As anyone who lives near the Cal campus can testify, the helicopters have been hovering overhead for most of today.

We reported first thing this morning on the police dispersing the students who were on a hunger strike, protesting Arizona’s immigration law. Following that, other protesters blockaded California Hall. By 5 p.m., all the doors to California Hall had been blocked.

According to Hunger4Justice, the university administration has agreed to meet the protesters provided the hunger strike ends by 7 p.m. this evening.

The protesters want Chancellor Robert Birgeneau to publicly denounce the Arizona law, make the UC campus a sanctuary for threatened immigrants, offer greater protections for undocumented students, and drop conduct charges against activists.

At about 5:30, protesters moved the focus of their activities from California Hall to the chancellor’s residence, University House, on the north side of campus off Hearst Avenue. About 200 protesters gathered at the house and chanted slogans. The chancellor is hosting a diversity dinner this evening.

Lance Knobel

Lance Knobel (co-founder) has been a journalist for nearly 40 years. Much of his career was in business journalism. He was editor-in-chief of both Management Today, the leading business magazine in Britain,...

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  1. tizzielish,

    I think you take me the wrong way – I’m sorry if I came across as harsh. I think you are mistaken about the federal nature of the problem. I’ll briefly explain:

    My interest in the matter started a few years back when, for many hours, there were helicopters hovering and making small circles near where I lived (in S. Berkeley). I was thinking “That can’t possibly be legal,” and started looking into it. For the most part, it is the FAA’s jurisdiction hence ultimately a matter for Congress. If there is a persistent pattern of particular helicopters causing problems in some area, you can perhaps (through the FAA) get at the pilots. The regulations about low altitude flight are a bit vague. There are various “guidelines” and, generally speaking, they’re adhered to – but basically they’re free by right to do what they do. Urban helicopter noise is an issue of concern to the feds. After many complaints, particularly from NYC, Congress directed the FAA to do a study and make recommendations – I’m not sure what became of it though (this is ca. 2004). (So, actually: you don’t have to make a federal case of it – it already is one.)

    You write: “A noise ordinance in the city of Berkeley, would, indeed, actually apply to all noise heard within the city limits, at least that is how I read the law and I am an attorney. // The city can determine where the helicopters can go. It is not a federally regulated activity. What made you pretend that it was?”

    I don’t question your competence as an attorney and would actually like to hear more about your perspective on this. I do have and (as a lay person re the law) stand behind an alternative reading for the moment. In particular, airspace regulation and regulation about the amount of noise an aircraft is allowed to generate are – my understanding – mostly federal matters. They are federal matters because they pertain to interstate commerce. Local jurisdictions can regulate the locations of airports and helicopter pads, the hours of their operation, the constraints of their operation and such – but the airspace beyond that is mostly up to the feds. In Berkeley, for example, it is illegal to land a helicopter in the Marina without permission from the harbormaster or in the case of an emergency – but that’s the extent of Berkeley’s helicopter regulation. For example, when my neighbor plays his stereo way, way, way too loud for hours on end BPD can, in theory, write a ticket. If they wrote a ticket for a helicopter hovering the next day, and that ticket were challenged, I doubt it would stick. It’s not a question of “noise heard” within Berkeley – it’s a question of whether or not any Berkeley ordinance can, in effect, regulate the federally controlled airspace. The FAA is (it appears) sensitive to these issues. They will take complaints and if there is a particular pilot who causing problems you can get at that pilot via the FAA – but I think that’s about it.

    Do you know of some precedent to the contrary?

    If it could be established that, say, a particular news organization was creating a pattern of disturbance, I think you could ultimately have a cause for some civil action. If you had someone who, every day, took off from his back yard – went up a bit – hovered a while – and landed: Berkeley noise ordinances would presumably apply at least for the time the thing was on or near the ground. But, basically, I think if you try to apply a Berkeley noise ordinance to news choppers that show up a few times a year – I don’t think you’ll get very far – federal law trumps Berkeley, there.

  2. Altho I don’t think these kids have any understanding of the Arizona law’s actual wording, intent, or necessity, they get an E for effort. The question is, what do they actually expect to accomplish; what could the administration of a public Calif. university possibly do to influence the governing body of the state of Arizona?

  3. Lord. . . . I did just a little research. The federal authorities do not determine where the helicopters hover. Where did you get your phony facts?

    A noise ordinance in the city of Berkeley, would, indeed, actually apply to all noise heard within the city limits, at least that is how I read the law and I am an attorney.

    The city can determine where the helicopters can go. It is not a federally regulated activity. What made you pretend that it was?

  4. Thomas Lord, you did not need to lord over my comment. I don’t like your heavyhanded tone.

    It sounds like you might have a beef . . like maybe you think no one should comment but you? Back off.

  5. The local airspace is rather heavily regulated, as I understand it. If you’ve a beef with the helicopters, you’re going to have to make a federal case of it. (Which is rather ironic given the related histories of Berkeley and helicopters.) They are keeping to their assigned altitudes and corridors, for the most part. Go fight the feds. Noise ordinances don’t prevail in relation to this.

  6. Me, too. I don’t see why the helicopters can’t land and wait for whatever they are waiting for. Why do we have to hear that awful noise for hours on end? I was awakened by them this morning and then had to endure another ninety minutes of the noise this evening.

    I live downtown, on the sixth floor. When the helicopters hover, the noise blasts into my home.

    Why are they allowed to assault us for hours at a time with that noise? To get video footage for television news? What about our quality of life? And isn’t there somewhere they could hover that is not directly above residences? Lots of people live downtown. The helicopters don’t hover over the campus. They hover over downtown, as if they have WRONGLY concluded that they aren’t bothering people in their homes.

    They woke me up! They invaded my dinner. It is horrible noise and it has to be very wasteful of gas.

    Don’t they violate the noise ordinances?!