PALO ALTO -- A study of airplane noise paid by the city of Palo Alto is underway as the number of residents complaining about quality of life disturbance reaches new heights.
Freytag & Associates Inc., a San Rafael-based consulting firm, will gather and assess data on how flight patterns, frequency and altitudes involving San Francisco, San Jose and Oakland airports have changed in recent years.
The firm also will study how the increased airplane noise residents reported interferes with sleep and classroom instruction.
To do this, noise monitors will be set up inside and outside two unoccupied residences and two unoccupied classrooms for seven days.
The $237,500 contract was approved by the City Council last month and expires in December 2017.
Staff has said the data is needed to effectively argue for noise reduction over Palo Alto.
Other cities have hired consultants to aid in responding to the Federal Aviation Administration, including Portola Valley and Los Altos Hills, which jointly hired Williams Aviation Consultants.
The study is the latest effort to address concerns that residents from Santa Cruz to San Francisco and their congressional representatives have expressed over the FAA's new Next Generation Air Transportation System, known as NextGen.
New arrival and departure plane procedures through NextGen, set to gradually deploy nationwide by 2025, use satellites rather than radar to set more efficient routes. The result is that controllers can space aircraft closer together, resulting in denser air traffic.
The FAA said in November it will explore changing flight patterns and other means of addressing residents' concerns.
Palo Alto residents formed an advocacy group called Sky Posse to ask city leaders and state representatives to work with the FAA to address the concentrated, low-flying commercial planes.
Meanwhile, the number of complaints logged by the San Francisco International Airport's Noise Abatement office reached record highs. Residents filed 147,442 complaints between March and August, a 2,706 percent increase from the same time period in 2014.
In August, 1,173 people made 62,391 complaints, and in September 1,070 people made 131,509 complaints.
Of the latter, 40,811 complaints were made by 188 people in Los Gatos. High volumes of calls also came from Santa Cruz, Scotts Valley, Soquel and Portola Valley. In Palo Alto that month, 207 people made 9,896 complaints.
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