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Opinion: NextGen MetroPlex/San Diego Airport Development Plan update, January 2020

An airplane flies low over Liberty Station in Point Loma.
(La Jolla Light File Photo)

Funds and support needed to continue fight against jet noise over La Jolla

Opinion / Guest Commentary / Our Readers Write:

Significant developments have occurred in the commercial jet noise arena over the last two weeks, requiring immediate action and support. Over the holidays, the San Diego Regional Airport Authority (SDCRAA) released its Final Environmental Impact Report for the proposed $3 billion Airport Development Plan (ADP), proposing to add 11 new gates to Terminal 1. The additional gates will accelerate the path to maximum airport capacity, from 36 flight operations per hour to 50.

The additional departures and landings will generate more noise at peak hours for affected communities, from Point Loma to La Jolla and extending to East County. SDCRAA will meet on Thursday Jan. 9, 2020 to certify and approve the Final EIR, which regretfully, triggers the time to file a California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) challenge.

There is some good news: In response to Quiet Skies La Jolla’s (QSLJ) advocacy in its comment on the draft EIR, SDCRAA appears to have walked back the plan for additional “Remain Overnight” (RON) jet parking places in the ADP. The RONs would have guaranteed many more late-night arrivals and early morning departures. This is a significant “win” for all San Diego communities impacted by the airport.

There is also bad news: SDCRAA’s Final EIR contends that the health and environmental risks associated with additional noise are too speculative for SDCRAA to address. QSLJ disagrees, and we rely on a World Health Organization analysis and “strong recommendations” to reduce jet noise to 40-45 decibels over residential areas, and we point to other peer reviewed medical studies addressing the documented nexus between jet noise and cardiac disease, sleep disturbances and cognitive learning deficits.

SDCRAA skirts the 2018 FAA Reauthorization Act’s requirement to study the effects of noise on humans by merely saying the studies will be considered sometime in the future. SDCRAA further ignores the ongoing Part 150 and Flight Paths & Procedure noise mitigation studies by saying the results will also be merely considered in the future.

In general, SDCRAA has it exactly backwards: The correct order of review before approving the ADP should be: 1) assess and implement proposals coming out of the two pending flight path and procedure studies to reduce commercial jet noise over impacted communities, such as by routing departures further offshore before turning left or right and cutting the corner over Mission Beach and Point Loma; 2) gather and assess the medical data regarding the human cardiovascular health, sleep disturbance, stress and cognitive risks associated with increased jet noise from the combination of the ADP and NextGen/Metroplex, which concentrates the noise in superhighways adjacent to and over La Jolla; and 3), only after steps 1 and 2 are completed, then consider whether to facilitate the airport to increase flight operations such that capacity is reached in the next few years and the noise visited on the impacted communities is irreparable.

We are at legal and financial crossroads. The founders of Quiet Skies La Jolla have personally funded most of the efforts since June 2017, contributing both our time and money. Now we need your help. A legal CEQA challenge to the Final EIR is immediately required. The objective of the CEQA challenge will be to ask the court to set aside those portions of the ADP for which there is inadequate support regarding the environmental and health consequences of the project. In particular, those portions of the ADP relating to gate additions that enable increased flight departures and landings that compound our noise problems will be at issue.

If you appreciate our efforts and are concerned about noise in La Jolla and the rest of the region, we need your financial support. Legal fees are expensive. If you are inclined to help in a significant way, please e-mail stiegleranthony@gmail.com for a private discussion. Modest donations can also be made on the Quiet Skies La Jolla web page: quietskieslajolla.org

— Finally, there will be an informational Aviation Update Meeting, 6-7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020 at the public library at 4155 Governor Drive, organized by the University City Community Association. It will cover aviation updates at Miramar, Brown Field and San Diego International Airport. Reps from Quiet Skies La Jolla and SDCRAA will attend.