A Letter To Commissioner Stephanie Bowman Re. Noise Program Audits

Ms. Bowman is currently President of the Port Of Seattle Commission. This letter is in reply to a request she made concerning my Public Comment at the 24 September General Meeting. (See video starting @ 33:30).

Well this is a pleasant surprise. :DI am actually working up a (short) summary on the practicalities which I’ll try to get to you by the next general meeting.

There are thousands of pages of contractor invoices, notes from city files, homeowner complaints, etc. but our contention is basically this:

While the public was focused on the 3rd Runway Lawsuit, the Port was installing the majority of the Port Packages were installed. En masse, the earliest tranches were not done properly. Many of the contractors were dodgy, the materials of low quality and, worst of all, the engineering/construction practices not great. That last bit is key. The ventilation needs to be done properly in order to avoid water vapor, which causes rot (which you can see) and mold (which you often cannot).

Port supervisors knew about some of the problems with those initial tranches. They suspected there might be future problems. The problem is that by the time the symptoms often start to show, the ‘limited warranty’ has expired and the contractors have gone out of business. So even if the homeowner complains to the Port (few do because the entire community is so cynical), she gets nowhere because both the Homeowner Agreement and RCW 53.54 absolve the Port of any liability.

Then there are city governments. City building people would look at the work done and just shrug–since it ‘technically’ was not their job to sign off. But they saw, first-hand, the issues and were quite aware of the potential for future problems. And at no time did the city governments file complaints with the Port or try to warn homeowners to do so. So they are also complicit.

As Stan often points out, current practice is much better. The number of problems with latter installs is much lower. Good. However, there have been almost no new Port Packages installed since 2008. It’s as though the Port declared victory and went home. There were hundreds of homes who should have qualified but did not get retro-fitted. The Port slow-walked some installs to the point where a job might take two years to get done.

So then the next Part 150 is done and, because of the magic of (cough) ‘quieter airplanes’, the noise boundary shrinks and… PRESTO! You guys instantly have far fewer homes (read: cost) to worry about.

Our concerns going forward are three-fold:

1. Repairing the damaged Port Packages (and that includes mold remediation and damage to structure). The builds were negligent, the warranty was crap, and mold is a serious health issue which homeowners should not have to take a hit for.

2. Providing assurance that the current process is aggressive and efficient. That both the Port and cities are working together to identify all eligible homes and implement retro-fits on a timely basis. No more slow-walking. You guys have a lot of trust-building to do to convince the public that you are not actually trying to avoid providing relief to locals.

3. Making sure that the Noise Program scales. That you have a program that can actually do 1,000 units in a year well. And just important, that both the Port and cities have systems in place to provide adequate oversight with that increased level of activity.

Because the number of Port Packages must dramatically increase. And the first step is to show that the Port (and the cities) are ready do it right this time.

Everyone under the flight path deserves adequate sound insulation. Your tenants should provide this as a basic cost of doing business in return for receiving un-fettered access to the entire airspace. Your published goal is to be ‘the greenest airport in the United States.’ Though you have no control over the flight control, you do have a great deal of control over giving residents a healthy living space by negotiating far more aggressively with your tenants and to obtain the maximum amount in AIP Grants.

Best,

—JC

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