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Airport Authority launches study to mitigate plane noise in La Jolla

As planes flying to and from San Diego Airport were rerouted to accommodate high winds on Dec. 7, the San Diego Regional Airport Authority met and voted to implement another set of changes: A plan it believes will mitigate some of the airplane noise that has plagued La Jollans for more than a year.

Known as a Part 150 Noise Compatibility Study Update (shorthanded to “The Part 150”), the plan would be implemented over the next two years, and hopefully, address most of the noise-reducing recommendations filed by the Airport Noise Advisory Committee (ANAC) sub-committee earlier this year.

Airport Planning & Noise Mitigation program manager Sjohnna Knack explained the sub-committee submitted 21 recommendations that ANAC broke into two groups: those that could be looked at quickly, had little technical involvement and minimal stakeholder analysis (Group A) and those that required more in-depth work (Group B).

Those in Group A include: curfew penalty increases; using curfew penalties in the community and noise mitigation efforts; making Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) communications available to the public; modifying ANAC membership to include representation from affected areas such as La Jolla, Bird Rock, Pacific Beach and Point Loma Heights; review alternative funding sources for the Quieter Homes Program; and revise the list of required information presented at ANAC meetings.

“It would be our encouragement to the FAA that, while they are participating in The Part 150, if there are procedures that are determined to be feasible, they take action on them right away and not wait until the completion of the study,” Knack said.

The remaining items are in Group B, she said, and are predominantly flight procedure and “significant noise data requests” that require technical analysis and stakeholder involvement. “In order to appropriately analyze these recommendations and get the necessary involvement — namely with the FAA — we must conduct a Part 150 Noise Compatibility Study Update. The Part 150 is the best way to initiate these changes.”

Knack added that the initial Part 150 Study was completed in 1988 and a full update was completed in 2011. “The airport was scheduled for another update in 2019, but we believe we should move this up and place a high priority on it now. As part of this study, the FAA requires that airport sponsors review methods to reduce noise, some of which are actually in the sub-committee recommendations,” Knack said.

Federal funding could be available to pay for the study, which could cost up to $1.8 million ($500,000 of which is to expedite the study from four years to two years). However, the study typically only covers communities that experience noise at a measure of 65 decibels or more, which La Jolla does not. Because Knack recommends deviating from the norm to include communities like La Jolla, the typical federal grants may not be available.

San Diego County Regional Airport Authority President/CEO Kimberly Becker said should that be the case, the Airport Authority may find funding. “We’ll make this happen,” Becker said.

Timeline

Knack explained staff is going to hire a consultant with expertise in conducting Part 150 studies to lead the effort. “We are already working with a procurement department to develop the Request for Quotation (RFQ) for the consultant to conduct this study. We hope to advertise it in January,” she said. “We are hoping to award The Part 150 contract in March or April and kick the study off in May. The aggressive part would be to get our first draft out by March 2019. The caveat is that we’re going to have to be involved with the FAA every step of the way. So what is not included in the timeline is their review.

“Once the FAA has reviewed the study, they will accept it and we will present a final study, hopefully, sometime in July to December 2019. This is going to be a very complex process that is going to take a lot of work, but it is certainly a priority in our office to make sure these recommendations get the attention of our teams.”

The sub-committee

When it comes to continuing the work of the sub-committee that drafted these recommendations, which originally had a sunset clause of October, Knack said this was “one of the biggest concerns we heard” with many in favor of continuing the work.

“We’re proposing to include the sub-committee and elevate its status to a Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC). In The Part 150, we will have a Technical Advisory Committee that will include stakeholders involved with the airports … but we are going to suggest a CAC as well. The CAC will make sure the measures recommended by ANAC are appropriately covered by the Technical Advisory Committee,” Knack explained.

The application for the CAC will be posted online by Feb. 1, 2018.

Public comment

During the meeting’s public comment period, District 2 City Council member Lorie Zapf asked the FAA to view The Part 150 as a “comprehensive approach” to “reducing noise not only from departures over Point Loma and Mission Beach, but arrivals over La Jolla and Pacific Beach … all the communities that are affected.”

Zapf said: “Over the years, the FAA has implemented NextGen Metroplex, which has concentrated the flight paths and decreased the quality of life for constituents — not just in my district, but in other areas of the City, as well.”

Representing the Quiet Skies La Jolla citizens committee, Lower Hermosa resident Tony Stiegler said he supports The Part 150 study on the condition it includes La Jolla, even though noise levels do not exceed 65 decibels.

“La Jolla has been historically and extremely quiet community with ambient noise levels in the 30 and 40 decibel range. So when the new noise impacts us, it’s a marked departure from the quiet we’ve experienced in the past,” he said.

Becker concluded by thanking the ANAC and sub-committee. “It was a year of very difficult work and that effort has been the basis for formulating the go-ahead plan. I think The Part 150 is an excellent plan to bring all this together. The FAA has aligned its work efforts with us and expressed a willingness to work with us, so that’s fortunate for our area.”

A motion to approve a staff recommendation to accept the action plan for Group A and accept proceeding with an expedited The Part 150 to review the measures in Group B (with an emphasis on looking at arrivals and departures for all communities affected by noise), passed unanimously.

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