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Opinion: Quiet Skies’ lawsuit addresses noise from San Diego airport expansion

The World Health Organization ‘strongly recommends’ significantly reducing jet noise on impacted residential communities to reduce harm to health.
(La Jolla Light File Photo)

Opinion / Guest Commentary / Our Readers Write:

In my January 2020 update, I reported the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority (SDCRAA) was poised to approve a $3 billion plan to dramatically expand San Diego International Airport. This plan will result in 11 new gates and an undetermined number of “Remain Overnights” (RONS), which are jet parking places for the increased number of late-night arrivals and resulting early morning departures.

We thought the additional RONS were going to be eliminated from the plan as a result of Quite Skies La Jolla advocacy, but the Airport Authority has not clarified its intent. As expected, the SDCRAA approved its Development Plan and related Environmental Impact Report clearing the way for an increase in arriving flights from 36 per hour in 2019 to 50 per hour in the not too distant future.

Many of these additional flights will occur in the early morning, evenings and late into the night when there is no curfew on arrivals. These flights will be concentrated in routes that fly closer — and often directly over — homes in La Jolla, Pacific Beach and Mission Beach, further congesting the superhighways in the sky created by the 2017 NextGen/Metroplex, which resulted in the new noise nuisance and health concerns in these previously unaffected areas.

To be clear: Quiet Skies San Diego (an unincorporated association of residents and communities, including Quiet Skies La Jolla) is in favor of airport expansion to support our growing local economy, but it must be combined with robust mitigation efforts to reduce the related detrimental health effects. The Airport Development Plan does not accomplish this. There are solutions to enhance growth while reducing jet-related noise.

Two studies are ongoing that will likely recommend changes to departure and landing paths to take commercial jet noise farther away from the coast and away from the impacted communities, from Point Loma to La Jolla and east to East County. Those solutions should be implemented before the Airport Development Plan enables a 38 percent increase in flight operations. Indeed, the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 required noise mitigation and safety studies as a condition of reauthorized funding for the FAA.

We at Quiet Skies believe the Airport Authority has failed to adequately address the environmental consequences and risks to human health from increased jet noise and contaminants and on Feb. 7, 2020, we filed a California Environmental Quality Act lawsuit. A copy of the lawsuit can be found at quietskieslajolla.org/litigation

We recently began to reach out to affected neighbors to help fund this legal challenge. In only two weeks, we raised more than $40,000 toward our target of $100K to $150K. We need your help now to ensure we have the resources to see the legal effort through to its conclusion. Please donate to our Go Fund Me page gofundme.com/f/quiet-skies-san-diego-ceqa-challenge

“Neighborhoods and people pay the price for increased jet noise with their health,” said Dr. Matthew J. Price, Interventional Cardiologist at Scripps Clinic and Director of the Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory at the Anderson Medical Pavilion, Scripps Memorial Hospital. “Peer-reviewed studies have demonstrated clear associations between jet noise and stress, high blood pressure, stroke, heart failure and atherosclerosis, sleep disruptions, cognitive abilities, anxiety and depression. These are serious risks to human health that are made much worse by more noise. Residents should not pay the price for the airport’s at-all-cost expansion with their health.”

Further, the World Health Organization “strongly recommends” significantly reducing jet noise on impacted residential communities to reduce harm to health. The Airport Authority’s environmental impact report downplays these health risks, calling them “significant but unavoidable.” We disagree — they can be avoided or reduced when appropriate measures are taken.