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Rep. Howard Berman proposes helicopter noise bill for L.A.

July 28, 2011 |  2:28 pm

Homeowners complain of helicopter noise
Rep. Howard L. Berman (D-Valley Village), hearing a din of constituent complaints, introduced legislation Thursday targeting noise from low-flying helicopters above Los Angeles residential neighborhoods.

Berman’s Los Angeles Residential Helicopter Noise Relief Act would require the Federal Aviation Administration to establish rules on flight paths and minimum altitudes for helicopter operations in Los Angeles County residential areas within a year of the bill being signed into law.

Exemptions would be allowed for emergency responders and the military.

“We’ve been getting lots of complaints,’’ Berman said outside the House chamber.

Chopper traffic has reached the "ridiculous point," he added, citing helicopter charters to view “Carmageddon,” the traffic disaster that wasn’t from the weekend shutdown of a section of the 405 Freeway.

Richard Close, president of the Sherman Oaks Homeowners Assn., agreed that helicopters hovering over the closed freeway were a tipping point in residents’ frustration but said the issue has been building over the years.

“It has definitely gotten worse,” Close said. “We’ve seen helicopters out when there’s a car chase on the freeway or a fender bender or a small fire.... There is news throughout the day and cable 24/7, and the media loves to use helicopters to bring the action.”

But, Close added, it’s also a privacy issue.

“With the helicopter cameras, there is no privacy in one’s own backyard,” Close said. "If a person was in a house or apartment building next door to a person’s property looking in, they’d be called peeping toms. This is a form of peeping toms with no accountability.”

The bill could face difficulty in the House, controlled by regulatory-wary Republicans who rejected an effort by Berman and fellow San Fernando Valley lawmakers earlier this year to give Burbank’s Bob Hope Airport and Van Nuys Airport authority to impose nighttime curfews.

But Berman noted that Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) earlier this year won Senate approval for an amendment to an FAA bill requiring the agency to adopt rules to reduce helicopter noise above Long Island.

“Here, there are safety issues as well as noise issues,’’ Berman said, vowing to press the legislation with Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), influential chairman of the House Transportation Committee.

The FAA declined comment on Berman’s proposal. The agency requires helicopters to operate "without hazard to persons or property" but does not set minimum altitudes over population areas as it does for planes.


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-- Richard Simon in Washington and Kate Mather in Los Angeles

Photo: Some homeowners around the closed section of the 405 Freeway complained about helicopter noise. Credit: Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times.