Project Summary

Need for a Helipad

Helicopter transports to UCSF Mission Bay are limited to the most critical and life-threatening situations and require approval of a UCSF physician prior to transport. Examples of patients who would require helicopter transport include: a child with a serious heart defect who requires immediate surgery to survive; a child with septic shock and organ failure who could die within hours; a pregnant woman with severe preeclampsia threatening her life and the life of her baby.  Helicopters are not be used for trauma scene transport (e.g., victims of a car accident).   

This valuable resource, which is standard at many similar hospitals throughout the country, benefits all patients who come to the hospital by attracting and retaining top-notch medical students, residents, physicians and staff. For more information about the UCSF Medical Center, please go to UCSF Medical Center at Mission Bay.

Key Helipad Facts

UCSF implemented a primary flight path designed for helicopters to approach and depart to and from the east over the water to minimize noise impacts on residences. There are also pre-designated second and third choice flight paths, as required, for rare situations in which the pilot determines that it is unsafe to follow the primary flight path. Hovering is not a part of a routine helipad landing—a marked difference from news and traffic helicopters.  

Helicopter transports will not be used for:

  • Trauma scene transport (e.g., victims of a car accident)
  • Routine transport of stable patients.
  • Transport of patients from UCSF to other facilities.
  • Transport of staff, administrators or other non-patient-related travel.

The helipad has met all requirements and obtained many approvals, including: Federal Aviation Administration (December 2008), UC Office of the President (April 2009), San Francisco Board of Supervisors (July 2009), California Department of Transportation (November 2009 & September 2013). 

Residential Sound Reduction Program (RSRP) for Helicopter Operations

In 2008, UCSF and the community collaborated to develop a Residential Sound Reduction Program (RSRP), which was included in the San Francisco Board of Supervisors’ approval of the helipad. UCSF hosted community meetings to solicit community feedback on the draft RSRP. The 2009 RSRP Community Process Summary memorialized this public process and included important background information about specific meetings held with the community about the RSRP. In response to community feedback, UCSF revised the program as documented in the 2009 RSRP Community Process Summary.

For qualified neighboring homes, UCSF made funding available to qualified property owners for property improvements to reduce sound levels in sleeping areas (as determined by acoustical engineers in accordance with RSRP criteria). This document provided a concise version of essential RSRP elements, which was updated as appropriate to retain all of the program changes made during the 2009 community process: RSRP Program Basics.

In accordance with the RSRP/Supplemental Environmental Impact Report, “all residential properties located on any block that is touched by the 95 dB SENEL noise contour” met the first threshold requirement for potential RSRP funds. Thus, residential properties within the block defined by Mariposa and 18th streets between Tennessee and Minnesota streets potentially qualified for the RSRP. The next threshold test required additional testing of the sleeping areas that would have to evidence an SENEL greater than 80 dB, to qualify for sound reduction measures.  The RSRP application period was open from July 30, 2015 through July 30 2016.  Property owners were notified by mail of the application completion and submission process.

In keeping with the RSRP, UCSF worked with neighbors to establish the UCSF RSRP Dispute Resolution Process

For more details on the environmental review process, please see: Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Report

Community Involvement

UCSF has held a number of community meetings to answer neighbors’ questions about the helipad. We've brought in medical transport staff, pilots and helicopter noise consultants to answer questions and to discuss how other communities are managing their relationships with hospital helipads.

Residential Sound Reduction Program (RSRP) Community Meeting
July 30, 2015

A community meeting, held on July 30, 2015 at the UCSF Medical Center at Mission Bay, provided a forum for sharing recent sound measurement and analysis results from medical helicopter transports at the UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital helipad. Approximately 14 members of the public attended receiving information about the vital role the helipad performs at the hospitals, sound testing methodology and test results. This was explained by Eugene Reindel, Vice President of HMMH, a national aeronautical sound expert. These sound results set parameters for the Residential Sound Reduction Program (RSRP). During the meeting there was discussion about the role of the UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital compared to other facilities; and, how the transport team flies out of Oakland, to decrease the number of flights from the UCSF helipad. There was also interest in understanding sound emissions from UCSF helicopter transports as compared with other urban sounds. In addition, pilots responded to questions about how they expect these transport sounds to diminish as large vacant parcels in the area are developed.

You are encouraged to read the letter explaining the test results before viewing the technical video from our sound engineering consultant.  The measured contour boundaries can be viewed here.  Please click on this link for the full detailed written technical report and analysis referred to as the UCSF Helicopter Operations Measurements and Modeled Single-Event Noise Exposure Level (SENEL) Contours for the Residential Sound Reduction Program (RSRP).

Past Meeting Information


Since 2001, UCSF has maintained an open dialogue with the community about the new hospitals and has held over 60 community meetings. Neighbors provided input on topics such as site selection, height/bulk/massing, design, open space, traffic, the 4th Street Public Plaza and the new helipadThis feedback has been extremely valuable in helping shape hospital design and influencing helipad planning and operations. UCSF moved the proposed location of the helipad as far north as possible, away from the adjacent residential community to the south.  We also placed the elevator shaft to the south of the landing pad to act as a barrier to further reduce noise impacts on these homes. 

Contact Information

For specific questions about helipad operations, please contact us at [email protected] or (415) 476-4100.

Michele Davis, MPH, MCP
Associate Director, Community Relations
Community & Government Relations
University of California, San Francisco
3333 California Street, Suite 103 | San Francisco, CA 94118-0462
tel: 415/476-3024 | fax: 415/476-3541

Email: [email protected]

Community & Government Relations Projects

UCSF is engaged in a variety of ongoing projects designed to enhance the campus and medical center, and better serve both patients and the greater community. When we embark on any project, planning always includes engagement with the local community.