If you were not bothered by airplane noise around February 2018, the rest of this letter may seem irrelevant. Noise report counts compiled by SFO showed a clear spike from residents in SLV and the western part of the county at that time. Noise complaints from Felton jumped from 698 in January to 4300 in February 2018 and from 168 to 1395 in Boulder Creek. For the month of February, the airport flagged the city of Santa
Cruz as having more new individuals reporting noise than any other city in the Bay area and in March that distinction fell to Felton. The increase in noise reports was a response to a sudden and temporary FAA flight track shift triggered by an internal charting error. Unfortunately, the same shift is now on schedule to become permanent.
About 30% of arrivals into SFO, between 300 and 400 planes a day, approach the airport from the south after crossing the Monterey Bay and Santa Cruz county. Currently those flights make landfall near Capitola then continue North to the east of Granite Creek Rd. and past the northeastern tip of Scotts Valley. The FAA estimates that about half of this traffic follows the main track while the remainder is redirected by flight controllers in response to congestion, often weather related. This redirection, called "vectoring", always sends planes to the west, so roughly half of the daily traffic currently overflies SLV. Under the shifted flight path, planes will make landfall near the Boardwalk and continue past Ocean Avenue extended, along Graham Hill Rd. and over Loch Lomond.
How approval for shifting the current flight path, called SERFR, to the new route, called BSR or "BSR Overlay", came about, is a long story. A recommendation for the change was made in November 2016 by a temporary regional body called the "Select Committee". It is doubtful that the recommendation reflects genuine regional consensus: it passed by a single vote and within two months of approval that vote was acknowledged to
be an error, cast on the basis of miscommunication from the FAA.
Nevertheless, since the recommendation is now moving towards implementation, understanding its impact is relevant to SLV residents. Flight controllers never vector traffic to the east on either SERFR or BSR, so the same volume of traffic will be concentrated over a narrower area of the county - SLV will receive 100% of the noise. Secondly,
census counts confirm the commonplace observation that more people live along Graham Hill Rd. and western Scotts Valley than along the Happy Valley neighborhoods. Census counts show that approximately 1500 more people will live directly under the new path, including residents of Mount Hermon, Pasatiempo and Woods Cove.
The same volume of traffic concentrated in a narrower area and over more people does not bode well for how this change will be
received. Importantly, the Select Committee linked the 2016 recommendation to move the track to nine specific noise-reduction measures. However recent updates indicate those noise-reduction steps could well be
ignored as optional "considerations" rather than requirements.
Implementation of the track shift is being overseen by a permanent regional body named the "Santa Clara Santa Cruz Counties Roundtable" whose website is https://scscroundtable.org. Though final implementation is still months away, planning for the new route is moving swiftly.
If you care about a full environmental review, notice to affected residents and implementation of all the noise-reduction requirements,
it is important to let the Roundtable know this before planning is finalized.
Additional information is available on the local web site www.sanlorenzovalley.info.