A plane takes off from San Diego International Airport heading west. / Photo by Thomas Melville
A Point Loma resident has started an online petition drive that’s garnered more than 2,000 signatures in less than two weeks opposing a Federal Aviation Administration study seeking to change airline flight paths over the Peninsula that some believe could diminish their quality of life.
Casey Schnoor, who lives on Hill Street, has set up a website, noplanenoise.com, as well as a corresponding Facebook page titled Point Loma Air Route Forum, to protest proposed regional airline flight changes, including those at San Diego International Airport.
“My goal is to maintain – and encourage – air traffic control to use the LOWMA Waypoint at the south tip of Point Loma,” Schnoor said.
A waypoint is a latitude-longitude position that airline pilots use as a navigational guide.
Schnoor said keeping the LOWMA Waypoint is important because that is where air traffic controllers direct the majority of eastbound departures from San Diego International Airport. Abandoning use of that waypoint, Schnoor contends, will have negative ramifications for those on the ground.
“The real issue is, with the removal of the LOWMA Waypoint (which has been in place for 20 years), that the preponderance of air traffic would be directed for a second pass eastbound over Point Loma anywhere from the Cabrillo Monument to Talbot and Hill streets,” Schnoor said.
Schnoor said opposition to changing the LOWMA Waypoint is not about NIMBYism (Not In My Backyard).
“It’s about noise, air, water and visual pollution,” he said. “It’s about our oceans, tidepools, Point Loma Nazarene College and other schools. It’s about the entire Point Loma area, all of the city of San Diego, really, because tourism goes to Cabrillo National Monument, Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, the tidepools and other landmarks.”
The FAA claims that deviating from the LOWMA Waypoint will save $7.8 million in fuel cost annually and will result in a negligible increase in noise for those down below.
The SoCal Metroplex Study Project proposes to improve the efficiency of airspace in Southern California by optimizing aircraft arrival and departure procedures at more than 20 regional airports, including San Diego’s.
The project may involve changes in aircraft flight paths and altitudes in certain areas but would not result in any ground disturbance or increase the number of aircraft operations within the Southern California airspace, the FAA claims.
The FAA has said the 500-plus daily departures and arrivals at San Diego International Airport, 97 percent of which leave to the west and arrive from the east, won’t cause much of a noise impact, adding that “noise levels won’t exceed an average daily increase in excess of 5 (more) decibels.”
District 2 Councilmember Lorie Zapf has responded with a letter to the FAA detailing her concerns.
“I oppose removal of LOWMA Waypoint, as many of my constituents have expressed,” she wrote. “I am concerned that the permanent removal of the waypoint may only increase levels of visual and noise disturbance for many residents in OB and Point Loma.
“This proposed waypoint change may attribute to an increase of the ‘early turn’ of commercial jet liners that we as a community and airport have worked so hard to protect against… I am optimistic that we can have an efficient flight path that honors precedence and does not sacrifice the quality of life for my constituents.”
Peninsulan and former local legislator Byron Wear also concurs with keeping the LOWMA Waypoint.
"As the former District 2 councilmember, I was proud to work with Congressman Brian Bilbray, the FAA and the Air Traffic Controllers Union on a 1998 agreement to route aircraft away from the Peninsula,” Wear said. “I oppose any changes to the agreement that would add more disturbance over the Peninsula affecting residents, visitors and the Navy installations on the Point."
A sense of urgency, though, is growing among a number of Peninsulans, including Deborah Porter, of Savoy Street. Porter seriously questions the FAA’s claims of marginal or negligible consequences from proposed flight-path changes.
“This issue was a real surprise to many of us who live in the affected area — and we are not happy with the way the FAA has handled this proposal,” Porter said.” I understand the comment period has been extended to Oct. 8. But when, and where, did they make this proposal known to the public?”
“If the FAA removes the LOWMA way spot, there is no assurance that the planes will fly around the tip of Point Loma rather that taking a shorter cut over our neighborhoods,” Porter continued, adding that “Airplane noise has suddenly become a problem for those of us on the Point who paid a lot of money to buy outside of the noise corridor.
“Additionally, while it is nice to save the airlines $7.8 million a year on gas, a great number of the houses affected by this change are worth more than $1 million. And if their value is diminished by even 5 percent, it will add up to a lot more than $7.8 million. I know the FAA is not responsible for the financial health of Point Loma. But it needs to address those financial issues in some way. Public hearings would be nice.”
The deadline to submit written public comments on the draft assessment through the FAA’s website is Thursday, Oct. 8. Links to view the Airport Authority’s comments, information on the project, and draft EA can be found at www.san.org/metroplex.
The San Diego County Regional Airport Authority will hold a public community meeting featuring staff from the Federal Aviation Administration from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 6 at McMillin Event Center, 2875 Dewey Road in Liberty Station. San Diego residents will have an opportunity to get information about the FAA’s proposed SoCal Metroplex.