Ears ringing over jet noise abatement

To help homeowners combat jet noise, new monitoring devices are being installed in San Mateo and South San Francisco to determine which homes will be eligible for insulation under a stalled Aircraft Noise Abatement Office program.

Noise associated with the San Francisco International Airport has been a problem for decades, but the situation has become more manageable in recent years due to home insulation programs and fine-tuned aircraft technology.

Many homes in South San Francisco have been insulated, but airport noise is still a problem, Mayor RichGarbarino said.

“The insulation program died down and went away after about 600 homes were initially insulated up in the Avalon neighborhood,” Garbarino said. “There is now additional money to insulate about 40 more homes. I guess you can say we are back into the noise-abatement business.”

The latest improvement in noise abatement comes from the airport itself as it upgrades its outdated sound monitoring technology in order to better keep track of who is responsible for aircraft noise.

In the next two weeks, the Aircraft Noise Abatement Office will install a new sound monitoring system in San Mateo and replace a 25-year-old system in South San Francisco near Baden High School. Others have already been installed in Millbrae, San Bruno and Pacifica.

“We had a discontinuous system with many components made by different people,” said Burt Ganoung, aircraft noise abatement manager. “Now data will be more reliable and we’re hoping to be able to do more with it like audio matching to be able to attribute the noise more precisely.”

Ganoung said the $1.89 million system will help keep the public more informed.

The system listens for aircraft and community noise and helps create sound contour maps that determine which areas are eligible for insulation programs. More than 15,000 homes have been insulated since 1983 and there are still about 167 homes that need to be insulated, noise abatement officials said.

The noise contour maps are also getting smaller due to new technology that makes airplanes quieter. Using its new sound system, SFO is preparing to release a new contour map early next year.

Avalon-Brentwood Homeowners Association President Joy-Ann Wendler, who was one of the first to get her home insulated, said the noise used to be unbearable.

“Planes would go directly over Avalon and I could literally see the head of the pilot,” Wendler said.”You could not hear TV or the phone before this program. The program was an instant hit — people signed up by the droves to have it done.”

Wendler said that one of the byproducts of sound insulation was that insulation against heat and cold.

“My PG&E bill dropped by a third — that was a huge side benefit of the program,” she said.

svasilyuk@examiner.com

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