City Council to Discuss Airport Noise Ordinance in Special Study Session

The adoption of the Airpot Noise Compatibility Ordinance (ANCO) in 1995 made Long Beach one of a handful of cities in the country that has the ability to restrict and govern how airline noise affects the neighborhoods in the flight paths of its airport. Today, the City Council will hold a special study session that will serve as a history lesson of sorts, in an effort to bring new council members and the community up to speed on how the ordinance actually works.

The session was called for in November of last year, with Councilmen Al Austin, Roberto Uranga and former 4th District Councilman Patrick O’Donnell requesting it.

“The idea of having the study session was because we are unique, this is a unique ordinance that’s rare within the United States," Austin’s Communication Deputy Heather Morrison said. “So, our council member obviously being in a district that’s impacted by the flight path, wanted to make sure that everyone on the city council knows what the history of this ordinance is and how it works.”

Austin, who represents the 8th District, wrote an open letter published in the Press Telegram in November 2014 about his concerns with both the CEO of Jet Blue, Long Beach Airport’s (LGB) main tenant, expressing interest in installing a federal customs facility which would allow for international flights and also the job posting for the new airport director deviating from a previous emphasis on preserving the ordinance and instead mentioning the director’s role in garnering support for the customs facility.

“I believe that it is extremely important that our new City Council have this opportunity to learn about the ordinance prior to engaging in any discussion of adding a federal customs facility to our airport,” Austin wrote on his Facebook page this morning.

The current noise curfews limits the bulk of flights to the hours of 6AM to 10PM, with an increased squeeze on Single Event Noise Exposure Levels (SENEL) between the hours of 11PM and 6AM. It also permits a minimum of 41 commercial and 25 commuter flights per day. The ordinance is rare, and according to LGB's Interim Public Affairs Officer Stephanie Montuya-Morisky it is “more strict or stringent than other cities that have one.” She stated that because LBG is a municipal airport, all decisions are deferred to city council and that there is no current proposal to change the ordinance in any way.

“I think it’s very important for the city to protect that ordinance and the airport being a municipal airport, it wants to protect it, too,” Montuya-Morisky said.

Regarding the potential addition of a federal inspection point at the airport, which could open the gates for international flights, Montuya-Morisky said that if this meeting were the first step of that process, it would be the first of many with the public being the ultimate decision makers in that equation. However, she reiterated that no move to change the ordinance is in the works.

"I’m sure there will be more follow ups to [today's study session],” Montuya-Morisky said. “We’d still have to go through the noise study session and other separate processes, then, if we even get there to studying what the pros and cons would be of even having a Federal Inspections facility or customs. Based on those findings, the community will be the one to decide, after an extensive study, whether or not it would be valuable to the community. It’s not the airport’s decision.”

The ordinance was grandfathered in from the existing Airport Noise and Capacity Act of 1990. The last paragraph of the ANCO stipulates that devices used in measuring aircraft noise or the methods used to measure it may not be changed or adjusted in any manner.

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