Keep the Airport Curfew

This afternoon at 1:30 the Council will gather for a special meeting to discuss the City’s airport. The expansion was voted favorably by the council in 1997 with then-Councilmember David Pandori casting the only vote against. The airport, with the hands artwork that is visible driving on Highway 87, was approved in 2005. Through the selling of bonds (borrowing) the city of San Jose has spent $1.3 billion on the renovation.

Since 2007, the airport has experienced a 25 percent decline in the number of passengers and 33 percent reduction in number of flights. The airport competes with San Francisco and Oakland airports and is one of the few city assets that competes with other cities. Airports and airlines have been impacted negatively from terrorist threats, web meeting solutions. spiking fuel costs that pushed companies to adopt new web meeting technologies faster and of course the Great Recession.

Take all of these factors listed above into consideration and then add on government “feel good” measures like the new city of San Jose living wage policy that was passed by the council last year (I was the only no vote) that requires private companies at the airport to pay private sector workers above-market wages. It may “feel good” for politicos but it raises costs to the airlines and to the taxpayer as the city now has a city employee who makes $156,000 to oversee the living wage policy just at the airport.

In fact, we have a total of 11 full time people ($1,414,941) at City Hall who oversee that private sector workers are paid a certain wage. Personally, I would rather have 11 code inspectors or 11 planning dept staff. Another “feel good” measure is that the airport must spend $3 million extra every year on janitorial services because of another council policy that does not allow outsourcing, which again raises the costs to the airlines. (Well, technically we “allow” outsourcing but it takes nearly two years and multiple highly charged City Council votes that require at least six votes…so essentially NO). As Marvin Gaye said, “Mercy Mercy Me.”

If you put yourself in the airlines’ shoes and you know that the Bay Area has three airports and that residents will drive the short distance to fly, then you might be more likely to choose the airport where you can maintain a higher margin of profit that has the lowest cost. If you choose to not maximize your profit then consumers, mutual funds and even retirements funds may sell your airline stock and eventually you may get fired.

Some suggest that eliminating the curfew would solve the airport’s financial dilemmas. It is a big unknown that if eliminating the curfew would be the salvation of our airport. Will flights at 3am generate more revenue then the $12 million of savings that outsourcing would deliver at the airport as outlined by the airport director? I don’t think so.

What I do know is that approximately 100,000 people hear the airport flights today and they would prefer not to be awakened in the middle of the night. Now there are some areas of San Jose that do not hear the airplanes during the day, but I think that residents of Almaden Valley and Evergreen might start to hear the planes if they are arriving and departing at 1am, 2am, 3am, etc. The economic value of getting rid of the curfew is unknown however we do know the Council has the power to allow the airport to start saving money today without upsetting many residents.

My viewpoint is we need to have a successful airport and by that I mean a successful daytime airport that operates up to what the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) allows. The airport should be allowed to run itself like a private business, competing with San Francisco and Oakland without all of the city policies, while maintaining its successful curfew as other cities do so in the USA.

On another note: Tonight the General Plan 2040 Task Force will choose a scenario to recommend to the Council for San Jose’s growth by the year 2040.
Here is a link to a General Plan 2040 Task Force web survey prepared to solicit feedback.


  1. This post raises two points:

    1. SJC is uncompetitive partly due to onerous “feel good” policies such as the “living wage” law. I agree that this is foolish and short sighted, but as long as liberals rule the city such policies are bound to continue.

    2. Lifting the airport curfew is bad because we’ll have to contend with lots of noisy flights at 3AM.

    I doubt that the curfew will be lifted because it is another of those “feel good” measures cited in point #1 above.

    Think about this logically for a moment. Most of SJC’s flights are short haul in nature; who in their right mind would take a 3AM nonstop to LAX, PDX, SEA, LAS, RNO or SLC, even is it were available? Longer range flights are scheduled taking time differences into account; that’s why flights don’t leave west coast airports for the east coast between 4PM and 10PM. Such a flight would arrive back east at an inconvenient time in the wee hours of the morning, and would not attract passengers, which is why no such flights exist. Does anybody think that the lack of a curfew would suddenly cause airlines to start scheduling wee-hour flights into SJC.

    Some curfew flexibility would be helpful to allow flights delayed by weather to land at SJC rather than divert to SFO or OAK. As a resident living less than 2 miles from the approach end of runway 30, this would be a small price to pay for a competitive airport.

  2. “…as the city now has a city employee who makes $156,000 to oversee the living wage policy just at the airport.”

    How can that POSSIBLY be a 40-hour-per-week job?  Does that person have administrative staff support as well?  How much does that cost us?

    “in fact, we have a total of 11 full time people ($1,414,941) at City Hall who oversee that private sector workers are paid a certain wage.”  That’s an AVERAGE of almost $129k per person! Can’t we just publish what the required wages are, and rely on the workers to gripe if they are paid less than what is required?  Do we REALLY NEED 11 people?  How can they possibly fill their days with real work, rather than just paper shuffling?

    As to noise, I live at almost 6 miles as the crow flies from SJC, and in the early a.m. I can hear the planes taking off when I am inside my house with the windows shut, so I can imagine how it must be closer by.  They also fly over my house from time to time in an alternate landing pattern.  I’m not anxious to be awakened between 11:00 and 6:00.

    • Not that it will make much difference to you or the Councilman, but in some instances his numbers are inaccurate. You’d think a City Councilperson would at least provide correct info for the sake of accuracy.
      As for cant’ we “rely on the workers to gripe if they are paid less than what is required?” Unfortunately, there are many unscrupulous contractors out there who constantly try to cheat the workers and the city. It simply does not work without proactive enforcement—it would be nice if it did but it does not.
      It would also be nice if every contractor were honest and ethical and no requirements were even needed, but again this is the real world and not fantasyland.
      If you and the Councilmember do not want people earning an adequate wage for work done with the City then you should change the existing policy. But don’t try and have it both ways—keeping the policy but don’t enforce it. It does not work that way—if you have a policy it must be enforced.

      • :“Unfortunately, there are many unscrupulous contractors out there who constantly try to cheat the workers and the city”  Name two, or even one, please.  Has there ever been such a documented case at the airport?  I realize that farm labor contractors do this frequently by preying on undocumented workers, aka illegal aliens.  But @ SJC?  Everyone that works there has to be cleared by Homeland Security.

        But how can it possibly take a person 40 hours to “enforce” the policy?  And to earn $156k to check a few records now and then to be sure the workers are being paid properly.  C’MON!

        • You should call the City’s Office of Equality Assurance for the list of violators not only at the airport but on other city funded projects. You will be surprised by the number of violations and the names of the contractors.
          Not sure what Homeland Security has to do with this discussion. A contractor can be cleared by Homeland Security and still cheat his workers.

    • ‘I’m not anxious to be awakened between 11:00 and 6:00.’  Then I hope Johnmichael, that you show up at today’s council session or write to the council about your concerns. They need to hear from impacted residents/neighbors. I believe there are some council members who are under the assumption that if the curfew is lifted then that will help increase revenue. I doubt these assumptions are based on any hard facts or research data.


  3. Pier, were it not for you, most of us would remain in the dark regarding just how insane our city government has become.  $1.4M for ensuring that living wages are paid to workers – my God, is that nuts?!

    As for removing the curfew, I’d hazard that few if any councilmembers who voted in favor of the measure would be re-elected.

    I for one have given up on San Jose ever being more than a hicktown with a giant inferiority complex, run by a bunch of idiots.

  4. Please don’t extend curfew.  I live right underneath the air corridor.  The planes are loud enough to go through the walls.  If the city does drop curfews, then at least limit the number of planes during the off-hours.  Yes commerce may run 24/7, but people sleep at night. 

    As for the nameless 11 people… People shouldn’t get too riled up. Let’s put thing in context.  To see where most of the money actually goes, visit the Mercury News public employee search (  The data is current up to 2008. It turns out that the Airport department salaries are under control.  Out of the 488 employees, the top 75 (26%) people make over $100K.  These are the managers,supervisors and professionals.  I extended the search to all city hall employees.  Again, we have the same ratios of managers to employees.

    Compare this to the police department where 1250 out of 2092 (49%)make over $100k.  There was little overtime at the Airport.  At least 1/3 of the Police salaries were due to overtime.

  5. Q: What is the sound of an airport going out of business?
    A: A 2:00 AM takeoff.

    Anybody who thinks that lifting the curfew will do anything substantial to the airport’s bottom line is dreaming. The cost-benefit analysis doesn’t wash: The increased nuisance, environmental,and quality of life fiasco for neighbors near (and not so near) the airport would far outweight the minor uptick in revenue the airport might get from these flights.

    Down by 40 with a minute to play, airport staff is trying to change the long-standing rules of the game(the curfew) in a desperation ploy.

    It would be an astonishing act of bad faith and spinelessness by this city government to even consider revoking the curfew—especially given the decades of promises this city has made to neighbors vowing to protect their nighttime peace.

    Congrats to P.O. for standing up for reason and fairness. And shame on any councilpeople who don’t.

  6. The noise made by garbage trucks making their pickups at 6:00 AM are much more annoying than any airplane noise. I live just south of Japantown and Green Team is waking the neighborhood up all the time. Let’s have a garbage curfew until 7:00 AM.

      • In my neighborhood, garbage trucks come about 4x/week. On our side of the street, tuesday is recycling pick up day and Thursday is garbage pick up day. The other side of the street gets picked up Monday and Friday.

        As for the airport curfew, lifting it won’t generate lots of wee-hour flights, because nobody want’s to arrive or depart during those hours. Re-read Steve’s post above. To make the NIMBY’s happy, they should keep the curfew but make allowances for weather delayed arrivals from the East.

        • You should talk to your Councilmember. Something doesn’t sound right if that is what is happening on your street.
          As for the curfew, there already are allowances for numerous intrusions into the curfew including weather and mechanical. This has been going on since the curfew began.

  7. Future not looking to bright for SJC, even with new Terminal B.

    From the Frankfurt International Airport website ( “Airports with intermodal capabilities (see Millbrae/SFO station) have an edge on their competitors (SJC?) because intermodality generates additional traffic: integration of Frankfurt Airport in Deutsche Bahn’s high-speed rail network (California HSR) has expanded the airports catchment area compared to airports without long-distance train stations.  In strengthened the hub function, raised passenger figures, and given us important competitive edges.  At the same time, moving air traffic to the rail eases some of the strain on flight capacity (uh oh!).  For expample, landing and departing slots that are freed-up by shifting short-haul flights to the rail can be used for urgently needed expansion of intercontinental flight services.”

    So what happens in the future when our high-speed rail system takes a huge chunk out of all those Southwest Airlines flights from SJC, which is currently our largest carrier?  Oh, I know: drop that pesky curfew and chop some more floors out of those downtown “high”-rises.  That will get Singapore Airlines, ANA, Aer Lingus, and Air India flocking to SJC (yeah right!).

    In the end, if you can’t beat them, join them!  Close SJC in the future and move operations to SFO!

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