Opinion: Those Braying Buzzkills Bombing our Beaches

Billy Fried

By Billy Fried

Summer is here. And so is all of Riverside. If this week is any indication, we are in for a holy hell of devastating gridlock this summer. Until the city has the will to take control of our major arteries and radically reimagine them as less car-centric and more multi-modal, quit your complaining and deal with it. Because, unlike everywhere else on this crowded planet, at least we have the pleasant respite of our perfect beaches, with the toasty sand, refreshing water and quiet breeze.

Okay, so it takes you 30 minutes to get from your house to the beach. You finally wrangle parking, lug your gear down the steps, set your chair up, grab a cool drink, and settle in with your summer reading. And then the drone comes, building, getting louder, gaining decibels. Is it an army of leafblowers? Chain saws? Dune buggies? No, it’s those flying lawnmowers in the sky known as paramotors. They look like mini swamp boats. They fly low, right over you, doing their swoops, and the first time, it’s a novelty and kind of cool. But by the third time, your head rattles. And they keep coming and coming, often hovering over you in a vainglorious attempt for attention. 

I was recently enjoying the newly replaced firepits at Aliso Beach and could not hear myself or others speak when these flying lawnmowers came swooping in. They disrupted our entire town as they made their way up the coast. We had to wait until they finished their aerial tricks and moved on to the next beach to annoy everyone there. 

Why over our beaches, our last bastion of tranquility in a crowded world? Well, it’s because these pilots have discovered a loophole in FAA regulations, where they are classified as an ultralight, and are governed under the rules of FAR 103, which contains barely any rules at all. No pilot license required. No driver’s license. No training. No age requirement. They can hover one foot off the ground so long as they are not over buildings or people. 

And these South County fliers have discovered the perfect loophole – a route to our coast from Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park. They fly high over green space until they reach the ocean. And then dip and dive and showboat. Do you blame them? With precious open space in our crowded corridor, they have found the most spectacular place to fly – over our ocean and within spitting distance of our luxury beachfront homes, where they enjoy front-row seats in our bathrooms and private areas. And that’s intrusive if you are sunning your perineum or enjoying a luxurious douching on your Japanese toilet.

Where can we go to escape the noise outside our home? Our streets are belching toxic fumes. And our restaurants sound like MMA events. I used to scoff at all the old people complaining about the noise here caused by revving vehicles and Harleys. But then I got old. And my tinnitus kicked in from that one George Clinton concert when my ear was pressed against the monitor. I can’t enjoy 90% of our restaurants now. Noise has become one of the biggest dis-regulators of our nervous system. And the second biggest complaint about restaurants outside of food.  

Okay, I’ll admit those cheeky paramotor pilots are having way more fun than the rest of us. But at our expense! If you have to fly over our public space, do it the old-fashioned way – without an engine. Run and jump off a cliff, and then descend down gracefully with the wind, with thermals keeping you afloat. But no, in our lazy culture, someone decided to strap a noisy engine on their back and make the rest of us suffer! Why? Because it’s easier. But our beaches are sacred public spaces, with all of us enjoying them and respecting one another’s right to peace. So take your engine and shove it out to an open space where you can’t disturb anyone. 

Here’s the thing: FAR 103 requires that ultralight vehicles must fly 2,000 feet above parks. Why? So parkgoers can enjoy the tranquility of nature. But isn’t our coast technically one giant beach park? Isn’t our protected coastline a marine park? Fishes have feelings too. And for God’s sake, if we care enough about noise to prohibit fireworks one day a year, don’t we have the will to contain it the other 364? Perhaps instead of appealing to the FAA to change their rules, we appeal to the Coastal Commission and have them officially designate our coastline one giant park. After all, their mission is to provide beach access to the public. But certainly not to drone out our enjoyment with preening paramotor pilots. 

Billy is the Chief Experience Officer of La Vida Laguna, a silent adventure sports company that is human-powered and uses no engines. He can be reached at [email protected].

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  1. Billy,

    I think many are complaining because the Council doesn’t have the will to take control of the situations congesting the city. All we get is the continued excuses that caltrans or the coastal commission or someone else won’t let them do anything. Why?

    Why can’t the Council just keep staff accountable for doing their jobs? What happened to the parking committee that was supposed to come up with some recommendations on how to deal with this? Why aren’t rangers or lifeguards enforcing activities at the beach? Apparently you can bring your tents, live music, and leave your trash. Alcohol and drugs? No problem.

    This is a city of passing restrictive ordinances, but never enforcing them. So now we all get secondhand smoke as motorists sit idling flicking their Marlboros out the window and revving their engines between a symphony of incorrectly synced traffic signals.

    Meanwhile, balloons, straws, plastic food containers and soon lithium batteries are the Devil. Let’s pass more laws and do absolutely nothing amount it.

    Here’s an experiment for the residents of Laguna Beach. Try parking in any red zone on PCH for the majority of a Saturday and see if you get a ticket. I guarantee you will not.

  2. Billy and Doug..Agree with both of you, I just had a discussion today with someone about how we have all these laws but there is no consequence for ignoring them. My understanding we have 4 police officers in this town period. My life has been completely unhinged by the noise in my neighborhood that a couple of years ago you could hear a pin drop. Now I have all new neighbors with toys and redevelopment projects, actually the 5 houses right behind me by 30 ft, I also live in a amphitheater environment on a private road with one outlet, bird sanctuary as well. Sadly we now have commercial car washing machines in peoples driveways and business’s. I have a new neighbor that apparently is totally obsessive compulsive that God forbid has 1 leaf in her driveway as she needs to have her yard with commercial blower 3 times a week for at least over an hour each time, well, that’s not all, he also does all the neighbors, normally just when you want to pour a glass of wine and have dinner. We have an ordinance that outlaws them due to noise and pollution, everyone has been warned but nobody follows up. Everything like everywhere construction, remember this is a tiny street. I am awoken in mornings at 5:30 to 6:30 with hammering and trucks. There is an ordinance against this, yet it is not enforced. Property damage from construction workers, destroyed my hill, yes, called the city, yes some little flighty guy came, I did the photos, drawings and time explaining..lost my stairs, my large plants for privacy as I had at least 15 workers a day using my hill for access then I had 3 trucks land in my yard, one bigger then my house, destruction everywhere, yet no one was responsible and the city never replied..I am not going to make this a novel, so I am asking you both, can we get this city to actually uphold our ordinance’s with consequences? so that once again we can have some peace and enjoy our homes again? Can we get a group to go to the city and uphold our laws? I debate everyday about moving as it has become intolerable, can we come up with a solution? I also thought that under the constitution we had the right of peace in our home. What has happened to our city with multitudes of employees (actually most of our entire budget) that no one cares, respects or is concerned with the obvious decay of Laguna Beach? Help…resident of 52 years..Let’s please do something I hope you might have some solutions..Namaste


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