Saying it's now "clear that San Diego has outgrown Lindbergh Field," San Diego Councilman Mike Gotch on Tuesday said he plans to ask the City Council to build a second major airport, possibly at Brown Field in Otay Mesa.
Though such a suggestion is not new--former Mayor Pete Wilson pursued the idea several years ago--Gotch and his staff say the timing has never been better, citing increasing complaints about the Lindbergh Field noise problem by surrounding communities, which are mobilized as never before on the noise issue.
Gotch unveiled his idea at a hearing held by the San Diego Unified Port District to gather public sentiment about a proposal to reroute departing jets away from noise-battered Point Loma and Loma Portal and toward the more northern beach communities of Mission Beach, Pacific Beach and La Jolla.
Sentiments by the earful are what the commissioners received as dozens of people--some armed with elaborate charts and graphs and others with unadorned anger--pounded the microphone with criticism, complaints and suggestions.
Interest in the hearing was vividly illustrated by the turnout, as residents packed to overflowing a 500-seat room at the Stardust Hotel in Mission Valley, with people lining the walls and standing several feet deep in the lobby.
The majority of people represented STOP, a newly formed group representing Pacific Beach and La Jolla residents opposed to the proposed rerouting. Many of them carried signs and placards, waving them at the commissioners' table.
At the end of the nearly three-hour hearing, the district voted to work with its airport noise consultant to examine the comments and suggestions, including evaluating possible economic impacts. The district said it expects a report back on the matter from the consultant, CH2M-Hill of Newport Beach, in 60 days.
CH2M-Hill, in the first part of a two-part report, had recommended changing the departure flight path to alleviate severe noise on about 1,000 acres in Point Loma, where the problem of jet noise is considered the worst in California.
The consultant also suggested giving airlines until 1991 to phase in new, quieter jets.
Gotch, whose represents the Mission Beach and Pacific Beach areas, said the consultant's suggestion to reroute departures over the beach communities was "inherently unfair" because it merely shifted the problem from one neighborhood to another.
Along with calling for the construction of a second airport, Gotch--echoing comments made by many others--said the commissioners should accelerate the phasing in of new and quieter jets at Lindbergh Field.
Gotch said he will soon ask the council to explore the feasibility of using Brown Field, which the city owns, as the site of a new commercial airport. Mikel Haas, an aide to Gotch, said Gotch will make an official recommendation to the City Council within a month. "We want to move forward and look at Brown Field and other sites, too," Haas said.
In 1979, the Federal Aviation Administration studied the suitability of Brown Field for commercial aircraft operations and concluded that it was "questionable."
The FAA said the mountains east and north of Brown Field--near the Mexican border--precluded departures to the east, and landings from the east "would commence over rugged terrain and (an) area of expected turbulence during wind conditions."
Also complicating matters, the FAA said, is the need for approval by the Mexican government to allow flights over its airspace.
At Tuesday's hearing, the Navy and the Marine Corps, which operates a recruit depot next to Lindbergh Field, called airport noise "our most pervasive environmental problem," Marine Col. Rufus Young said.
Marine officials described what they call the "San Diego pause"--the several minutes wasted each hour at the recruit depot while Marine instructors wait for the din of departing planes to subside.
Military officials also said commercial jets are violating a lease the Navy has with the Port District by veering over the recruit depot before the jets reach the end of the runway.
Dr. Fred Berger, co-president of STOP, called the rerouting proposal "ill advised."
He said he sympathizes with Point Loma residents, but "these residents know and knew they were under noisy flight paths" when they bought their homes. In contrast, he told the Port District, people in the beach communities have not suffered under jet noise, and placing them under a new flight path would lead to "lawsuits on your hands that you cannot now imagine."
Though the recommendation to accelerate the phasing in of new and quieter jets at Lindbergh Field received strong support from Point Loma and beach communities residents, representatives of the airlines, the Chamber of Commerce and the Convention & Visitors Bureau said such a requirement would lead to fewer flights to Lindbergh Field and have a detrimental ripple effect on the region's tourism industry.