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Guest commentary: Jet noise mitigation proposal backed in Pacific Beach is rejected by airport authority

A jet takes off from San Diego International Airport last year.
(File)

An update on the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority’s commercial jet noise mitigation study.

Happy new year, and we at Quiet Skies La Jolla extend our best wishes to all for a better 2021. This is an update regarding the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority’s commercial jet noise mitigation study called the Part 150 Study.

La Jolla, Pacific Beach and Mission Beach collaborated to present a proposal to the RAA that embraced two fundamental principles: keeping departures [from San Diego International Airport] farther over the ocean before turning left or right and dispersing departures across three tracks to eliminate noise concentration. This was called the “ELSO” or “Three SIDS” proposal.

On Jan. 7, the RAA and its consultants held a meeting with the Citizen Advisory and Technical Advisory committee members of the Part 150 Study, announcing they will not move the proposal forward with the FAA [Federal Aviation Administration]. Their rationale to reject the proposal is that, although it would reduce noise for a large number of residents both near and far from the airport, it would result in increased noise for a small number of residents adjacent to the airport, and any “shift” causing increased noise, even for a single household, is a non-starter.

While we think the RAA’s conclusion was incorrect, the decision was made and ELSO will not be recommended to the FAA.

The Part 150 Study is coming to a close and other recommendations will be advanced that primarily benefit those living in Ocean Beach and Loma Portal. There will be a public Zoom workshop with breakout sessions from 4 to 6 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 21, to provide more information about what will be recommended to the FAA. Register for the workshop at sannoisestudy.com.

Breakout sessions will allow for questions to technical experts on noise contours, magnetic variation, operational alternatives, land use and administrative alternatives, preliminary recommendations and next steps in the study.

Comments on the Part 150 Study may be submitted at sannoisestudy.com/project-overview/survey_tools/comment-on-the-san-noise-study (registration is necessary).

Now that the Part 150 Study is concluding, the RAA will propose moving two earlier recommendations forward from the Flight Path & Procedures Study that took place in 2018-19 that could bring some noise mitigation to La Jolla between 10 p.m. and 6:30 a.m.

The first recommendation includes establishing a new “Bird Rock” waypoint farther offshore that planes would fly by after reaching 1½ nautical miles from the shoreline. Two benefits described by the RAA are moderately reducing noise north of the airport by routing flights farther offshore and eliminating “early turns” directly over La Jolla during nighttime hours.

The second recommendation addresses eastbound nighttime flights that would be routed around Point Loma.

The RAA’s recommendations likely will be considered at the Feb. 17 Airport Noise Advisory Committee, and we will provide an updated report about that meeting. Public comments in advance are always welcome. If you have questions about how to provide comments or feedback, email them to info@quietskieslajolla.org.

The RAA also shared at the Jan. 7 meeting that the FAA is expected to release updated flight operations forecasts in March or April accounting for the pandemic’s impact on the airline industry. The new forecasts may be informative about whether the $3 billion airport development plan and additional 19 gates at Terminal 1 are justified or necessary. If business and leisure travel are not projected to return to 2019 levels, or if there is uncertainty, it makes sense to defer any decision about investing that many resources until there is more clarity.

Anthony Stiegler is co-founder and secretary of Quiet Skies La Jolla.


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