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Wachs Urges Ban on Night Takeoffs at Van Nuys

February 25, 1988|RICHARD SIMON | Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles City Councilman Joel Wachs proposed Wednesday that the city consider banning all nighttime takeoffs at Van Nuys Airport, except for emergency and military flights.

The proposal was prompted by complaints from homeowners that they cannot sleep at night because of noise from helicopters, jets and other aircraft taking off, Wachs said.

The City Council in 1981 restricted evening departures at the city-owned facility to planes registering no more than 74 decibels. Exact figures were unavailable on how many nightly flights have been affected by that restriction.

Airport spokesman Bob Hayes estimated that about six flights depart nightly.

"I don't think I've seen a night where we've had more than 20 to 25 aircraft landings and takeoffs, and most of those are landings," Hayes said.

Airport Figures Disputed

However, homeowners dispute the airport's figures, and those who live near the field contend that the existing restrictions have been ineffective.

"All you need is one plane to wake you up," Gerald Silver, president of Homeowners of Encino, said Wednesday.

Wachs' proposal asks the City Council to call on the city Department of Airports to report on the feasibility of banning all departures from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m., except for emergency and military operations.

Wachs also asked for a report on the airport's efforts to reduce aircraft noise. The airport and residential areas to the east and southeast were added to Wachs' district in the 1986 council redistricting.

The proposal will go before the council's Industry and Economic Development Committee, which will make a recommendation to the full council. The final decision rests with the five members of the city Airport Commission, appointed by Mayor Tom Bradley. However, homeowners contend that council support for a ban could carry considerable influence with the commission.

Landings Still Permitted

"We're not considering closing the airport at night," said Renee Weitzer, an aide to Wachs, adding that landings at night would still be permitted because they are not as noisy as takeoffs.

The proposal was welcomed by homeowners, who have been trying to ban nighttime flights for years.

"I'm very pleased," said Don Schultz, president of Ban Airport Noise.

Silver said the current restrictions still allow many helicopters and jets to take off at night. He also questioned whether the existing limited curfew is enforced, since the airport tower closes at midnight.

But Hayes questioned the need for Wachs' proposal. The airport spokesman expressed concern that a ban on nighttime flights could harm the San Fernando Valley's economy. He contended that most nighttime flights are for business, not pleasure.

In response to a request from the airport's citizens' advisory committee, the Department of Airports recently recommended that a ban on nighttime flights be part of a study on airport noise and possible ways to reduce it.

That study, Weitzer said, is expected to take one or two years to complete. "The residents don't want to wait that long," she said.

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