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Airplane Noise

SFO arrivals fly over Palo Alto

The majority of all SFO arrivals fly over Palo Alto. SERFR, OCEANIC and BDEGA West arrivals all converge over Palo Alto.

 SERFR arrivals over Palo Alto  OCEANIC arrivals in Palo Alto  BDEGA West arrivals over Palo Alto
 SFO Arrivals via SERFR, OCEANIC and BDEGA West respectively between October 30, 2018 and January 4, 2019.

Palo Alto is impacted by three arrival routes into San Francisco International Airport (SFO). These routes have had an ongoing negative health impact on our community and intensified due to the implementation of the Federal Aviation Administration’s NextGEN Initiative


The City is committed to working with our citizens, Congress, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), SFO, SFO’s Community Roundtable, neighboring city and county agencies, regional airports, noise groups, and all stakeholders associated with air traffic in Silicon Valley to find solutions which restore the quality of life of our community. 

The City has dedicated staff time, hired expert noise and aviation consultants, outside counsel and federal legislative consultants to advocate for our goals and assist with community education efforts.


Update 9/28/2020

As a result of City of Palo Alto requests for ongoing airplane noise monitoring, San Francisco International Airport recently selected a temporary noise monitor location close to Eleanor Pardee Park. The location was selected and recommended by SFO and in coordination with Menlo Park, which is near the confluence of the three SFO arrival flight paths that are over Palo Alto. The noise monitor will be placed at least four times over the next year and SFO will use the data to evaluate if a permanent noise monitor is needed.


Update 3/11/2020 

The City of Palo Alto commented on proposed changes to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in accordance with the comment period that closed on March 10, 2020. For fifty years, NEPA has ensured that the public has the ability to comment on and, when appropriate, legally challenge the environmental impacts of federal projects. In addition to implications for climate change and endangered species, this might include the potential impacts of noise and/or emissions from federally approved aircraft operations. The City Council has repeatedly identified climate change and sustainability as key priorities and the Mayor signed this letter to the Council on Environmental Quality on behalf of the City of Palo Alto. 


Update 2/11/2020

The City of Palo Alto supports a package of federal legislative bills to strengthen public input and regulatory requirements related to airplane noise and environmental impacts that was recently introduced and cosponsored by members of our Congressional delegation. The package includes:


  • H.R. 5015, the Responsive Employees Support Productive Educated Congressional Talk Act (RESPECT Act), which would require FAA staff to respond to Members of Congress regarding flight procedures affecting their district within 90 days; 
  • H.R. 5106, the Restore Everyone’s Sleep Tonight Act (REST Act), which would allow airports to self-impose curfews anytime between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m.; 
  • H.R. 5109, the Fairness in Airspace Includes Residents Act (FAIR Act), which would amend the FAA’s prioritization of airspace, putting noise and health impacts to residents second only to safety; 
  • H.R. 5110, the All Participating in Process Reaching Informed Solutions for Everyone Act (APPRISE Act), which ensures that community representatives will be allowed to participate in the FAA’s procedure design process; and
  • H.R. 5111, the Notified Officials to Inform Fully Impel Educated Decisions Act (NOTIFIED Act), which would require the FAA to notify local governments about new or modified flight paths. 

We are grateful to our Representative, Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, and to her colleague, Congresswoman Jackie Speier, for their leadership on this legislation.


Update 1/21/2020

In the 7/10/2019 update, we provided a link to 132 electronic documents that the FAA provided in response to the City’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request related to the PIRAT route. The FAA has provided an additional 206 files in response to the City’s FOIA request. 


Anyone wishing to access these additional files may do so by downloading the materials through this link. The City of Palo Alto is not responsible for the content of these files and/or any consequences resulting if someone chooses to download or attempt to view them.


Update 10/22/2019
The City sent thank you letters to Senator Feinstein and Congresswoman Eshoo for the extremely favorable language that was recently included in the Committee Report that accompanies the FY 2020 Senate Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations bill (link to document). The report language references many of the airplane noise and environmental impact issues the City of Palo Alto has been working on: improved noise measurements, accounting for the impact of noise on public health, and consideration of public comment when it comes to changes to flight procedures. It also directs the FAA to report back to the Committee detailing efforts made to address concerns with noise such as altering flight paths as a result of testing and community input.

The inclusion of this language reflects the effectiveness of the Quiet Skies Caucus in Congress. Our representative, Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, is a founding member of the Quiet Skies Caucus and joined her colleagues in the Caucus for a meeting last week with Stephen Dickerson, the new FAA Administrator, to underscore the importance of airplane noise as a priority for the FAA (see attached photo).


Update 7/19/19

Temporary Noise Monitoring Report
City staff coordinated with the San Francisco International Airport (SFO) staff for SFO to install four temporary noise monitors in the City of Palo Alto from October 30, 2018 through January 4, 2019. SFO contracted with BridgeNet International to provide the monitoring service and an associated analytical report. The report was updated on July 19, 2019 to include additional Lmax and SEL measurement results.  

The raw data associated with the temporary monitoring can be found on the City’s open data portal, under “SFO/Palo Alto Noise Study”. The files are numbered 1-14. 


Update 7/10/2019

In response to the City’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request related to the PIRAT route, the FAA provided more than 100 electronic documents. Many are in PDF or XLS formats that may be viewed with common software; others may require less common methods for access. Anyone wishing to access these materials may do so by downloading the materials through this link. The zip file contains a total of 132 files. The City of Palo Alto is not responsible for the content of these files and/or any consequences resulting if someone chooses to download or attempt to view them.


Update 6/12/2019
June 10, 2019 Agenda Item #1: Closed Session 


Subject: Noise and Other Impacts Arising From Management of Aircraft in the Northern California Airspace, Including the STAR PIRAT TWO Procedure Authority: Government Code Section 54956.9(d)(4) (One Potential Case, as Plaintiff)

After receiving Public Comment on Agenda Item #1, the City Council adjourned to Closed Session. Upon completion of the Closed Session, the Mayor provided a statement. A video of that statement can be accessed at this link


Update 5/1/2019

The City has received the following notice, which appears to have been issued on April 25, 2019 and indicates the publication of the STAR PIRAT (RNAV) TWO SAN FRANCISCO CA KSFO. This communication may be an order of the Secretary of Transportation as described in 49 United States Code section 46110. A person seeking judicial review of such an order must file a petition with the appropriate court not later than 60 days after the order is issued. 

Further information from the FAA can be found on the FAA website.

Additional Resources:
Congressional Representative Anna Eshoo (website)

Santa Clara | Santa Cruz Community Roundtable (website)
SFO Community Roundtable (website)
Sky Posse Palo Alto (website)


Andrew Swanson
Palo Alto Airport Manager, Public Works Department
(650) 329-2688 |

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