Update: Next Gen/Metroplex Commercial Jet Noise over La Jolla


Guest Commentary / Opinion / Our Readers Write:

Here’s an update regarding the noise issues associated with the FAA ‘s NextGen Metroplex, the noise impact studies commissioned by the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority (SDCRAA) and the proposed airport expansion.

Oct. 25 CAC/TAC Meeting

The Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) and the Citizen Advisory Committee (CAC) met on Oct. 25, where the SDCRAA’s consultant shared its noise modeling recommendations for several possible flight path and procedure changes. The proposed changes would be presented to the FAA if they pass the noise-modeling tests.

Among the alternatives are 1) a nighttime (after 10 p.m.) departure waypoint 1.5 NM from the shoreline with a new Bird Rock (BROCK) waypoint adjusted west, which would keep jets further south and west of La Jolla ; 2) a refined alternative where aircraft would turn west at .5NM from the shoreline rather than 1.5NM; 3) an adjusted day and night time arrival path starting at 8,000 feet over La Jolla with a waypoint at the I805/SR 52 interchange, rather than over La Jolla Shores and The Muirlands; and 4) extending the Point Loma JETTI Waypoint 2 NM west during the daytime, which would take traffic farther from shore and might help parts of La Jolla that are subjected to tail blasts from flights departing by flying south then east.

The modeling for these proposals will be completed by February 2019, but the FAA will likely take 2-3 years to evaluate and potentially implement any changes. An optimistic time line would be 2021 for departure changes and probably 2024 for arrivals because of the impact to areas between La Jolla and Miramar.

Part 150 Study: Noise within the 65 CNEL Contour

The meeting also kicked-off the Part 150 Study, which will evaluate flight path changes immediately around the airport, within the 65 CNEL noise contour. The study’s objective is to place aircraft noise over the most compatible land-uses and reduce the 65 CNEL contour’s size. Your CAC and TAC La Jolla members advocated that several of Quiet Skies La Jolla’s (QSLJ) proposals from the Flight Paths & Procedures Study be advanced to the Part 150 Study because they would be implemented off the runway within the 65 CNEL, including the “ELSO” 10-degree separation rule.

If implemented, ELSO could reduce long-term noise in La Jolla. The Part 150 Study will take at least 18-24 months, with conclusions and recommendations submitted to the FAA for its discretionary review and implementation perhaps in 2020. This study was accelerated by the SDCRAA by about 11 months to respond to the NextGen Metroplex roll out. The study will use Noise Exposure Maps (decibel measurements mapped over 300-foot grids) and an FAA Noise Compatibility Program (consideration of homes, churches, schools, historic sites, commercial properties and open lands) to evaluate all proposed runway and departure heading changes within the 65 CNEL.

Airport Expansion Draft EIR

Many government agencies and private groups commented on the draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the proposed $3 billion Terminal 1 expansion. The construction would add 11 gates to accommodate a 21 percent increase in passenger traffic, from 22 million passengers in 2017 to 28 million passengers by 2025.

City and county government agencies argue that the draft EIR fails to address and, pay for, the necessary road and infrastructure upgrades required to support that much traffic around the airport. QSLJ weighed in, saying that the expansion should be conditioned on mitigating noise caused by additional or larger planes required to carry the extra 6 million passengers per year.

QSLJ is in favor of airport modernization and “smart growth” tempered by addressing the traffic and noise consequences. La Jolla residents also urged the Airport Noise Authority Committee be engaged in the dialog, with a “seat the table” to advocate for noise mitigation as the process unfolds.

Culver City v. FAA Litigation Update

Oral argument in the D.C. Circuit took place Oct. 18 in Culver City v. The FAA, consolidated with the suit filed by Point Loma resident Don Vaughn. The cases challenged the FAA’s FONSI (Finding of No Significant Impact), which was used to bypass a full Environmental Impact Report before NextGen MetroPlex was implemented. The court’s questions focused on the outdated noise modeling tool used by the FAA to support its conclusions, among other technical issues, but there was no discussion of San Diego. A litigation “win” is not likely but the court could conceivably require the FAA to re-address parts of its environmental analysis. A written opinion is anticipated in Q1 2019.

ANAC Meeting

The Airport Noise Authority Committee (ANAC) held its meeting Oct. 17. Of note to La Jolla:

1) 82 percent of all noise complaints come from the Air Noise button ( as opposed to ANAC’s recently released web and App-based system, which is more cumbersome and time consuming to use;

2) Mission Beach’s representative, Deborah Watkins, proposed that ANAC exclude the Air Noise Button complaints, which would seriously prejudice La Jolla, where most residents use the button. Watkins denigrated the Air Noise Button and incorrectly argued that it “skewed” the overall data. However, it was argued that the complaints accurately reflect La Jollan’s perception and annoyance with jet noise, in real time, with data tied to each offending flight. Watkins was strongly rebuked by residents and her suggestion was rejected;

3) the Airport Noise office omitted key and required noise complaint statistics from its monthly reporting, but after objection from both La Jolla and Point Loma, ANAC agreed to return the statistics to its regular reporting, including data on “early turns” over La Jolla; and

4) many La Jollans spoke during the public comment period, voicing complaints about the impact NextGen Metroplex has had on Bird Rock, Lower Hermosa, The Muirlands, and La Jolla Shores.

Observations: The Time Line

Patience is required because of the time required for FAA review of proposals changing flight paths and now the new airport expansion project. We should ultimately achieve some improved conditions but it will take time and perseverance. Please continue your strong support, file complaints when commercial jet noise bothers you, and urge others to help to protect The Jewel from unnecessary noise. Our success will depend on strong community support.