By C.J. Lin
January 11, 2011
VAN NUYS: Many in limbo as funds to muffle noise sought.
After waiting years for the city to soundproof their homes, residents living near Van Nuys Airport find themselves in limbo as officials seek new federal funding to continue the program.
Los Angeles World Airports previously spent $10.7 million in airport revenue to soundproof 718 homes in neighborhoods around Van Nuys Airport, where the rumble of jet engines and the thwap-thwap of helicopter rotors can exceed 65 decibels, officials say.
Now, however, the cash-strapped city wants to use federal money to complete the work on about 50 other homes. That means homeowners have to wait while grant applications are filed and considered.
“I get that budgets are tight,” said Jim Pollock, who lives in a condominium on De Celis Place, two blocks from the runway of the nation’s second-busiest general aviation airport. “I totally understand that.
“By the same token, there was a promise made and it was made a while back.”
Pollock’s air conditioning and heating system gave out about two years ago, but he opted to wait to buy a new unit until after his home was soundproofed. So he has spent the last two years without heat or air conditioning, even as the jet and helicopter noise keeps him awake at night.
“What’s the time limit? Are they going to do it in 10 years, in 20 years, when they have the money?” he said. “It just doesn’t make sense.”
LAWA spokesman Mike Molina said the city plans to ask the federal government to expedite funding in the hope of resuming the work soon.
“The residents of Van Nuys should know we’re working very hard to secure these funds so we can complete the project promised to these 47,” Molina said. “This is a golden opportunity for us to continue doing the good work of soundproofing homes but making use of federal money.”
In December 2009, the FAA asked for updates to the airport’s contour maps, which determines which areas around Van Nuys Airport qualify for soundproofing.
Funding for the soundproofing would come once those studies were completed, but – concerned that it could take several years – LAWA officials are applying to get the money ahead of completing noise studies, Molina said.
Soundproofing for the remaining 47 would cost $1 million, and officials hope for “significant progress” on the applications in the next six months, Molina said.
“We will work hard to expedite as much as we can so we can get back to the work we’ve committed to,” he said.
The uncertainty about the program’s future has left homeowners unsure of whether to replace broken windows or failing air-conditioning units. They worry that they’ll spend thousands of dollars in repairs that will have to be repeated once the program gets back on track.
The program typically installs – free of charge – double-paned windows, solid-core doors, dampers, fireplace doors, insulation and heating, ventilation and air-conditioning modifications to cut airport noise in half.
For Robin Olin, a neighbor of Pollock, the noise isn’t as much of a problem because she has dual-paned windows. But one of them is cracked, and she has put off replacing it. Her AC unit gave out, too.
“I’m sitting here with no heat and broken windows,” Olin said. “The soundproofing program is going to replace all that. So do I spend $1,000 to fix it myself? Do I get a new AC system?
“We’re pretty frustrated here because we have two-thirds of a complex that is completed and other homeowners who are incomplete.”
The waiting game at Van Nuys continues even as a company located two miles away on Tuesday was awarded a $1million contract to soundproof 69 homes in South Los Angeles near Los Angeles International Airport under the same program.
But LAX’s funding for soundproofing comes through dedicated passenger facility charges, a program established through the FAA separate from the airport revenue fund, and one that Van Nuys lacks, according to Molina.