LAKEWOOD — The City Council Tuesday unanimously decided to draft a noise ordinance aimed at curbing the roar from Douglas Aircraft's jet engine testing, which for years has engulfed the southwest corner of the city.
"We feel there are ways to mitigate (the noise) that they are not doing just because it is not convenient," Councilman Larry Van Nostran said after the council meeting.
City officials said they do not know what provisions will be included in the noise ordinance or when it will be completed by City Atty. John S. Todd. However, they said, they are firm about wanting to force Douglas to protect the neighborhood around the test site, at the north end of the Long Beach Airport along Carson Street at the intersection of Paramount Boulevard.
Residents and business owners have complained about what they describe as deafening noise pollution that causes blood pressure to soar and buildings to vibrate whenever Douglas starts testing. At nearby Lakewood County Golf Course, the testing position of the planes sends noise and exhaust directly over the greens.
"If you're playing golf on that course, which I do," Van Nostran said, "that noise is so deafening."
Donald N. Hanson, manager of public relations for Douglas, said it would be "inappropriate" to comment on the City Council's action because he has no idea what will be contained in the noise ordinance.
Hanson pointed out, however, that the company does comply with Long Beach's noise ordinance, which allows Douglas to test engines between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. on weekdays. No testing is allowed before 9 a.m. on weekends.
Hanson also pointed out that aircraft engines today are quieter than in the past. "We have done a lot as an industry and the engine-makers have done a lot to produce quieter engines," he said. "That has been very effective."
Some city officials said they worry that Douglas will begin testing its newest military plane, the C-17, and that its engines will be noisier than the domestic passenger planes now tested.
Hanson said, however, that C-17 testing will be conducted elsewhere.
The Douglas plant sprawls at the runways of the Long Beach Airport. Built in 1940 as the nation was gearing up for World War II, the plant straddles the border between Lakewood and Long Beach and employs about 35,000 people.
Most of the plant, which is in a peak production schedule with a backlog of domestic and military aircraft orders to fill, lies within the Long Beach city limits. However, the small parcel on which the engines are tested is within Lakewood's municipal boundary.
"Long Beach gets all the money and Lakewood gets all the noise," Van Nostran said.
In September, Lakewood hired a consultant, Thomas W. Fitzwater of Michael Brandman Associates in Santa Ana, to recommend how Lakewood could make Douglas a quieter neighbor. The consultant documented that the noise created by the engine tests averages 10.6 decibels higher than normal background noise in the neighborhood.
However, the council's decision to draft a noise ordinance goes beyond recommendations that the consultant presented Tuesday night. His major recommendation was that the city support a plan by the Long Beach Airport to build a "hush house," a building in which airport operators, including Douglas, could test engines.
Such a facility, which would have to be approved by the Long Beach City Council during its budget deliberations next month, would cost $3.2 million. Most of the money--$2.5 million--would come from the Federal Aviation Administration, if the federal agency agrees that the new facility is needed.
The consultant recommended that both Lakewood and Signal Hill join with Long Beach in lobbying the federal government for the money.
However, according to Chuck Ebner, Lakewood's community development and planning director, it would be at least three years before a hush house could be built.
"There's the potential for a new facility," Councilman Wayne Piercy said after the council meeting, "but we have no assurance of when it's going to be done. For the short term, we need to do whatever can be done. Long term, we support construction of this hush house."
The council agreed to help Long Beach lobby the federal government for hush house money.
In the meantime, before the facility is built, the consultant's report said, the noise problem could be mitigated if Douglas would move its new planes out to an engine run-up area in the center of the airport. The present test site is alongside Carson Street, the only strip of land separating the test area from the golf course and the rest of the neighborhood.
According to the consultant's report, the run-up area is large enough for Douglas' new aircraft. If the company agreed to use the area, the report said, noise from the engine tests would be reduced in the neighborhood from its current high of 10.6 decibels above normal background noise to about 3 or 4 decibels above background noise.
"They don't have to test them in the place and the way they do," Piercy said. "We want to work with them as good neighbors."
However, Piercy said, he and other city officials spoke with Douglas representatives last year about the noise problem and were told that the company did not want to use the run-up area because it was not convenient.
Piercy said city officials were "kind of surprised" to find that Douglas did not take many steps to protect the surrounding areas from the noise. The company had previously put up large concrete blast fences at the test site to help deflect jet exhaust and sound.
The consultant noted, however, that the primary purpose of blast fences is to screen off debris.