Town Square

Palo Alto's bid to join airport group grinds to a halt

Original post made on Dec 2, 2021

Palo Alto's latest effort to join the SFO Community Roundtable, a coalition of cities that work on the issue of airplane noise, came crashing down Wednesday when group members voted to reject the city's bid.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, December 2, 2021, 11:32 AM


Posted by M
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 2, 2021 at 1:20 pm

M is a registered user.

The Roundtable also stressed that they are making every effort to recruit East Palo Alto, which has similar concentrated and low altitude aircraft noise issues to Palo Alto. This is somewhat ironic because the Roundtable's recent success in increasing altitudes of arrivals from the Pacific over Woodside (via the new PIRAT arrival) has required a more longer descent path to the airport which in turn shifted the arrival path to both Palo Also, and then on to East Palo Alto. And, it remains to be seen if the Roundtable will actually bring East Palo Alto on board, after years of this type of traffic shaping over them.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 2, 2021 at 2:08 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

"Hamilton questioned why roundtable members cited resource issues when it comes to Palo Alto, but not when it comes to Colma."

Because Colma is mainly cemeteries and the dead don't generally have much to say?

Posted by Leland J.
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 2, 2021 at 4:35 pm

Leland J. is a registered user.

If you want to understand why the Roundtable rejected PA, just read this paper! Palo Alto is the epitome of NIMBY, me-first initiatives. Citizens tell world-class educational institutions (eg Stanford, Castilleja) to literally leave town. They complain about a vital rail line making too much noise after they move close to the tracks. They bicker about bike lanes and bridges and Black Lives Matter murals... from their homes which are all worth 3 or 5 or 10 million dollars. They even propose wild conspiracy theories when the fire department arrives too quickly(!) to put out a fire at a home owned by a Google executive.

All of these have been hot topics around town and in PA Online.

Now you tell me, who would ever invite someone with this sensibility to a roundtable that is actually trying to get things done?

Posted by M
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 2, 2021 at 6:34 pm

M is a registered user.

The NIMBY charge above is not warranted. Palo Alto citizens are well regarded at the Roundtable for their preparation and contributions, including by those who voted against adding the city. Palo Alto City Council members have attended every Roundtable meeting, including subcommittee meetings, for the past five years, to build credibility, not make demands.

Palo Alto's only request to date is for membership given that 60% of SFO arrivals fly at low altitudes over the city, then on to either Belle Haven or East Palo Alto. The core issue is that SFO is the only major airport roundtable in the country that defines membership not based on measurable impact, but rather on being in SF or San Mateo Counties -- heavily impacted or not. This exclusivity originated as a result of land use and permitting negotiations years ago between the San Mateo County Building and Planning Department, which still operates the Roundtable, and SFO. The flight paths over Palo Alto are where they are, but access to the FAA -- which runs exclusively through the airport -- would allow us work on what can be made better -- e.g., eliminating the regular use of speed brakes over Los Altos and EPA -- and to stay on top of the new landing system and airplane separation architecture that is being implemented at SFO as we speak.

Being rejected once again is a setback, but this time SFO itself supported Palo Alto's request for membership, in addition to a number of cities. Lastly SFO Roundtable meetings are open to the public via Zoom, and members or not, it is a good place to learn about the air traffic over us.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 3, 2021 at 8:03 am

Online Name is a registered user.

The "Nimby" charge is simply the usual deflection from whatever the issue is.

Saying "from their homes which are all worth 3 or 5 or 10 million dollars" signals that the writer is uninformed since PA housing prices are much lower than in surrounding communities in part because PA has much smaller lots and more apartments than the other communities.

Posted by William Hitchens
a resident of Mountain View
on Dec 3, 2021 at 10:40 am

William Hitchens is a registered user.

So, why not just shut SFO down if nobody wants low altitude landing traffic? Foster City near the Bay can be a nightmare because it's right in the landing path and they fly two abreast every few minutes during peak arrival traffic times, at least they did the last time I was there. BTW, that was a facetious question, or was it???

Posted by TimR
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 3, 2021 at 3:22 pm

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They probably realize that before long, Palo Alto would be arguing that SFO should be closed, to make room for affordable, high-density housing. I mean, what's more important: trips to New Zealand, or an affordable place to call home?

Posted by ST
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 3, 2021 at 3:46 pm

ST is a registered user.

If Palo Alto really wants to address airplane noise, we should close the Palo Alto airport, which sends planes roaring over East Palo Alto on a regular basis. I was at a tour of the superb new EpaCenter and the congratulatory speeches were impossible to hear because of planes taking off every few minutes. If those planes were flying over Palo Alto homes, you would hear complaints louder than the planes themselves.

Posted by JR
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 3, 2021 at 7:14 pm

JR is a registered user.

I agree that PAO should be closed, but that's not the subject here. The issue is that the City and County of San Francisco is flying planes at low altitude over Santa Clara County, which is two counties over from themselves, with no accountability or concern for lives they are destroying. They will gladly fly low altitude over your house in order to save 30 seconds of flight time, think about that. Your peace and quiet is not worth a dime to them, they will literally trade your good night sleep for $10 in saved fuel cost. They just don't care.

SFO is a corrupt organization and should be investigated by the FBI under RICO.

Posted by Palo Alto native
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 3, 2021 at 8:33 pm

Palo Alto native is a registered user.

OK so now we have been turned away from the roundtable again. It’s time to start the legal battle against the a FAA , for dumpingSo much noise and arrival routes directly over PaloAlto. Molly Stump
Start sharpening your pencil! Also think about getting a lobbyist that will actually fight the FAA and WIN!

Posted by Jeremy Erman
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 3, 2021 at 11:30 pm

Jeremy Erman is a registered user.

This issue seems like a snapshot of the essence of human politics, of different populations striving to get along; one group says, 'We want to join you,' and some of their neighbors who know them say, 'They're good people! They'll help us!", but people farther away say, 'No, we like our club just the way it is, and besides, accepting you foreigners would break one of our holy rules.' The following quote from the article sums the whole issue pretty clearly:

"Opponents of allowing Palo Alto to join argued that expanding membership would compromise the group's ability to represent its existing constituents. While roundtable members from the Peninsula cities of Atherton and Portola Valley supported adding Palo Alto and argued that doing so would strengthen the group, most of the members from cities closer to the airport opposed its entry into the panel."

Posted by PaloAltoVoter
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 4, 2021 at 12:09 pm

PaloAltoVoter is a registered user.

What happened to the Santa Clara roundtable by Cities Association? Where are they in all this?

Posted by clear as mud
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 6, 2021 at 7:55 am

clear as mud is a registered user.


"What happened to the Santa Clara roundtable by Cities Association? Where are they in all this?"

The Santa Clara/Santa Cruz group disbanded at its last meeting on November 11, 2021.

This evolved after the Cities Association terminated its role as the SC/SC's fiscal agent (third party to handle financial and Admin duties) and a replacement fiscal agent or other structure could not be found after months of searching. Something happened which the Cities Association can't disclose because it's a confidential legal matter so we'll probably never know and at this point a distraction to the real issues with this group and roundtables in general. Roundtables have always been to mediate community issues, to keep the airport growing.

The FAA makes appearances at roundtable meetings as if it was King; airports and airlines are royal officers often speaking for the King. Posturing about how to work with the FAA via Roundtables is absurd given the conflicts of interests. They help the King keep the most affected citizens buried in technical jargon that they themselves don't understand. The SFO Roundtable Chair not long ago described an airport response to an environmental question with "clear as mud." This is how the FAA has maintained outdated noise policies that defy its own scientific studies and common sense for 50 years.

The SC/SC Roundtable maintained a log of their actions taken. Take a look and judge for yourself what is accomplished in two years Web Link

The City could start it's own Roundtable if it wanted to. The FAA doesn't care as long as the rules are the various arbitrary rules they make up and efforts take decades to obscure the real goal of airports -growth . If and where the City is more forthcoming about the SC/SC, I hope it won't be just about the distractions.

Posted by William Hitchens
a resident of Mountain View
on Dec 7, 2021 at 11:37 am

William Hitchens is a registered user.

I think you're on to something. If they shut down SFO, then the runways and taxiways could be used as "safe parking" for many thousands of those dangerous RV squatters polluting Bay Area city streets. And the terminals could be used as homeless shelters. But of course, that would just encourage more people to live free on public property in RV's AND attract more homeless people. That's The Law of Unintended Consequences, something that homeless advocates either don't know or just ignore because it conflicts with their dreams of a "fair" world. One person's "fairness" is another person's tyranny.

Never mind the fact that essential air traffic all over the USA and to and from Asia and Europe would be totally screwed up.

Posted by We Are The People
a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 7, 2021 at 1:36 pm

We Are The People is a registered user.

For over 30yrs People have talked about getting rid of that Palo Alto Airport? And attempting in going forward with Plans to Install an Exit from the Dumbarton Bridge with a hookup to Highway 101?
An Exit from the Dumbarton Bridge would relieve Traffic coming out of Palo Alto.
Instead Palo Alto is pushing for the Newell Bridge being expanded? And a few of Palo Alto Citizens in another Forum suggested that East Palo Alto (EPA), relinquish a portion of Their 2.5 mile community. So that Palo Alto may have further access for themselves? Leaving their precious Airport alone. There have been more than 3 Plane crashes one of which ended in a Plane taken out Homes in East Palo Alto? One Crashing on the Home of a Former East Palo Alto Mayor. And now am hearing that East Palo Alto doesn't want to come to the Table? Strange?

This is another situation, where People with Time, Money and Their Agenda has populated against those that have none of that. East Palo Alto is ridden with underlying, As if to say Those Citizens don't count. They can't fight back.
They say "We like things the way that they are"? As usual the powers that Be (with the power and influence) have taken away most of the Entertainment and left the High Fluent Toys that few want to enjoy. They have "Ming's" building loaded up with "Cars for Sale". They took away "Scott's". Both nice places to Dine? Oh but they kept the Golf range?

Get rid of the Palo Alto Airport. By the way, both San Jose & San Francisco, divert Their Planes close over the same areas? You've gotten rid of the Gorgeous Marina with the Boats and Restaurant. And as time has gone by you've installed a "Playground" for those that have Time and Money. There has just been installed a Overpass Bike ramp connecting the Westside to the East. Now there is talk Building a Building for the Homeless. Leaving (EPA) congested Traffic remaining. And you say that East Palo Alto, doesn't want to come to the Table? Then I ask this...."Who are you asking?"

Posted by Dog
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 7, 2021 at 6:00 pm

Dog is a registered user.

I fly the airplanes that land at SFO. Quite often we're kept high and fast on the arrival followed with the noisy speedbrakes when overhead Palo Alto. Yep, as a resident I dislike this as much as anyone. Redesigning the arrivals to help keep the aircraft in a clean/idle configuration until well over the bay would help immensely.

Posted by clear as mud
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 14, 2021 at 11:46 am

clear as mud is a registered user.


"Redesigning the arrivals to help keep the aircraft in a clean/idle configuration until well over the bay would help immensely."

Thank you for pointing out that you would prefer to fly clean and idle configurations. I've heard that from others who are familiar with our airspace. That it was as much a surprise to airline pilots that the SFO changes in 2014 were a flop and not delivering on the environmental promises.

Roundtables don't appear to work to redesign airspace for least impact, but spend years on tweaks to appease a few while ensuring that FAA and airports stay happy and growing with subsidies for airports, airline bailouts and subsidies for private jets. See the FAA's ACRP program Web Link and the recent $400,000 RFP basically to develop opposition messaging to citizen activism that discourages air travel. Web Link

"Build partnerships with local communities, key influencers, and other stakeholders;
Anticipate and prepare for relevant emerging issues that could affect attitudes toward air travel; and
Develop messaging/communication strategies that allow airports to translate evidence-based research findings to:"

"Key influencers"?.....this sounds like roundtables to me, but it could be so many people that are actively engaged in obfuscation.

What I haven't seen yet is any whistleblowers on aviation environmental issues- as is happening with the Boeing discoveries that show profits over safety culture.
Latest story. "Boeing and its suppliers fall short on safety oversight, Senate whistleblower report says"
Web Link