Council Holds Hearing over San Jose Airport Expansion, Noise Curfew

Flights louder than 89 decibels can’t fly from 11:30pm to 6:30am without violating current airport rules. Airlines risk a $2,500 fine and, if a tenant at Norman Mineta San Jose International Airport, they could face eviction if found in repeated violation.

The whole curfew conversation came up last week, when downtown Councilman Sam Liccardo asked to delay a City Council vote on a ground lease for a proposed $82 million addition to the airport. Signature Flight Support, whose proposal involves a massive new facility that will house Google’s executive jet fleet, doesn’t think it’s fair for the lease language to allow the city to evict the company over a single curfew violation.

Liccardo—who, incidentally, lives near the airport flight path—says he just wanted the public to have a week to weigh in on last-minute changes to a major lease agreement. The public hearing on the matter starts at 7pm Tuesday at City Hall.

San Jose is one of only nine cities in the US to impose a noise curfew in the late evening/early morning hours. The main reason for this is San Jose not-so-strategically placed its airport smack-dab in the heart of the city. Some business advocates have argued in favor of dropping the noise curfew, but Liccardo says that jets quieter than the 89-decible curfew already wake people.

Maria Sastres, president of Signature Flight Support, told the Silicon Valley Business Journal last week that asking to change the lease doesn’t mean the company plans to schedule a bunch of after-hours flights. They just think the eviction penalty clause is a bit extreme.

But even if Signature does receive approval for a changed lease agreement, it won’t do much to protect the company from the city’s authority to enforce the noise ordinance. San Jose, under aegis of state law, still holds sway over the power to evict and fine its airport tenants, Liccardo points out.

“Whether the language is in the contract or not, we have the ability to do that under state law,” he says.

That’s not meant to be a threat, though, Liccardo adds. He says he’s thrilled to see the airport expand, which would bring a boost in tax revenue to the city. Current estimates state that Signature’s addition would bring in $3.3 million a year, five years after opening.

Liccardo says it’s unlikely the city would ever resort to eviction anyway. Flights are often delayed because of weather and they just get fined. The Sharks hockey team freqeuntly touches down late—18 times during the 2010 season—but the city exempted the club from the $45,000 fine. This is quite a courtesy, as Deadspin wryly noted, because that amount probably would be enough to bankrupt an NHL team.

WHAT: Public hearing on Mineta San Jose sInternational Airport expansion
WHEN: 7pm Tuesday
WHERE: City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara St., San Jose
INFO: 408.535.1260

Jennifer Wadsworth is the former news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.


  1. can we have this statement:
    “Sharks hockey team freqeuntly (sic) touches down late—18 times during the 2010 season—but the city exempted the club from the $45,000 fine”
    fact checked ?? 

    According to (also need to be fact checked) the Mercury News on 11/14/2009, the Sharks took over a 727 that was previously leased to Fry’s Electronics to transport the Sabercats, “it also comes with a legal document that allows the Sharks to make 15 landings annually at Mineta … during curfew hours”. 
    Tail number is N724YS. 

    So 15*$2,500 = 37,500 is part of the airplane’s already built-in exemption.  Only the remaining 3 landings for $7,500 would have been a “real” waiver ?

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