Airport Explains Purpose and Location of Point Loma Palm Trees to Be Removed

by on October 19, 2021 · 22 comments

in Ocean Beach

Some of Newport Ave’s endangered Palm Trees

The San Diego Airport has responded to Point Loma residents’ inquiries about the nature and purpose of its program to unilaterally remove tall trees that it claims “obstruct” airspace and aircraft paths. Ralph Redman, manager of planning and environmental affairs, sent out a letter, map and descriptions of the locations of the trees – mainly Palm Trees – which are posted below.

“The purpose of removing the identified trees,” Redman stated, “is to ensure the safety of community and flying public as planes approach San Diego International Airport (SAN).” He goes on:

As you are aware, in inclement weather situations aircraft are re-routed to approach SAN from the west, and the instruments used by the pilots are sensitive to the surrounding environment.

An airport obstruction survey was conducted and eight Palms along Newport Avenue and four along Santa Monica were identified that “either exceed or will soon exceed acceptable elevations.”

Redman wrote:

These trees penetrate or are within less than five feet of the Terminal Instrument Procedures (TERPS) surfaces that surround San Diego International Airport (SDIA). Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) TERPS surfaces are developed to protect instrument departure and arrival procedures to an airport. Specifically, these trees penetrate the TERPS surfaces that protect approaches to Runway 9 during inclement weather. …

The trees that have been identified either exceed or will soon exceed acceptable elevations. Per California Public Utilities Code Section 21659(a) the Authority is the entity responsible with ensuring the mitigation of obstructions surrounding SAN. The FAA requires the airport to proactively mitigate and prevent future effects on airport operations by ensuring vegetation does not block or impair instrument or visual operations of the Airport.

And since all the trees identified fall within the City right-of-way, their removal has been coordinated through the City of San Diego. The city’s independent contractor will be “mitigating” the Palms over the next couple of weeks. (In his October 8 letter, Redman said “several weeks.”)

Redman also explained the “obstruction survey.” It was a “two year process,” he said.

First, aerial imagery was collected and survey data compiled by Woolpert, Inc. in the spring of 2020 in accordance with FAA criteria outlined under Advisory Circular 150/5300-18B. The survey data was then reviewed against FAA defined surfaces, including both Part 77 and TERPs, to determine which obstacles require mitigation. That analysis was prepared by airspace experts, Planning Technology Inc. (PTI). In total, 38,892 obstacles were reviewed. Additional land surveys were then completed on select obstacles to confirm the accuracy of the data.

Finally, Redman wrote if there were any additional questions regarding the obstruction survey, to let him know (contact info below). If people have questions specific to the tree removal, they’re asked to contact Brian Widener with the City at (619) 527-8050.

Here’s the map attached to Redman’s email that purportedly shows the location of the Palm Trees identified (Small yellow squares with file numbers):

Here’s a blow-up of a section of the map showing the locations of 7 of the Palm Trees. What’s puzzling is that the Palms at 4404 Newport are not included. Yet, that address was the “adjacent property” of the letter the OB Rag posted on Monday. (Would someone please explain that to this writer.):

Blow-up of map showing locations of 7 of the “obstructing” Palm Trees on Newport Avenue. An 8th is off the map to the east.

And here’s the chart of the trees:

Here’s Redman’s email letter:

The purpose of removing the identified trees is to ensure the safety of community and flying public as planes approach San Diego International Airport (SAN). As you are aware, in inclement weather situations aircraft are re-routed to approach SAN from the west, and the instruments used by the pilots are sensitive to the surrounding environment. The trees that have been identified either exceed or will soon exceed acceptable elevations. Per California Public Utilities Code Section 21659(a) the Authority is the entity responsible with ensuring the mitigation of obstructions surrounding SAN. The FAA requires the airport to proactively mitigate and prevent future effects on airport operations by ensuring vegetation does not block or impair instrument or visual operations of the Airport.

As requested, the following provides specific information relative to the trees that were identified in the airport obstruction survey located along Newport Ave. Four additional trees were also identified along Santa Monica Ave. All trees noted below fall within the City right-of-way and their removal has been coordinated through the City of San Diego.

These trees penetrate or are within less than five feet of the Terminal Instrument Procedures (TERPS) surfaces that surround San Diego International Airport (SDIA). Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) TERPS surfaces are developed to protect instrument departure and arrival procedures to an airport. Specifically, these trees penetrate the TERPS surfaces that protect approaches to Runway 9 during inclement weather. Please note that TERPS surfaces are not the same as FAR Part 77 surfaces.

Attached is a map that corresponds to the location of each of the trees noted in the table.

This obstruction survey has been an involved two year process. First, aerial imagery was collected and survey data compiled by Woolpert, Inc. in the spring of 2020 in accordance with FAA criteria outlined under Advisory Circular 150/5300-18B. The survey data was then reviewed against FAA defined surfaces, including both Part 77 and TERPs, to determine which obstacles require mitigation. That analysis was prepared by airspace experts, Planning Technology Inc. (PTI). In total, 38,892 obstacles were reviewed. Additional land surveys were then completed on select obstacles to confirm the accuracy of the data.

If you have any additional questions regarding the obstruction survey please let me know. If you have questions specific to the tree removal please contact Brian Widener with the City at (619) 527-8050.

Sincerely,

Ralph [Redman]

Contact info for Redman: Office 619.400.2464  |  Mobile 619.380.7792 rredman@san.org

Geoff Page contributed to this article.

 

{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Geoff Page October 19, 2021 at 2:20 pm

The note under the table is hard to read but is very important. It says:

“1 – All elevations are provided in mean sea level (MSL) and include a 10 ft. buffer to capture five years of future growth per FAA guidance. The FAA estimates an annual normalized growth rate of 2.5 feet per year for trees (see FAA Engineering Brief #91 – Management of Vegetation in the Airport Environment).”

What this means is the trees are not an immediate problem because the airport extrapolated what the tree heights may be in five years. As of today, there is no reason for the city to be acting. What the city is doing is using this as an excuse to remove trees it does not want to maintain. Period.

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Peter from South O October 19, 2021 at 3:53 pm

That is NOT what that note means or says. It has nothing to do with the Airport’s administration, but everything to do with FAA regulations. The City is doing what the Feds require them to do.
I’m all for preserving and increasing our green canopy, but these tall poles fall into the category of aviation hazards and need to be replaced with less hazardous varieties.

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Frank Gormlie October 19, 2021 at 4:33 pm

Peter – have you been to that part of Point Loma? If you have, then it becomes quite clear that this is all a bunch of malarkey. To convince people that these Palm trees are an aviation hazard, you need to get them to believe the planes fly that low. Many of these palms are a signature for Point Loma and deserve a little less bureaucraziness.

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Peter from South O October 19, 2021 at 7:44 pm

Aircraft fly that low when they are in trouble. Not only am I familiar with the area, but I was blocks away from the PSA crash site when it occurred and know what an impact an aviation accident can have on a community.
This is all a federal matter; the arborist has no skin in the game and to mobilize people to ‘light him up’ is both disingenuous and misguided.
If you are a City agency required to implement such an action it would be foolish to wait until the measurement of each individual tree reached the maximum allowable height before taking action, you would be proactive when notified of the hazard.
Choose wisely the hill you want to die on; this is a knee-jerk reaction to something that is preordained. Harassing the local officials is going to get y’all nothing of any value. Accept the fact that it is a FAA flight safety issue and look forward to repopulating the City property with free trees that are much more conducive to an attractive neighborhood. Better a shade-providing deciduous tree than one of these useless telephone poles.

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Geoff Page October 20, 2021 at 10:37 am

You know Peter, on this one, I think you should butt out. You don’t live in this neighborhood. There are plenty of other things for you to comment on but this one is a local Point Loma issue that is a concern for people who actually live here.

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Peter from South O October 20, 2021 at 8:15 pm

No it is not just a local Point issue the way it has been presented. The overall strategy of digital harassment of civil servants that have NO influence or power over a situation is a general democratic one.
There is also an opportunity in the free press to correct misconceptions and/or ignorance.
Ignorance is curable.

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Geoff Page October 21, 2021 at 10:07 am

Yes it is a local Point Loma issue. Is this affecting you in south Oceanside? The civil servants do indeed have the power in this situation. They have not proven this is an immediate threat and there are possibilities for preserving the trees that people just need some time to pursue. The civil servants don’t want to allow for that scrutiny because they know their actions are not defensible. I don’t know if you have been reading the information on this but it sure does not seem you have.

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Peter from South O October 21, 2021 at 10:55 am

Yes, it does affect me in South O. We have tall palm trees and an airport as well, and are subject to the same FAA regulations.
As to my familiarity with the area, I worked on the Point for two years and spent a lot of time in OB (a considerable number of my co-workers lived there), so just because I no longer live in the zip codes does not make for cause to censor my views.
Stop trying to bully your way through a non-argument and to try to force me to STFU. I have just as much right to express my opinion as anyone else in this comments section.

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Geoff Page October 21, 2021 at 12:35 pm

I did not tell you to STFU, I said on this one you should butt out.

Your airport is for general aviation not jets like San Diego airport. Do you have know3eldge of trees being cut down for the reasons they are claiming here?

You worked on the Point and frequented OB. Are you familiar with the location this is all about?

No one has censored your views, they are all right here.

Please tell me where I tried to bully you to STFU.

Yes, you have aright to make comments here, all I said was why don’t you reserve those comments for things you know something about and have an issue with. To jump in here and take the side of the city is not something anyone in Point Loma would do.

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Geoff Page October 19, 2021 at 5:58 pm

Peter, instead of just saying it is not what the note says, tell us what you think it says.

I think this wording supports what I said, “include a 10 ft. buffer to capture five years of future growth.” That means there is no immediate need for action because the trees have not reached the FAA elevation yet.

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Peter from South O October 20, 2021 at 5:33 am

You ALSO said: “the airport extrapolated what the tree heights may be in five years”, which is NOT what the note says. The airport has nothing to do with this. This is a Federal Aviation Administration rule and local authorities have no choice in the matter.

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Geoff Page October 19, 2021 at 6:00 pm

Also to Frank’s point. The ground at the top of Newport at Venice is as high as these palms are tall. It is malarkey.

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Peter from South O October 20, 2021 at 5:38 am

The elevations around the area are marked on aviation charts and RADAR altimeters compensate for terrain. They cannot compensate for towers, power lines and trees. Your comparison of the two indicates that you are approaching this from an emotional instead of a technical frame of mind, and that is not convincing.
(Malarkey is not a technical term)

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Geoff Page October 20, 2021 at 10:33 am

You did not answer the question. What does the note mean if it does not mean what I said?

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Peter from South O October 20, 2021 at 1:40 pm

AIRPORT! You blamed the airport. Geeze!

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Geoff Page October 20, 2021 at 2:09 pm

What does that mean? Of course I blamed the airport, the only reason this is happening is because of the airport.

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Peter from South O October 20, 2021 at 8:17 pm

This is happening because of FAA regulations being enforced by the City of San Diego (which they must by law do). It has NOTHING to do with the Airport Authority.

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John Van De Walker October 20, 2021 at 6:49 pm

Peter
The calculations of Terps is aprox 200Ft per a Nautical Mile .
But the calaculation are based from what point ? So basic calcualtion s need this point to figure out the proper applicable height .

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Jason October 20, 2021 at 4:51 am

I doubt they fly that low even in trouble, but I’m pretty sure the FAA has a significant safety buffer. They’d be stupid not to. I’m also sure if they could trim a tree they would. In fact, in your list in another post, it says the City is going to trim a eucalyptus not remove it. It’s not like they are clearing the entire street.

Neither tree is native to the region anyway. Eucalyptus were planted because someone thought they would make nice timber and the palms were planted to make this place look like some tropical paradise that it isn’t. Both fake, like 90% of the transplants who live here.

Maybe we can convince them to plant some new Torrey’s. The area was no doubt covered with them before people started building homes in that area. I’d rather see them help the Torrey’s recover than waste time saving a bunch of ugly palms.

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Paul Webb October 21, 2021 at 9:57 am

An airplane flying that low is the exact reason for the TERPS surfaces. They are the safety buffer to which you refer.

I’m not trying to justify the City’s response – I think many if not most of us are frustrated with many aspects of how our city government does things. However, this is a real safety issue, at least in the eyes of the FAA. Yes, there is terrain higher than the trees, but you can’t lop the top of Point Loma off to make it safer, but you can trim or remove the trees to make it safer.

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Jimmy October 20, 2021 at 5:54 pm

My observations:
1. Someone, (the city?) is rushing the process and creating mistrust
2. The trees are near or at their expected lifespan and height, so likely not growing at the rate the report suggests
3. With 2 in mind perhaps it time to replace with younger palms anyway
4. The neighbors like the Palm trees and feel they are part of the identity and charm or our neighborhood
5. The way this is being handled by the authorities does not make sense

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John Van De Walker October 21, 2021 at 1:47 pm

Jimmy
The Mexican palm has a 500 year Life Span washingtonia robusta
The washingtonia filifera hasa 80-250 year life span . So these are quite healthy and probably last another 100 years at the Minimum . Just a FYI on that . I honestly also didnt knowthe life spans on these also until this week .

John

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