meetings.

The lively discussion included a succinct yet thorough history by Magnolia Community Council Chair Robert Bismuth of how Magnolia successfully defended airspace above their neighborhood from changes that would have have “exponentially” increased noise and pollution.

NBHC Board member Ticiang Diangson is working with community activists from Beacon Hill and other neighborhoods to form a task force to address concerns regarding the “Greener Skies Over Seattle” proposal. (See the FAA’s website about the project here.)

If that FAA link seemed confusing or overly technical to you, you’re not alone. The NBHC voted unanimously last night to support efforts by the task force regarding “Greener Skies” to extend the public comment period on the FAA Environmental Assessment until the FAA has given residents of potentially-impacted communities the opportunity to learn more about the project. The current comment period ends on September 14. (Addresses to submit comments are here.)

The NBHC is asking Maria Cantwell, Patty Murray, Congressman Jim McDermott and Adam Smith to request the FAA hold public outreach meetings regarding “Greener Skies Over Seattle” in Southeast Seattle (of course, we’d prefer Beacon Hill), and also to extend the comment period beyond September 14 to give the FAA an opportunity to correct problems with outreach—and give our communities the opportunity to understand this proposal. Outreach materials need to be offered in the languages read by our communities and translation must be offered during the meetings.

(Melissa Jonas is the current chair of the North Beacon Hill Council.)

21 thoughts on “Neighbors seeing red over “Greener Skies””

  1. While I absolutely agree that the FAA’s failure to have meetings in South Seattle was politically unwise, I suspect the reason they didn’t think of doing it is because this program is going to have no perceptible impact on us. Program good, communication bad.

  2. The FAA needs to extend the comment period so that people have a chance to understand the material and form responses based on facts. Right now everyone is responding based on confusion and/or concern that our communities are being ignored.

    I’m excited to see so many people from Beacon Hill and the surrounding neighborhoods connecting with each other. I’m hopeful our elected officials will help us get the FAA’s attention–and we’ll get the information we need to understand whether this is good or bad for Beacon Hill.

  3. What Brook said.
    I can see people on the northern tip of Alki being unhappy, but it only affects Beacon Hill as the planes get a little bit quieter.

    I do wish FAA would at least evaluate steeper glide paths (higher over beacon hill) as part of the greener skies initiative.

  4. Much thanks to Robert Bismuth for coming to the meeting last night and clearly identifying some of the key issues we need to address in moving forward on the impact of the Greener Skies program on the Beacon Hill community. While I appreciated everyone who shared opinions about how the FAA has mishandled the situation, I think dealing in facts and solutions might be the best way for these problems to be addressed. Robert’s succinct information, pilot and neighborhood chair experience, and his straightforward presentation really helped clarify how my home will be impacted, why it will be impacted, and what I can do about it.

    I haven’t seen the FAA map yet that illustrates this, but from others who have: Apparently Beacon Hill is shown as one of the neighborhoods that will in fact have increased traffic and noise pollution.

  5. I hope every commenter that think the Greener Skies program is going to be good for this neighborhood attended the meetings in Federal Way and in Ballard. The FAA unequivocably stated at BOTH meetings that air traffic would be concentrated over specific mapped flight patterns AND that Beacon Hill would get greater noise. This was confirmed by pilots in attendance from the neighborhood. I suggest all people who did NOT attend both meetings – as several neighbors and I did – go onto the West Seattle blog and download the Ballard meeting presentation. The presentation is as confusing as the materials on the site.

  6. I have been looking at the FAA docs this morning.

    If one examines the graph titled “Change Analysis for 2014 NA vs. Initiative 1 North of Airport”, you can see that Beacon hill can expect an increase of up to 3 db in noise as a result of this plan. There are also graphs into the future that have similar outcomes.

    The other neighborhoods that get similar noise increases are the top of Queen Anne, Cap Hill, some of Greenlake / Wallingford, and Admiral in West Seattle. Most other parts of the city get a 1.5 db decrease in noise.

    If there is a bright side, 3 db is not much…


  7. Well, decibels are a logarithmic scale, so a 3dB increase from 70 to 73 is a lot greater increase in perceived sound than a 3dB increase from 30 to 33 would be. A vacuum cleaner is about 70 dB, and I guess from our backyard that’s what a typical 737 or even 777 sounds like. A 747 is considerably louder. Anyway, you can’t just say 3dB isn’t much, because it really depends on where you’re starting from.

    @Quieter Skies, for the record I by no means “…think the Greener Skies program is going to be good for this neighborhood…” and I have neither seen nor heard anyone saying that. What I do think is that those of us who didn’t react to finding out about it by becoming hyper-aware every time we hear a loud airplane aren’t going to notice any change at all.

  8. Just to extend my last comment a little, I do think it will be good for Seattle as a whole while being negligible for Beacon Hill. I’m okay with that.

  9. I live directly under the glide path as the planes approach SEA from the north. Having said that, I welcome the plan and not amongst the NIMBY camp.

  10. I live under the glide path into SEA and noticed a significant increase in noise during the trials. While I appreciate the materials that they have presented as their plan, I believe that they need to measure the noise increases in the impacted areas.

    The noise increase, perceived by our family, during the trials was dramatic. We were unable to hold conversations in our house with all of the windows closed. The increased noise levels all stopped around the labor day holiday and the noise has now returned to normal levels. It sure would be nice if someone had actually measured those impacts and presented that data to the community. Without those measurements it is all just an engineering plan that doesn’t align with what people actually experienced.

  11. Lenny, you’re absolutely right about the need for objective measurement. I live directly underneath the flight path about a mile south of you and my perception this whole summer has been that airplane noise was less, not more. I’m not claiming that’s true, just that it was my perception. The only way to know what’s really happening is to log consistent sound pressure level measurements over time and that’s what the FAA is doing.

    A few years ago, I’m pretty sure I was in a plane that was engaging in noise reduction on takeoff (which is always louder than landing) from Philadelphia. The plane went into a steep bank not very high above a housing development and cut its engine back to idle for what seemed like a minute but was probably less. It was eerily quiet inside the plane. We were clearly losing altitude the whole time. I’m not an especially nervous flier, but I started to get worried because I didn’t know what was going on and it was relief when the engines throttled back up. When the program goes into effect here it may be that there will be increased noise on Beacon HIll, but that the noise will be the screams of terrified passengers who think they are about to die.

    I’m looking forward to having far less jet fuel burned directly over my house. That will be a direct benefit to Beacon Hill.

  12. Brook,
    It is unclear to me how you know that you live one mile south of me. I do not know you and I haven’t even posted a last name. Curious that you can state my whereabouts so definitively. I question that you even live in the area. Please stick to commenting on your own local politics and leave this conversation to those of us that actually live here.

    In talking with each of my neighbors, there is not one that believes that air traffic noise has decreased this summer. If the FAA has data about air traffic noise from their trial then they should stop rushing and present it to the impacted communities.

  13. Brook is indeed a Beacon Hill resident.

    There is a well-known Lenny in the neighborhood who posts here often and lives about a mile north of Brook, so he’s probably guessing you are that Lenny. Maybe you are not the same Lenny…?

  14. And now that I looked at the email address that you submitted with your post, it appears we do have an identity confusion, because you are not the same Lenny as we are used to. :) You might want to add an initial or something so we can tell the two of you apart! The other Lenny usually posts as either “Lenny” or “Lenny NBH”.

  15. My apologies, Lenny. As Wendi correctly guessed, I thought you were the more familiar Lenny. I live about one block north of the Beacon Hill Light Rail station, directly underneath the flight path. I have no idea where in relation this is to your home.

    It might be useful to know generally where your home is to know if this program may have created very localized impacts not felt by others. “Beacon Hill” is quite a large area. When I lived down near Cleveland High School, we had much, much more airplane noise, but most of it was from planes going into and out of Boeing Field, not SeaTac.

    I’m not seeing anything in the recently shared FAA information about actually measuring flight path noise, but for many months there was a noise monitoring station set up on a pole on 17th right by Light Rail. I recall reading that it was for airplane noise, but I can’t find a source for that now. It certainly seems logical that any plan to reduce noise would at least baseline the current noise levels first. Perhaps they were not measuring the reduction afterwards because they had the data they needed to assert that the impact on Beacon Hill was going to be minimal.

  16. I was at both meetings. I actually spoke to FAA representatives. I live onBeacon Hill and the noise was atrocious this summer in our neighborhood. We want less noise, not more. This is worse for Beacon Hill, call me and my neighbors NIMBYS if you wish. Everyone in the city should share the increased noise burden. It’s too loud already, we don’t need more jet nose. Beacon Hill and SE Seattle have had enough. We will not accept more noise to lessen the burden on wealthier communities or help Alaska Airlines increase profits at our expense. Nope. We have enough people involved to stop this from happening. Thanks to community members who want to live in a city that is fair to all residents.

  17. I moved to Beacon Hill in December. I noticed right away that airplane noise is a tiny bit louder here than in the ID where I lived previously. Not significantly. I did not notice any increase in noise level during the test phase.

    It is not at all surprising that we will have noise from airplanes on Beacon Hill. We are, after all, sitting smack in the flight path for SEA. What does surprise me is all the ruckus about it. As far as I can tell from the maps of prior and proposed flight paths, airplanes were flying and will continue to fly over Beacon Hill, which is sort of aligned with the airport runways. If the airplanes are gliding they will be less noisy than they would be under power, but possibly a little more noisy if they are at a lower altitude over Beacon Hill. The airport was there for a good long time, probably longer than most Beacon Hillers have owned their houses. Airport noise, IMHO sorta comes with the territory.

    Now the military jets I have seen and most definitely heard this weekend are much more noisy and disruptive to my sense of serenity, but the military will do as it wishes, so I am not going to start up a program to attempt to get them to fly out over water when at lower altitudes instead of over the city. At least I gain a benefit from living near the airport! I can light rail there in what? 20 minutes? I could do without the military flights.

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