Airplane noise in La Jolla: Updates on the San Diego Airport/FAA, NextGen/SoCal Metroplex developments

Guest Commentary / Opinion / Our Readers Write:

Last month, we reported about the status of efforts to address the increased commercial jet noise from San Diego airport caused by the FAA's new NextGen SoCal Metroplex flight departure and landing paths. Our May column covered the background facts, the March and April Citizen Advisory and Technical Advisory meetings, the status of litigation filed by other parties against the FAA over NextGen, and Representative Scott Peters' support for Quiet Skies La Jolla and other communities seeking a balanced compromise.

We also reported on the San Diego Regional County Airport Authority's (SDCRAA) commencement of an accelerated "Part 150" study to analyze noise impacts inside the 65 CNEL contour directly adjacent to the airport and a parallel "Flight Procedures Study" to address noise abatement outside the 65 CNEL contour, which includes La Jolla. Several developments have occurred since our last report, which we will address more fully at the La Jolla Town Council meeting, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, June 14 at La Jolla Rec Center.

 

Technical Advisory Committee meeting

On Thursday, May 31, the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) held its second meeting, where a presentation was made by the SDCRAA's consultant, Ricondo & Associates. The preliminary draft report addresses the feasibility of the recommendations made by the Airport Noise Advisory Committee (ANAC) subcommittee, which proposed flight path and procedure changes to mitigate noise in La Jolla, Point Loma and surrounding communities. The Airport Noise Authority office distributed a preliminary draft design and feasibility analysis to the TAC members for feedback, which will occur over the next two weeks. Thereafter, the consultant's report will be made public at the next Citizen Advisory Committee (CAC) meeting, 2 p.m. Thursday, July 19 at the San Diego Airport Authority office, 2722 Truxtun Road. The public is invited to attend and we encourage you to be there. Thereafter, the report will also be posted on the Airport Noise Authority's website san.org/Airport-Noise

Based on public comments made at the TAC meeting, the consultant believes that some of the ANAC subcommittee recommendations are feasible, subject to significantly more vetting, diligence, comments — and the discretion of the FAA. The consultant emphasized that it would not be practical to advocate for changes that the FAA will not implement based on safety and/or strong policy reasons, such as shifting noise to other communities or flight procedures that affect minimum descent gradients or required separation between aircraft.

 

Recent FAA flight procedure changes

Our community advocacy efforts are working. On May 24, the FAA adopted and implemented one of the ANAC subcommittee recommendations, raising a key altitude on the COMIX2 arrival procedure back to its pre-NextGen 9,000 foot level from 8,000. This change should keep southbound arriving aircraft 1,000 feet higher over La Jolla, which should be alleviating some of the noise. If you live along UC San Diego, La Jolla Shores , The Cove and/or the Muirlands we would be grateful for your feedback regarding whether you've noticed a positive change.

 

Culver City litigation challenge to FAA over Next Gen

The FAA's opposition brief was filed on May 15, addressing Petitioner's opening brief. The Department of Justice represents the FAA in the litigation and made strong arguments attacking the Petitioner's standing to litigate and their substantive arguments. The FAA's main arguments include that 1) neither Congress or the courts have ever imposed noise reduction requirements on the FAA's design of new air traffic procedures; 2) the FAA thoroughly considered noise impacts during the environmental review process; 3) the FAA complied with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA); 4) the FAA disclosed all proposed flight path changes to the public in meetings and publications; 5) and even if the court agrees with Culver City, the remedy is not to require a new Environmental Impact Study or a return to pre-NextGen flight paths and procedures.

The FAA addressed the contention it used an incorrect noise model by noting that the noise monitoring tool used by the FAA to support its FONSI (Finding of No Significant Impact) was correct when the study was commenced and that subsequent testing with the new tool confirmed the original results. The FAA also emphasizes that the court must defer to the FAA's fact-finding and conclusions where there is "substantial evidence" to support those findings, unless they are "arbitrary and capricious."

The FAA's brief does concede that it "endeavored not to move aircraft out of the historical flight tracks so that new neighborhoods would not experience increases in noise that meet well-established significance thresholds." While that refers to the 65 CNEL areas, the statement is marginally helpful to La Jolla, which has experienced new noise impacts resulting from planes flying closer to the coast on departures and lower over La Jolla Shores, The Cove and the Muirlands on arrival. The Petitioner's reply brief will be filed on June 29 and the parties will file simultaneous summation briefs on July 20. Oral arguments will likely be held in late 2018 or early 2019.

 

What you can do

Please attend the June 14 La Jolla Town Council meeting and subsequent meetings where we will present the SDCRAA's consultant's report and seek community feedback. We need your views and input.

It is also important that your voice be heard and data collected regarding Next Gen's impact in La Jolla. This can be done via the Airport Authority's noise complaint form (flighttracker.casper.aero/san/complaint/) or much more quickly and easily using the "Air Noise Complaint Button," which can be acquired at airnoise.io

Please also visit the Quiet Skies La Jolla website at quietskieslajolla.org to join our mailing list and for other updates.

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