Updated June 15, 2019
Efforts from Spring 2016 to Date
~May 2016 - ~July 2016 - I tackled the SFO online complaint form time and again until it felt like the effort that it required was producing nothing more than frustration. I stopped using it.
September 2016 - I met with Hillsborough's Town Manager
and the Town's representative to the SFO-Community Airport
Roundtable, both of whom were very helpful.
October 2016 - I met with airport officials to discuss our concerns and try to find out the cause of this recent phenomenon of runway noise (back blast). I continued my efforts to locate/speak with someone at the airport who acknowledges the phenomenon and can clearly explain the known reason(s) for it.
December 2016 - I attempted to speak with a rep from the airport's Director's Office but was transferred to "Guest Services" despite my repeated request to speak with someone knowledgeable about the reason for the noise issue.
December 2016 - January 2017 - After almost 2 months of exchanging many emails with the Guest Services representative regarding progress in locating someone I could meet with (“the person is on vacation”) (“I’m still gathering contact information”) (“I may have to ask my manager what department would be able to help”) (“The NAO told me they’d emailed you regarding your concerns”), my efforts to have a discussion with a knowledgeable person were unproductive.
April, June, August 2017 - I spoke at three SFO-Community Airport
Roundtable meetings (where residents are limited to speaking for two minutes and Roundtable Members cannot converse with the speaker.)
This hard-working, voluntary group of about 20 elected officials communicates with the FAA and US Congress, expressing residents'
frustrations and displeasure as well as making
recommendations to San Francisco Airport.*
June- July 2017 - Aware of a 1983 victory that Burlingame residents had over airport noise as a result of filing multiple group small claims against the City and County of San Francisco, I consulted a small claims attorney (see "What You Can Do" tab in navigation menu at top of page). For more about the 1983 case, click here.
August, 2017 - I launched this website on Hillsborough NextDoor and Hillsborough Together.
August 31, 2017 - Joe Baylock wrote about my efforts in his blog.
One of the more interesting responses his article invoked was from a reader who wrote: Approximately 2 years ago, SFO installed Engineered Material Arresting Systems on Runways 1L and 1R. These are pads of concrete designed to halt aircraft overruns for aircraft landing on 19L and 19R to prevent them from possibly crashing through the concrete barrier and reaching the 101. In the process of this installation, there was a re-routing of the taxiways and the power up point that had previously been designated for aircraft on runway 1R. Additionally, the steel jet blast containment structure was removed from behind runways 1L and 1R. As a result, there is significantly more noise emanting through the Burlingame/Millbrae valley. At a minimum, re-installation of the steel jet blast containment structures should be an immediate priority.
September 11, 2017 - During the Public Comments section of a Hillsborough Town Hall meeting, I apprised the Town Council of my website.
I also emailed the City Managers of San Mateo & Burlingame, informing them of this effort and offering to speak at a council meeting. Neither city responded.
September 19, 2017 - At his request, I met with County Supervisor Dave Pine (on the SFO-Community Round Table) to discuss the issue.
October, 2017 - My attorney sent a request to SFO about the cause of the runway noise (simply, is it true that Runway 1 that faces Oakland did installation/replacement work that affected sound barriers?). SFO responded
by emailing 118,000** pages of documents.
April, 2018 - It was apparent that people who, after seeing anti-noise blog posts and my website, supported the idea of taking steps involving the runway noise but preferred to work in large groups rather than individual actions. This called for a new approach.
June, 2018 - We posted new blogs that, among other things, announced public community meetings on June 21, 2018. The well-attended sessions resulted in many residents taking the first step.
August 31, 2018 - A second community meeting was held August 30 at the Burlingame Public Library. At this point we have over 100 people who've expressed interest in the mission and are on the update list.
September 1, 2018 Nine people have submitted their small claims documents; 19 residents in the latest group completed Step One (of 2 steps).
September 17, 2018 - an update sent out, informing people they could request to receive documents by mail.
September 21, 2018 - We called the Redwood City Small Claims department to ask if our potentially large group could appear together. The clerk said 15 plaintiffs was the maximum allowed at one time.
September 23, 2018 - We wrote letters to the three small claims commissioners of San Mateo County, informing them of the 1981 precedent-setting case of allowing all plaintiffs who, having filed individually, were allowed to appear together, and requested we be allowed to do the same. We also mentioned how a judge may prefer to hold one appearance vs. several appearances to save the court system time and money.
September 24, 2018 Our 3rd community meeting at the library. Twenty-two completed small claims documents have been received; there are now over 150 people on the update email list.
* For example, in November 2016, in its Executive Working Outline in response to the FAA Initiative to
Address Noise Concerns (p. 14), the Round Table (RT) stated: "Since technology improvements are
regularly attained, the RT requests that SFO conduct an up-to-date Technical Study of options to include
community input and without limitation on cost of improvements." Time for an SFO in-house app that allows
residents to report back blast noise? Would that lead to SFO noise-reducing measures? I have my doubts.
Since I didn't write 220 emails, let's assume there were quite a few duplicated pages included.
January 14, 2019 - We've filed claims in the San Mateo County small claims division from 51 people regarding the ongoing nuisance from the runway noise.
May 7 - 21, 2019 After two changes of appearance dates, the court settled on 3 Tuesdays in May for our group, a highly unusual scheduling maneuver and an advantage to us.
June 11, 2019 After 4 days in May and June, testimony and rebuttals finished, the judge said she'd mail us a letter telling us when to return to court to hear her verdict.
August 27, 2019 The Judge ruled for the defense for 30 plaintiffs, and ruled in favor of 10 plaintiffs. The reason appeared to be based on a claim that the defense filed about specifying you had to have bought your home before 1980 in order to file.
October, 2019 - claim-filing for Round Two began. Many people who lost in Round One felt there was no benefit in continuing if they had bought their home after 1980. The defense filed an appeal against the ten plaintiffs who had "won".
November, 2019 - Round Two court dates scheduled; just a few days before court appearances, the defense postponed two groups, causing quite a bit of re-scheduling and confusion.
December 2019 - court dates for Round Two held with several needing to postpone the new dates.
January 7, 2020 - Most of the "winners" appeared for the defense's appeals hearing.
January 21, 2020 - all Round Two plaintiffs finished testifying. The plaintiffs offered substantial evidence that the "own before 1980" defense is for only those who file a claim in federal court, NOT in state court. The defense listed several reasons why the judge should rule for them. Waiting for verdict.
January 29, 2020 - The last of the "winners" will appear in court for the defense's appeal with strong evidence that the "own before 1980" statute cannot be used in small claims court.