Community Struggles with Tackling Jetliner Noise

Music producer Tom Canning moved to the Monte Nido neighborhood near Malibu decades ago for peace and quiet in the countryside. Thirty miles from Los Angeles International Airport, Canning said he never thought about the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) or noise from LAX. Now, Canning says he cannot open his windows to feel a breeze on a hot day and that his quiet home life has been upended—all due to a recent change in air traffic implemented by the FAA called NextGen that puts his home directly under a jet flight path.

“NextGen has ruined my life,” Canning told The Malibu Times. A year ago, he said, “virtually overnight we found ourselves facing one, two, three and now over 400 flights roaring overhead non-stop all day and all night.” When asked if he’s actually counted 400 flights overhead per day, Canning assuredly answered, “Oh yeah, definitely.” And what Canning said also angers fellow homeowners is, “The NextGen program was implemented without any community input whatsoever—no acknowledgment of what would happen, whatsoever—we just all woke up one day and there it was. So, we’ve been fighting ever since.” 

On its website, the FAA calls NextGen a modernization of the nation’s air transportation system with a goal to “increase safety, efficiency, capacity, predictability and resiliency of American aviation.”

On Thursday at the Las Virgenes Homeowners’ Federation (LVHF) meeting to fight NextGen, Malibu Mayor Rick Mullen noted that NextGen was backed by business giant FedEx. The multinational courier claimed it saves millions of dollars daily by streamlining flights, resulting in reduced air congestion, lower fuel consumption and reduced carbon emissions.

The havoc that’s caused to residents of the Santa Monica Mountains has the coalition of 25 homeowners’ groups that make up the LVHF announcing a partnership with the City of Malibu to fight the FAA and change air routes that are currently disturbing residents and wildlife in the Santa Monica Mountains.

“There’s been a radical change in the amount of air traffic and that you hear. These are at altitudes and are creating noise that are way out of proportion than what they’ve been historically,” Mullen told the LVHF. “I started getting phone calls from people, particularly in Big Rock—people saying, ‘We’re under assault.’”

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Mullen is aligned with the LVHF to “undo what’s already been done without fully informing us. 

“They certainly didn’t come to our city and say, ‘We’re going to dump 300 flights a day over you and, by the way, when you’re sitting inside your house you’re going to be able to hear the flights,’” the mayor added.

Mullen has been working with legal experts looking at other cities that have successfully challenged the FAA, such as Phoenix, Ariz. 

“We’ve done diligent homework in finding out who could best help us,” Mullen said, adding the city has partnered with a law firm that is involved in a similar case in Santa Monica Canyon. The Malibu mayor stated partnering with the LVHF is “to our mutual benefit. We would share the costs.” With a threat of litigation, Mullen expressed he hoped a compromise could be reached although he acknowledged no promises could be made. “I think this will be a difficult, multifaceted and probably a long battle, but I do think we can improve and hopefully ultimately prevail.”

Alicia Gonzales, of the LVHF, said she worries not only about the quality of life, but property values. 

“That is the most significant investment most of us will ever make,” Gonzales said. “We can’t let this situation remain unchallenged.”

Canning described his home, saying it was as if he was living under a jetway 24/7. 

“Constant roaring—they put on their airbrakes so there’s a screeching and a whining,” the Malibu resident said. “It’s non-stop throughout the day. It’s very upsetting, very troubling. It’ll get you angry and anger is a great motivator.” 

The FAA has told the group so far that it has not exceeded noise levels. 

“They can say whatever they want, but I invite anybody to come over and stand outside my house. The roaring and screeching is overpowering,” according to Canning.

Canning concluded, “Most of the people who moved to Monte Nido moved there because we didn’t want to be near a freeway, didn’t want to be near an airport. We wanted rural and peaceful lifestyle—not a gated community. It’s never quiet now.” 

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