Airport's Noise may Hit Proposed Homes

April 18, 2007
Airplane noise at the Oakland International Airport will be an unavoidable force.

ALAMEDA -- Airplane noise from Runway 29/11 at the Oakland International Airport will be an unavoidable force on 104 homes proposed near the Harbor Bay Business Park on Bay Farm Island.

That's according to a draft environmental impact report released for the project March 20. The report says aircraft noise will be an unavoidable, "significant" impact.

Secondary noise sources, according to the report, include traffic on North Loop Road and Catalina Avenue and construction across North Loop Road.

"How do you enjoy your property?" Planning and Building Director Cathy Woodbury said, explaining the designation."How do you live in the house without opening the windows -- that sort of thing. That's why it's an unavoidable, significant impact."

The report will be reviewed by the Alameda Planning Board Wednesday night.

Public comment on the draft environmental report is due by May 4. The comments, including those provided by the board and residents at its Wednesday meeting then will be incorporated into a final environmental report.

In order to approve the project, the City Council will have to find that the benefit of the proposed 104 homes outweighs the environmental impact.

Tim Hoppen, president of developer Harbor Bay Isle Associates, downplayed the environmental impact report's conclusions. He pointed out that people now are living in hundreds of other homes in the area, next door to the airport.

"The interior of the homes can be mitigated down to a noise level within all regional, state and local noise guidelines," Hoppen said. "And they will be."

The proposal comes on the heels of last year's completion of a multi-year, multi-million dollar effort to provide sound insulation to more than 500 Bay Farm homes.

That program was paid for by the Port of Oakland using federal aviation grant funding as well as from levies on airline tickets and airport facility surcharges. It was monitored by Alameda city officials and cost an estimated $18.7 million, airport officials said.

Sound insulation improvements were offered to 629 eligible Bay Farm homeowners (593 town homes and 36 single-family homes). A total of 558 homeowners participated in the program, resulting in a participation rate of 89 percent, Port of Oakland officials said.

Tests were conducted on 82 homes after completion of sound insulation improvements. Results showed that the average interior sound level was reduced by 5 to 7 decibels. Energy efficiency also was improved inside homes.

The homes, collectively known as the Harbor Bay Village VI, would be located on 12 acres between North Loop Road, the Garner Preschool Learning Center, Catalina Avenue and the Chinese Christian School.

The site is zoned for private schools, light industrial, warehouse and other commercial uses.

Allowing housing there would require changes to a 1989 development agreement with the city, as well as a general plan amendment, rezoning and several other approvals, including a certification of the environmental document.

Hoppen said he believed the homes would generate less traffic than commercial uses and help the city build needed housing.

"We believe the residential use is a higher and better use on that property than light industrial distribution, warehouse and commercial uses," Hoppen said.

Harbor Bay Isle Associates has a long history of development with the city, dating back to the 1972. It developed 1,000 acres with a 5 million-square-foot business park and has entitlements to build up to 3,200 homes, Hoppen said.

So far, about 2,900 homes have been built.

On Thursday, Woodbury said she'd received a number of calls from concerned residents about the development and expected people to turn out Wednesday night.

Mayor Beverly Johnson said new development in that area -- particularly of the Chinese Christian School -- has created opposition in the past.

The Alameda Planning Board will meet at 7 p.m., Wednesday at the City Council Chamber, City Hall, 2263 Santa Clara Ave.

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