Town council hears pleas on helicopter noise, parade name change

U.S. Marines exit CH-46 Sea Knight Helicopters during the annual air show aboard Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Miramar. Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Keonaona C. Paulo, Courtesy DefenseImagery.mil
U.S. Marines exit CH-46 Sea Knight Helicopters during the annual air show aboard Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Miramar. Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Keonaona C. Paulo, Courtesy DefenseImagery.mil

By Dave Schwab

Staff Writer

La Jolla Town Council trustees on Thursday endorsed a Bird Rock resident’s request that the group work with local military officials to find a way to  curb noise from low-flying, coastal helicopters, a problem neighbors claim is excessive and worsening.

The council also heard a plea from Bird Rock professor Martin Bunzl, who asked the council to reconsider changing the name of its year-end Christmas Parade to Holiday Parade to make it more inclusive of diverse groups.

“The last couple of years activity along the coast with helicopters and small planes has increased dramatically,” said Ed Quinn, who’s lived with his wife Nancy along the coast in Bird Rock since 1987. The Quinns are leading a petition drive which has netted 135 signatures from residents who agree a problem with low-flying aircraft exists.

“What we’re asking for, when possible, is for helicopters and planes to fly a mile offshore and 1,500 feet above sea level,” said Ed Quinn. “Those rules have been established by other communities in San Diego with the Marines and Navy.”

Quinn said he’s gotten an inadequate response from local legislators, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Homeland Security after approaching them about addressing the coastal aircraft noise problem.

The Navy, said Quinn, has been more responsive, actually meeting face-to-face with Bird Rock neighbors to hear their concerns. But the Navy suggested neighbors secure the backing of the town council in formalizing a request that “course rules” governing flights from San Diego military bases over La Jolla be changed to accommodate neighbors, and address their concerns about excessive noise and the possibility of “pilot error” from low-flying aircraft.

In other business, the controversial issue of omitting Christmas from the title of La Jolla’s annual year-end parade resurfaced in November, after a five-year hiatus, when Martin Bunzl and his wife Deborah at a Bird Rock Community Council meeting challenged the group’s building of a community float to enter in a “Christmas” parade. They said the name was not inclusive of non-Christian groups.

“I request you take up this issue again of renaming the parade as the holiday parade rather than the Christmas parade,” Bunzl told the town council during the public comment period, which allows two minutes for input but precludes group action. “The name doesn’t represent the whole community, which is very varied and it’s unnecessarily exclusionary being a Christmas parade rather than a holiday parade.”

Noting much of the ritual surrounding celebrating Christmas is secular rather than religious, tracing its roots to Charles Dickesn and 19th century popular culture, Bunzl asked the town council to “take up this issue in a timely manner.”

In 2005, the town council took a vote on a proposal brought by a small group of La Jollans to change the name of the parade and their request was defeated by a single vote.

   
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