Today’s Port Of Seattle General Meeting had the most significant news about Port Packages we have ever seen. If you are concerned about airport noise issues this will matter to you whether you have a Port Package or not.
As background, I strongly encourage you to look at the presentation by Noise Program Manager Stan Shepherd and also look at the video which contains some very important comments from several Commissioners.
Assuming that HB2315 passes (and the Port obviously thinks it will), the Port is committing the Port to the following:
- Accelerate the completion of all outstanding projects (which represents over 1,100 homes, condos and apartments that the consider eligible) to 2026. One not-often talked about problem with the whole program is that they have been slow-walking projects. The previous schedule had been to complete those projects by 2035.
- And as a part of that accelerated program, also provide updates and repairs for up to 5,000 homes–also to be completed by 2026. This is the part we have been working on now for three years.
There is an amazing amount of detail to be worked out so we are still being extremely cautious in getting people’s hopes up too much. Still, this must be acknowledged as a huge step forward. There’s too much to cover in one article, but for now, some highlights:
Inside Or Outside The Lines
There will be a lot of talk about who gets updated.
One problem is that the boundary which determines which homes are eligible, has been shrinking for years. So people who never got Port Packages, but would have been eligible twenty years ago, may now be ineligible because the boundary has shrunk. (For example, if you live around 244th and 16th Ave. in Des Moines, you would have been eligible in 2005, but not today since the current boundary is twenty blocks north around Kent Des Moines Road.) We will lobby hard that everyone who would have been eligible under the original 1985 program should be eligible either for a new Port Package, if they never received one, or an update if they did. Because despite what that ‘boundary’ says, the affected area has not shrunk. It has, in fact, actually expanded by over a mile.
There will also be lots of discussions as to severity. Many people have systems that are simply at the end of a reasonable lifespan and will not be eligible under this program. But many systems included very poor quality windows (Alpine, mentioned in the presentation) or had poor designs or installs (which was not mentioned, but is also a big deal.)
For these reasons, plus a dozen more, there will be a lot of haggling on the process of eligibility–especially once the price tag is rolled out. But with those caveats aside, we expect that people with reasonable claims will be offered relief. Developing a system to assess homes will take time. Fortunately, if you have already had your home evaluated by SeatacNoise.Info you can feel confident that you will be eligible. (So if you haven’t already had us evaluate your home, now is the time!
We will be lobbying hard that homeowners be prioritized by severity. Part of the reason the Port is willing to accept the risk of starting this program is because we have done the work of identifying possible eligible homes. The number of truly awful systems is in the low hundreds. Our strong desire is that the Port handle those claims now while the community continues to negotiate the full range of homes that will ultimately be eligible.
The Port has done 9,400 homes. But only a hundred have been done since 2009 and only seventeen in 2019. They no longer have anything close to the manpower or expertise to do 5,000 homes all at once. In fact, if we rush this we would likely be re-creating exactly the same issues you’re now experiencing. So our lobbying will be for the Port to do those severe cases now while concurrently working with contractors, City building departments and other stakeholders to properly scale up the entire system. We want this done, but above all we want it done right.
the Port has always paid for Port Packages using FAA money. But that money comes with some very stiff rules and that is a big part of what caused them to be so stingy and slow over the years. This is the first time they have shown a willingness to pay out of their own pocket for Port Packages. Obviously, they hope they will get reimbursed by the FAA–and we are aggressively working to help make that happen–but regardless, the Commission says it wants this to happen now.
And one option they say they will pursue is by asking the airlines to contribute to this fund. We are not confident that the airlines will agree. The Port can lean on them a bit, but at the end of the day, the fees the airlines pay are negotiated on long-term contracts with strict FAA rules. So it’s not a sure thing. However, the fact that the Port is even willing to ask is jaw-dropping. Literally would not have happened five years ago.
Another option, which is not great would be for them to pay for this program out of their Tax Levy–which is to say our property taxes. We will continue to lobby against this, or if it comes to that, try to prevent any increase to the Tax Levy–ie. get the Port to cut some other funding used by the Tax Levy.
Do It Now!
We’ll have more detail soon but for now, again, if you have any Port Package Problems, have us evaluate your home now which will help determine your eligibility and where you may fit on the priority list.