Opinion: Airport expansion and jet noise update for La Jolla and San Diego
Opinion / Guest Commentary / Our Readers Write:
This update covers April-June 2019 and addresses the impact on La Jolla of commercial jet noise associated with the proposed $3 billion airport expansion and the FAA ‘s NextGen Metroplex RNAV flight path changes.
Airport Noise Authority Committee (ANAC) Meeting: April 17
ANAC met on April 17 with presentations by the Airport Authority (AA) and its consultants about the proposed $3 billion Airport Development Plan (ADP), the anticipated Environmental Impact Report (EIR) that should be released this summer addressing that expansion, and the Flight Path & Procedures/Part 150 studies about mitigating the jet noise affecting La Jolla.
• Proposed Airport Expansion. The AA representatives presented a compelling economic tourism case for the expansion, but failed to acknowledge the impact on communities and residents affected by the associated increased noise and failed to propose ways to mitigate this noise. The addition of 11 new gates would accommodate more flights and cause the airport to reach its maximum capacity sooner. The noise will become more frequent as more flights are added to the schedule every hour.
If you are bothered now, you will be bothered more as the volume of traffic increases; if you are not particularly affected, this may change as operations become high volume and constant through the day and night. To accommodate more flights periods during the day and night which are currently quieter will reach volumes similar to current peak hours. Moreover, although there is a departure curfew at 11:30 p.m. (which can be violated subject to small fines), there is no arrival curfew, which substantially impact La Jolla Shores , La Jolla Farms and Mount Soledad neighborhoods, among others.
The AA noted that we are in the fifth consecutive year of record-breaking air travel demand, and that San Diego is one of the “Core 30” busiest airports in the United States, handling over 24 million passengers in 2018. That number is expected to grow in 2019 and beyond.
The AA asserted, without support, that airlines will squeeze more flights into and out of the airport even without the $3 billion expansion project to build 11 new gates. The AA further acknowledged that, due to the limitations of a single runway, the increasing air traffic volume will lead to frequent and substantial flight delays, irrespective of whether more gates are built. Missed approaches will also increase, and in these cases, Air Traffic Control often authorizes vectors directly over La Jolla.
Traffic delays will lead to departures after the 11:30 p.m. curfew, which means even more air noise intrusion for La Jolla. Furthermore, it is likely that we will see (and hear) upwards of 45-50 operations per hour during peak periods, including the hours of 9:30-11:30 p.m., when all departing flights fly along the La Jolla shoreline to mitigate nighttime noise in Point Loma .
That alone raises the question of whether it is wise to spend that much tax payer money to build office space for the AA, improved bathrooms in the terminal and an “improved passenger experience.” If passengers will come to San Diego for our tourism, regardless of how modern the terminal is, why spend the money? The AA answered that question under astute questioning from ANAC members, conceding that the addition of the 11 new gates will enable the airport’s capacity to max out much sooner than if the gates are not added.
• Environmental Impact Report for Airport Expansion. The central question is how can the San Diego airport accommodate the increased flight demand and support local tourism while minimizing (or reducing) the impact of commercial jet noise in our communities. The FAA and AA will soon release its next Environmental Impact Report (EIR) about the expansion. It is likely to provide insufficient attention and weight to the noise and health consequences of the additional flight operations enabled by the expansion project. A challenge to this EIR may be necessary to require better analysis of noise impacts on La Jolla and to condition the approval of the EIR on the implementation of specific measures for noise mitigation.
Those involved with Quiet Skies La Jolla (quietskieslajolla.com) are in favor of smart airport growth that supports our economy, but that is structured in a way to minimize the additional noise impact visited on La Jolla. There are simple and reasonable solutions which should be implemented as a condition to approving the airport expansion and development plan: 1) fly planes further out over the ocean before turning left or right; 2) eliminate the protocol, designed to protect only Point Loma from nighttime commercial jet noise, that requires all departing flights after 10 p.m. to turn right up the La Jolla coast; 3) eliminate commercial flight departures directly over La Jolla (“early right turns” over Mount Soledad) except for serious safety reasons; and 4) implement the flight path and procedure recommendations coming out of the Part 150 Study, which should shift flights away from the La Jolla shoreline. These should be the minimum conditions that must be met before allowing 11 new gates to be added.
ANAC Meeting June 19
ANAC met again on June 19. Significant developments included a report from the Flight Path & Procedures Study consultant, recommending which proposals should be tabled until the Part 150 Study is concluded in about 16-18 months, because the proposals may affect the initial departure heading off the runway. The Part 150 study addresses noise directly around the airport, in the 65 CNEL contour, which includes part of Ocean Beach .
The consultant’s recommendations were approved, which means a substantial delay in moving forward with the proposals to mitigate noise in La Jolla, as these proposals might influence the noise envelope in in the 65 CNEL. The AA’s consultant recommended against requiring aircraft departing after 10 p.m. to turn west after reaching 0.5NM off the runway, on a heading to a new Bird Rock (BRCK) waypoint because of aircraft separation rules, instead opting for a comparable turn at 1.5NM off the runway to BRCK.
Unfortunately, the latter is slightly less helpful to La Jolla but will still provide some relief. The consultant also recommended against advancing a proposed revision to the northern arrival flight path, which would have moved the noise closer to the 805/56 interchange (and away from the neighborhoods of La Jolla Shores, Mt. Soledad and others), because it would shift the noise closer to other communities, including Kearney Mesa.
However, there are still reasons for optimism in the Part 150 Study, First, the informal night time “noise abatement” procedure for Point Loma is up for discussion, which currently requires that all night-time departures be on a 290-degree heading along the La Jolla coast line, far north of the 275-degree Jetty waypoint off Ocean Beach used during the day for half the flights.
Second, the ELSO proposal, advanced by Quiet Skies La Jolla’s paid consultant, could permit both day and night departures to fly on a 10-degree separation track, rather than 15 degrees, due to improvements in satellite navigation. If ELSO is implemented the initial departure track would fly farther from the La Jolla shoreline.
Notably, Mission Beach residents turned out in force at the June 19 meeting and are very engaged. They are experiencing the brunt of the NextGen Metroplex departure changes, as planes fly at only 1,500-3,000 feet directly over their homes, schools, beaches and parks. Where planes used to depart by flying directly west over Ocean Beach or over the jetty channel, they now cut the corner toward South Mission Beach, directly over many residences.
During the “public comment” period, Mission Beach residents spoke of the constant barrage of oppressive jet noise, black fuel soot and grime left on cars and the environment, interrupted phone calls, inability to watch television, visitors leaving early because of intolerable noise day and night, increased anxiety and sleep deprivation and other health consequences. Mission Beach’s ANAC representative observed that the critical issue is the initial heading off the runway on western departures. Requiring departures to remain over the jetty channel, at around 275 degrees, will help Mission Beach and will correspondingly help La Jolla.
• The Next ANAC Meeting will be held at 4 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 21 at the Holiday Inn at 4875 N Harbor Drive. Please try to come. The topics will include the airport expansion plan, the AA’s and FAA’s capacity and operations forecasts, and the Part 150 Study.
ANAC member and Scripps interventional cardiologist, Dr. Matthew J. Price, also requested that ANAC be provided with data about the health risks associated with jet noise, including cardiovascular, mental health and sleep interference.
Please come to the meeting and prepare 3 minutes of remarks for the “Public Comment” period expressing your views. Our real-time noise complaints filed through the Air Noise button (airnoise.io) are another way to make our voices heard, so please continue (or start) using it to easily and automatically file complaints.
Finally, our voices may be heard if challenges are required to the proposed ADP airport expansion project, in which case pocketbook help will be welcome and necessary. This is a critical juncture for public engagement and we hope to see you involved.
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