With Airport Changes, Point Loma and Ocean Beach Will Continue to ‘Carry the Burden of Noise and Pollution’

by on September 24, 2019 · 14 comments

in Ocean Beach, San Diego

Proposed San Diego Airport Changes Draw Criticism at Peninsula Planners

By Geoff Page

It was a presentation by the San Diego airport of its plan for future development that garnered the most interest at the Peninsula Community Planning Board meeting on Thursday, September 19.  Some community members in attendance were not pleased by what they heard.

Dennis Probst, vice president of development, provided the airport’s briefing.  He began by providing some background information designed to explain why the planned work needs to take place. Probst explained that 14 million passengers came though the airport in 1998. The figure increased to 24 million in 2018.

Terminal One replacement is the centerpiece of the plans.  Probst said that 2.5 million people used that terminal in 1967, the year it opened, and 12 million passengers used the old terminal in 2018. The new terminal will have as many as 30 gates.

But, terminal replacement is not all the airport is planning.

Dennis Probst, vice president of development, provided the airport’s briefing. Photo by Geoff Page

A new parking garage, taxiway, two level roadway, as was built in Terminal 2, apron upgrades, an on-airport road that will remove traffic from Harbor Drive, and proposed connections to transit centers are part of the plan. The price tag for all of this is $3 billion.  Add that to the billions that have been invested in this airport since the ill-fated vote to move the airport and there probably would have been enough money to build a brand new airport.

Some of the features will have to be done by other agencies.  One idea is a direct tunnel under the runway to the old SPAWAR site on Pacific Highway that the mayor and SANDAG are touting as a Grand Central Station intermodal transportation center. The plan says “Connection to Potential Regional Mobility Hub” at the SPAWAR site.  The same language is on the bottom of the plan pointing to roadways in front of the new terminal going east and west around the airport ends, the only alternative probably if the tunnel and Grand Central plan does not happen.

This would-be tunnel would connect to a “transit ready” area at the airport. The airport can only finance capital improvements within the airport boundaries.  The city, SANDAG, and perhaps Caltrans, have to fund and build the transportation connections. Go here to see more information including a map of the airport labeled with improvements.

The issue at hand is a new Environmental Impact Report that is out for public comment.  There was a previous EIR that generated a lot of comments that Probst explained fell into several problem areas. One problem was that the forecasts were considered out of date from 2012.  The new report used forecasts from 2018. Transit connectivity, or the failure to include it in the first EIR, was another problem area. There were complaints about lost parking in the area but Probst said there would be a net gain of 650 parking spaces.

Sea level rise was not considered in the previous EIR, an amazing oversight considering climate change and an airport that is barely above sea level.

The new EIR can be viewed at the Point Loma Library according to Probst.  Public comment is due by November 4, which seemed like a short fuse.  This was too similar to the recent public indignation over a short fuse on comments for the Port’s proposed master plan.  The Port, using good sense, extended the comment period by another 30 days.

The airport’s schedule is to certify the new EIR by January and begin construction in 2021 finishing in 2024.

Questions from the audience were mostly critical.

One person asked what the airport was doing for Point Loma and Ocean Beach.  The response was mobile noise monitoring and the Quieter Homes program retrofitting homes with windows, insulation, and air handling systems. He said they were doing everything they could. That generated a comment from another audience member about how much his utility bill had gone up since he had his home retrofitted. He wondered if the airport could work with SDG&E to get homeowners in Point Loma and Ocean Beach a break on the utility charges.  Probst looked puzzled and said the airport had no way to influence SDG&E.

A woman said that noise mitigation did not address the air pollution that rains down on Point Loma daily. With flights expected to hit the maximum possible of 290,000 in the not too distant future, from the 220,00 flights last year, will come that much more pollution.  Probst did not have much to say about what the airport could do but referred to improvements in airplane engine technology that is always making improvements.  Considering that airplane noise has been considerably reduced by technology, this was not an unreasonable answer.

In response to transportation questions, Probst described a possible airport shuttle to the Old Town trolley station but when asked if there were any plans to increase parking in Old Town, Probst said no, not by the airport.

Board member David Dick voiced the criticism very clearly.  He said that it sounded as if a lot of money is being spent to benefit private interests and the people in Point Loma and Ocean Beach have to carry the burden of noise and pollution with no consideration by the airport. Dick to said he found Probst’s explanation that they were doing all they could to, to be unsatisfactory and asked Probst again, what the airport going to do for the community.

There was an attempt to provide more detail.  They were expanding the Quieter Homes program to include schools and churches and other buildings. Keep in mind that in order to have a home retrofitted by the program, the owner has to sign an aviation agreement.  When an owner signs this agreement, they relinquish the vertical rights above their property to the airport.  Once signed, that property owner cannot complain about the pollution coming down on their house, or even a plane crashing into their home.

The airport forces property owners to sign the agreements if they want the Quieter Homes improvements.  Considering that the money for the retrofitting comes from the Federal government – our tax money – it is a mystery why the airport is able to extort this concession to use our tax money for the work.

Mobile noise monitoring was again mentioned and it was explained that tougher curfew violations might be used.  Even with the additional explanation, it was clear that Point Loma and Ocean Beach were getting very little from the airport.  The community can provide comments by responding to the new EIR, at least for another couple of weeks.

Water main replacement project on Shelter Island

The next agenda item of interest was a presentation by the city of a water main replacement project that will take place on Shelter Island. The project has started and will entail road closures on Shelter Island Drive and connecting streets.  The project is planned for completion in January 2021.

The work will shut down during the summer months due to the moratorium on construction in certain areas of the city such as the beaches and bays. The work is part of the city’s effort to replace aging infrastructure.  As usually happens, the water mains will be larger than those they are replacing.  One has to wonder if the Port’s Master Plan had any effect on the decision to do this work now.

Dreams For Change

After the city’s presentation came another presentation by an organization called Dreams For Change.  This is a non-profit that has been operating safe parking lots for the homeless for ten years.  The first lot opened in 2010 and a second was opened in 2012.  A third has since been opened.

People are allowed to park in the lots but must sleep in their cars, tents are not allowed.  The group also allows only a few RVs because of space restrictions.  People who use the lots must be clean and sober with no history of violent crime.  Those wishing to use the lots must call in advance and be subject to an intake assessment.

The goal of Dreams For Change is to move people into permanent housing.  They offer an array of services designed to assist in a variety of ways including job searches and finding housing. For more information go here.

Projects Approved

Two projects received unanimous approval.  One was a property in the multi-family zone that already allows two buildings.  The property has two homes on it.  The owners want to convert a basement to a granny flat.  They don’t have to provide parking because of the size and the proximity to public transportation.

So now, lots zoned for two units can have three.  This is already destroying the single-family zone as people rush to put rent-able granny cottages on their lots.  The parking situation will be enormous because there is no restriction on renting only to people who don’t have cars.

Political Reports

There were only two government reports.  Josh Coyne explained that he is replacing Miller Saltzman as the representative for Dr. Campbell’s District 2 office.  Todd Gloria’s representative read off a list of bills that Gloria had authored or co-authored [Ed: Todd Gloria is running for mayor and apparently really wants you to know he’s been busy]:

  • AB 128 – This bill is designed to protect wild horses.  Why this is of concern in San Diego County is a mystery.
  • AB 262-  Requiring the appointment of a “Health Officer” if there is an outbreak of disease.  This appeared to be a reaction to the hepatitis outbreak in San Diego.  It seems Gloria feels the state government needed to step in because San Diego can’t handle these things.
  • AB 423 – This is an air quality bill that sets up a detailed, state mandated local program.  As to the funding, the bill states, “This bill would provide that with regard to certain mandates no reimbursement is required by this act for a specified reason.”
  • SB 5 Affordable Housing – This bill establishes a new “Affordable Housing and Community Development Investment Program.” It says it allows city to establish their own investment programs.  This is one everyone should read about as it affects the use of property taxes
  • SB 946 – “This bill would prohibit a local authority, as defined, from regulating sidewalk vendors, except in accordance with the provisions of the bill.”

The last item of interest is an announcement of a Point Loma Association town hall meeting on September 26 from 6:00 to 7:00 at the Portuguese Hall that will feature Dr. Campbell from District 2.


{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

ZZ September 24, 2019 at 2:02 pm

It is already illegal since 1998 to kill or to transport horses for human consumption.

The new bill makes animal auctions post warnings and keep a bunch of records. Seems like a waste of time unless there’s evidence horses are being killed for meat despite it being a felony.

It’s a mark of a cynical politician to run on passing laws that just duplicate other existing laws. I am not too impressed so far with either Gloria or Ban-It Bry.


Vern September 24, 2019 at 2:36 pm

Proposed San Diego Airport Changes Draw Criticism at Peninsula Planners
RE: Mobile Noise Monitoring
Mobile noise monitoring can produce flawed data. One of the recent adventures in AA/SDIA local mobile noise monitoring had the third party, taxpayer-funded contractor renting equipment on a daily basis. On more than one occasion, the equipment was faulty and the contractors had to head back the the rental “yard” to exchange equipment. They got back to site three hours later, set up on a side street in the Sunset Cliffs area and still submitted their flawed data the AA/SDIA. They never confirmed whether or not the noise monitoring equipment was properly calibrated. The contractor staff were temp-hires. Not to mention, noise monitoring around airports is a long term commitment, not a three and a half day affair using defective gear.


Geoff Page September 24, 2019 at 4:28 pm

Interesting information, Vern. When I hear “noise monitoring” all I see is someone checking the noise and saying, yea it’s loud today. “Noise monitoring” won’d do anything about noise other than to record it. Everyone in OB monitors the noise everyday, why is this effort of any use to us?


Vern September 25, 2019 at 10:50 am

Good morning Geoff. You make a good point, and that’s kind of what the AA , FAA and airline industry want – most people to not care or simply just give up. “Why, back when I was knee high to a grasshopper, them planes would be a hundred times louder and fly right thru my bathroom on Sundays – I’m used to it” seems to be an oft heard refrain or “It’s my alarm clock” or It’s what keeps rental prices down in OB/PL”… Yep, that one worked out pretty well – mostly, though, for Airbnb & Vrbo, apparently.

That said, generating data points and data sets for future use could be valuable for the community in general, whether PL/OB, Carlsbad, areas around MCRD, even faraway places like Milton, MA. or Phoenix, AZ. As you likely know there are currently twenty three noise monitoring stations around SDIA, eleven of which are in Peninsula area. Proper monitoring measures impact on a community. It seems a few doctors in the area are becoming more interested in the data and how the increase in airport operations impact human health whether via noise and/or engine discharge. (There’s benzene in that jet fuel).

On a side note, apparently Scott Peters used to be an environmental attorney and Jen Campbell was a doctor. However loosely, both seem “tasked to represent our area”.
A curious attorney and a curious doctor, representing thousands of people, might be interested. Might…



Geoff Page September 25, 2019 at 11:27 am

I got a chuckle over your first paragraph, I’ve heard all of those in my 40 years in OB. They used to sound like they did come through the bathroom. I lived on top of Naragansett in ’86 and the planes actually shook the building. The noise has definitely gotten way better, which may be why the price of housing here finally exploded and why fewer people seem concerned.

More good information in your second paragraph. I’m sure there is value in doing this work it just doesn’t have an immediately tangible result. Frankly, I’m more concerned about the pollution we see all over our cars, I think that is more of a threat than noise. Not to the cars of course.


Vern September 25, 2019 at 12:10 pm

It’s the overall increase in operations, in particular, departures that impact PL/OB.
Per the AA, in theory, there’ll be a departure every 73 seconds during an eighteen hour period, every day of the year +/-. At 1200′ overhead (ASL), and considering the inverse square law, each departure, counted as a single noise event, will feed into one nearly eighteen-hour noise bonanza. Replete, no less, with the accompanying sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, (ie soot) that attaches itself to cars, lungs, backyard gardens, homes, windows, heck even the cushy grips of the ubiquitous albeit perpetually filthy, dockless, rental e-scooters. Now that’s progress!


Geoff Page September 25, 2019 at 12:38 pm

Thanks, Vern, you just answered Tyler’s question about how they calculate that maximum number of trips. I think I heard someone at the meeting also mention 73 seconds. Doing the direct math of every 73 seconds I get about 50 flights an hour multiplied by 18 hours comes to 900 flights a day. Multiply that by 365 days and I get 328,500 flights a year. Their figure of 290,000 is close and probably accounts for other factors. Last year there were at 220,000 flights so we can expect a 32 percent increase when they max out the capacity. That is a lot. One person suggested doing less and keeping the traffic down but that just garnered a blank stare.


Vern September 25, 2019 at 12:56 pm

None of this takes into account the huge increase in aborted landings at the single 9000 foot runway situated below hills, buildings and homes. (Yes, homes existed in the area well before the airport).
Aborted landings are sometimes, more cautiously known as “go-arounds” and “missed approaches”.
Aborted landings are typically handled by SoCal TRACON and are done to keep the densely packed stream of passenger filled commercial jets from slamming into each other on the runway, or in flight over communities around the airport.


Geoff Page September 25, 2019 at 1:43 pm

Another good point, Vern. I wonder if those missed approaches are included in that number, perhaps not as you suggest. I would tend to think probably not.


Tyler September 25, 2019 at 9:42 am

Is the 290,000 maximum set in stone, or could this be altered for even more once the new Terminal 1 is complete?


Geoff Page September 25, 2019 at 9:45 am

That figure was represented as the maximum the airport can handle with one runway. They did reiterate that there is no plan for a second runway. But, when MCRD finally closes, things could change.


Tyler September 25, 2019 at 11:48 am

Interesting. Thanks for the reply. I’m curious of whether or not their expected hitting of the maximum is with the Terminal 1 completion backed in or not. Because if it’s an estimate just based on the current Terminal 1 and the new Terminal 2, how could they possibly handle additional gates?


Geoff Page September 25, 2019 at 12:28 pm

Tyler, the way I understood it, that figure is based on the capacity of the single runway, in other words, how many trips can be made within the hours of airport operation. An audience member asked if they planned to fly 24 hours a day and they responded that the current time restrictions will not change. I don’t know how they calculate it. The improvements were said to be needed for efficiency and to handle the eventual maximum number of flights.


Cynthia September 26, 2019 at 12:15 pm

Good reporting, Geoff…just a few points… wanted to mention that when I was on ATAG/ANAC, etc., that ‘total number’ was 180,000! All the ‘schools’ have been retrofitted except possibly Sunset View & Warren Walker (private)..or does David ‘include PLNU Private University’ in that estimate of ‘what the airport plans to do?’…churches with preschools will be next? Also, any ‘changes’ that had a ‘negative affect on over 10,000 persons’ discussed at ATAG was NOT to be implemented. Partly that was because of the increased Risks for Aircraft Crashes here. What ‘Changed’ in that measurement? Does anyone who signed those AA agreements, now ‘not count’, though there used to be a 1-2 decibel ‘average Noise Change’, included, which when the airport ‘passed that number’, Rendered those Agreements “NULL and VOID.” There are attorneys who have succeeded in reigning in such catastrophe’s, ‘re-inventing the wheel’ does not need to be done.

Which brings me to a thought about what the LJ community ‘demanded’ for the ‘improvements’ at the schools in LJ (in the early ’90’s to early 2000’s)….Again, where are PL’s new streets, turn lanes from Rosecrans to Nimitz (from NTC’s conversion, never done)? Why don’t they (& the City, who is increasing all the populations around PL’s 3 Safe Access Points-see the Next Door article & comments by Evan Donaldson: Future Planned Development will Strangle us:https://nextdoor.com/news_feed/?post=124514592&ct=Xz11Mhp0lkD9OmuWmyrLJdr3yNlcCuwY_SCpUwKyEz_0_BSww-L4knTGI4jbQxNP&ec=VxSJFbPbudqm3RmbqsRSIdKGxZqCXtJSS-0vyqMERec%3D&cp=0&s=tpd&pinned_post=true&section=posts) & the Airport Authority, who with SANDAG are FOCUSING on DENSITY around the Airport, Give PL the missing community pool (indoors, to avoid air pollution), for increasing the stress on Peninsula’s dwindling public assets? (ie. NTC had 2 pools..both gone..as ‘housing development mitigation’ for such assets, has never met expected needs in PL. I mean, if people are so intent on getting in the water (& killing themselves-SS Cliffs-as the beaches get more crowded), perhaps we need to take this further, as Evan points out:
“How are any of us going to be able to move anywhere at any time with these numbers? What about moving inland in an emergency? What about getting to work and schools? These numbers are astronomical and preposterous, and they are being rolled out in neighborhoods in such a way that the entirety of central coastal San Diego will not be aware of what is happening until it is too late.

Don’t forget the parable of the boiling frog!!! We live in a BOX. We are surrounded on ALL 4 SIDES. At some point we are FULL.”

Many newcomers don’t realize, PL/OB is a Peninsula, surrounded on Three Sides, by Water. Emergency ‘access points’ are limited, making timely Evacuation for Residents & Tourists now, nearly…Impossible as (ie. earthquake, tidal wave, plane crash, power plant(s)-explosions ie. methane gas from sewer processing on the Peninsula or military fuel depots) Planner’s “Preparations” for even this Existing Population-are Critically Ignored! When have we ever held an emergency Evacuation Preparedness test? Are there plans to connect Barnett (by the military base) to the I-5 yet, to the north? How about Rosecrans, to the North? This should ALL be REQUIRED before they Add Population OR Expand the Airport, as there IS NO CONNECTION planned from Any of the ‘supposed’ Transit Sites!!! There are also No Funding Sources Stated!

Also Midway Pacific to ‘gain 30 acres of parks’ (of 1324 acres? & 17,000 more residents,10.76 acres ‘deficient already!’) apparently has no clue that Municipal Code requires “2.8 acres per 1000 new residents”, which means that those ‘new residents’ will be looking to use (no doubt, overpopulate with traffic, dogs, parking needs, etc.) OB’s & PL’s (already deficient under MC by over 100 acres alone!) parking lots, parks, pools, etc. How much of the ‘Park Deficit’ (alone) are the ‘other new development areas’ planning to Dump in OB/PL?

BTW, Isn’t it true that ‘Green’, ie. Trees, mitigates population & pollution? Than why isn’t this included? More research needs to be done for this City re: real sources of its growing air pollution problem…a study years ago explained the ‘Major Source’ (up & down the coast of CA) of Pollution ‘dumped on residences’ was Diesel Fuel from Trucks delivering CARGO up & down the I-5. From my aviation years, Aircraft fuel is one of the cleanest-burning fuels. San Diego has NO AIR CARGO (literally, cargo flights at SDIA went from 3% to 1% over the past few years) but relies nearly Completely on Diesel Trucks to transport it’s CARGO to a growing 3-4 million population. Where is the ‘Transit Hub’ that will Change that in San Diego? Is it coming from Rodriguez Airport already (costing San Diegans so much more in customs fees, etc.), or from Montgomery, Palomar, Ontario, dumping Diesel Fuel at night onto residences west of the I-5 with the offshore winds? Or is SD (& PL/OB) next going to learn that ‘cutting the cargo’ will lesson the SDIA ‘noise’ by ‘giving it ALL to Rodriguez with the ‘Cross Border Cargo Customs Terminal, thereby giving Mexico, a foreign country, the Major, Billion Dollar/yr. landing fees that any Municipal locality (with over a Million in Population or more) and its Transportation System, Gains tremendously from for its ‘roads, transit systems; pollution standards and health’, in general..not having to sit in ever growing traffic and gridlock. Increasing ‘development’ without even these few changes planned, has already Doomed San Diego to becoming the mire of Los Angeles…….


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