San Diego Says “No!” to FAA’s NextGen
Last month many of us in Pt. Loma noticed something different: planes overhead. To many who are reading this, that might seem like a ridiculous statement given that planes have been flying over Pt. Loma for decades. However, eastbound planes were no longer following their typical departure routes: over Loma Portal to the Pacific Ocean, then turning south and proceeding past the end of the Point. Instead, because of the increase in “the fan” for the departure routes, planes are now taking off more frequently and departing over neighborhoods south of Nimitz (Fleetridge, Pt Loma Heights, and Ocean Beach). Rather than turning around after passing south of the Point, planes are flying back over the populated areas of the peninsula. Many of us took to the internet to question what we were observing. Posts on our neighborhood NextDoor app were becoming more and more frequent regarding increased airplane flyovers, departure frequency and noise. No record of a formal announcement from the FAA or the Airport Authority could be found. No notice of a public process from local government officials had been announced. Yet there was no denying that planes were flying over neighborhoods that had never experienced air traffic/noise.
Just after Labor Day 0ur grass root efforts took off (pun intended). A Facebook group formed (Pt. Loma Air Route Forum) and within a month over 1000 members posted contact information for government officials, articles about NextGen, evidence of new flight routes, et al. We flooded the Airport Authority with noise complaints via phone and email. The Airport Authority’s generic auto response indicated that even they had not been informed of the FAA’s intentions in regard to NextGen. Our website, noplanenoise.com, was gaining traction and quickly became a resource for getting up to speed on what was happening at SAN. In conjunction with Assemblywoman Zapf, Congressman Peters and Mayor Faulconer and a multitude of media outlets (KUSI, Channel 8, Fox 5, Channel 7, 1170AM, KPBS), we galvanized a strong voice in opposition to the FAA. Over 1000 community members attended our town hall meeting at Liberty Station on October 6th. At the time of this meeting, over 3000 residents had signed our petition, which was handed to an FAA official (as of 11/1/15, the number is 3685).
San Diego was not the first city to be victimized by NextGen and will certainly not be the last. Communities all over the country are attempting to thwart FAA’s rollout of NextGen via #NoFlyDay. Minneapolis successfully halted the FAA’s encroachment on their airspace while the city of Phoenix is in the midst of a lawsuit against the FAA. In some cities, such as San Diego, the FAA identified the purpose of NextGen as an annual fuel savings of $7.8M. However, the numbers don’t add up as that $7.8M savings is divided between 21 regional airports in the SoCal Metroplex. The savings add up to around $5 per SAN departure or arrival. With that agenda exposed as irrelevant, “efficiency” becomes the name of the NextGen game: schedule as many departures and arrivals as possible to increase airline profit margins. Adding insult to injury, we have discovered that NextGen is exempt from any environmental, health, financial and, most importantly, safety review thanks in large part to Senator Charles Schumer’s (D-NY) efforts in 2012.
San Diego is unique and fortunate in that its eastbound departures have, for the last 50+ years, departed directly over Loma Portal and then turned around over the Pacific Ocean around what is identified as the LOWMA waypoint. To propose that broadening the departure fan and then flying back over the peninsula (versus south of the Point and over the ocean) has no safety, environmental, health or financial impact is preposterous. While the FAA attempts to assert its dominion of the skies, here on the ground, Pt. Loma is home to two major military bases, Ft. Rosecrans national cemetery, Cabrillo national monument, Pt. Loma Nazarene University, a multitude of elementary schools and a large residential population. The environmental impact alone demands years of research, especially given the children living and being educated immediately under these new routes. What is more, there are officially protected species that reside within Ft. Rosecrans and the adjacent national park. Lastly, taking into account the incredible, and lasting reduction in property values that would ensue as a direct result of NextGen, San Diegans will suffer county-wide given the billions in projected property tax revenue losses over the next decades.
We must speak now or forever lose our peace:
Senator Dianne Feinstein
880 Front St. Suite 4236
San Diego, CA 92101
Rep. Scott Peters Office
City Council District 2: Lori Zapf