La Jollans disappointed by airport noise subcommittee presentation; group plans to fight against jet plane roar

Flights over the La Jolla area in December 2016
Flights over the La Jolla area in December 2016
(Federal Airport Authority)

Residents of La Jolla who attended the Jan. 18 meeting of the San Diego Airport Noise Advisory Committee (ANAC) subcommittee shared their impressions of the presentation with the La Jolla Light. “I was shocked and disappointed,” said Bird Rock resident Beatriz Pardo. “I think it’s going to be an uphill battle,” added her neighbor Gillian Ackland.

Since a shift in the regional flight paths last fall, La Jolla residents have become vocal about the increase in airplane noise that has inadvertently arrived into their lives. Some of them, who are organizing to put up a fight, were present at the subcommittee meeting, which didn’t allow public comment. “It’s really hard to just sit there and listen because the way they chose to look at the evidence was (only) favorable to them,” Pardo said.

The main cause of her disappointment, Pardo said, was that during the presentation hosted by the Federal Airport Authority (FAA), only “first time” complaints were counted.

Of the noise-affected areas of La Jolla, divided into “La Jolla Cove, La Jolla Shores and Soledad Mountain” and “Bird Rock and La Jolla Mesa,” just 16 “first time” complaints were acknowledged by the FAA — four of them from The Shores and 12 from Bird Rock. “But I must have sent more than 800 complaints alone in December,” Pardo said.

Rebecca Bloomfield, San Diego International Airport (SDIA) public relations specialist, said the complaints presented by the FAA are not representative of the complaints the airport tracks and logs. “The FAA was presenting new complaint locations, not total complaints,” she said.

The second reason Bird Rock residents felt they have a lot of work to do in the battle to end flight path noise was the FAA statement that 88 percent of the complaints logged had been attributed to small, non-commercial aircraft and helicopters, also known as GA.

The FAA presentation stated, “There were some unusual overflights associated with SDIA east flow in November and December 2016. These account for less than 1 percent of total overflights” in the Bird Rock area.

For The Shores area, the FAA attributed 43 percent of complaints to SDIA arrivals, 55 percent to smaller aircraft and 2 percent to SDIA departures.

When the FAA maps out the flight paths over La Jolla (pictured in the map supplied), it comes through that there are a substantial amount of arriving jet planes flying over The Shores — which, according to the presentation, travel 8,300 feet above ground level. The FAA attributes the spike in first-time complaints to an “uptick” in helicopter flights, “Helicopters have been flying 500 feet lower in the last quarter of 2016 relative to 2015,” it reports.

But area residents claim they are not hearing helicopter or small plane noise. “We have had helicopters overhead for years now, we know what they sound like. I don’t believe any of us confuses that with the noise from a commercial jet,” Ackland said.

Bird Rockers have stated that when airplanes take off northbound from SDIA, they set north offshore, but that doesn’t stop the noise. “They are flying over this open area and there’s no absorption of the noise, so we hear them despite the fact that they are not flying above us,” Pardo said.

Ackland added that, in her experience, the noises of planes flying overhead and offshore are different. “I was in Point Loma last week. A plane went overhead, and when it came there was a short duration of a loud noise. In Bird Rock, we have a very long drawn-out agonizing sound lasting 45 seconds or so, and since the planes are coming off the runway within a couple of minutes, there is almost one continuous roar.”

Bloomfield told the Light all noise complaints received at SDIA via WebTrak, e-mail or voice, are counted and logged regardless of the aircraft type. “Noise concerns are something we take very seriously,” she added.

An increase in low clouds was mentioned in the FAA presentation as a cause for the noise increase. “This may have contributed to greater awareness of overflights,” it reads.

During the next ANAC meeting the total number of complaints will be presented. At this time, public comment will be allowed and every speaker will get three minutes to present their cases.

“La Jolla is new to this battle (compared to Point Loma),” Ackland said. “We don’t have their history and the experience. We are working hard to come up to speed and see how we can best respond to this plane noise situation.”

The next public meetings where aircraft noise in La Jolla will be discussed are the La Jolla Town Council, 6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 9 at La Jolla Rec Center and the Airport Noise Advisory Committee, 4 p.m. Feb. 15 at 3225 N. Harbor Drive, Administrative offices.

To connect with La Jollans who are reporting aircraft noise, e-mail

How to file an airplane noise complaint

Visit and wait 30 minutes for the system to register the passing flight.