“I’ve got great restaurants [and] the bay,” he says. “When I got home from law school [in the ’80s], every day I used to take a walk down by the harbor, or in Balboa Park, or wherever. I can see downtown, but it’s fairly nice residential streets down here.”
While the noise is considerable from inside his home, it passes quickly.
“Ninety-five percent of the time,” Sehnert says, “the planes are landing over us, and from the first time you hear them until the time they’re gone, [it’s about] 15 seconds. When they’re landing they’re gunning down, their engines are slowing, but when they take off, they’re full throttle. It’s much louder, and it’s much longer. I know what it’s like because occasionally they do take off from here. But very rarely.”
In Ocean Beach, which is situated in the takeoff pattern, the noise is very different. While the planes are higher in the air, their sound does, as Sehnert described, have a longer duration.
Shane Finneran, a board member of the Ocean Beach Planning Board, lives with his wife Kirsten in a cottage-style apartment just off Sunset Cliffs Boulevard. Finneran grew up in Ocean Beach and Point Loma, living under the flight path, and returned to the area after college.
“There’s different ways of looking at it,” he says. “Frequency of flights, it’s pretty frequent, they’re every couple of minutes. I think the airport says that, at peak times, it’s every 90 seconds. Although the other side of it is, in terms of how bad it is, I usually don’t even notice when they fly over, unless they’re particularly loud.”
“In terms of actual impact, once you get used to them, they’re really not there,” he says.
“For me, it’s almost become white noise,” Kirsten adds. “You just kind of get adapted to it.”
In Loma Portal, it’s louder still than in Ocean Beach, as the planes are lower in the sky.
Bob Wilder lives in a Craftsman home on Elliott Street, right under the path of the departing planes. He bought his home in the ’80s as a fixer-upper, with full knowledge that it was beneath the flight path.
“I knew that these houses were valuable,” he says simply. “I knew the planes were loud, but I had no problem with them.”
When asked why he chose to live in such a noisy part of town, he replies, “Location, location, location… People aren’t worried about those planes because we’ve got the cutest little schools and things down here. My kids walked to school. Walked right up a very safe street, with the little gas lamps, right up to Loma Portal. I felt safe with them walking to school.”
Chris, a 30-year homeowner, lives just southwest of Chatsworth Boulevard. His house is a pretty, white Monterey Colonial with well-kept front and side yards.
“When I came to San Diego,” he says, “I decided to live in the Point Loma area. In 1976, I noticed that housing prices under the flight path were about 20 percent lower than outside of the flight path. My wife and I therefore felt that by buying here we could afford a larger and more attractive house, one that better met our requirements.” He pauses. “I always hoped that the airport would move because they were talking about moving it just as seriously 30 years ago as they are now.”
Until recently, the Airport Authority was thinking of moving to a new location. In 2006, the Miramar Plan proposed to move the airport over by the Miramar Marine Corps Air Station. “Proposition 1A” passed in 1994, but the plan was never put into action. Re-proposed in 2006, it was rejected by voters, even though, according to the Union-Tribune, Lindbergh is expected to exceed its capacity for both planes and travelers by 2015 and 2022, respectively.
“The flight path will not change,” says Peninsula Planning Board member Suhail Khalil, “[because] with a single runway, [the] Federal Aviation Administration allows only two flight paths for safety reasons…. San Diego International Airport doesn’t have the space to add a second runway…nor is it a feasible long-term solution to the airport’s maximization of Lindbergh Field.”
According to Jay Shumaker, an architect and Peninsula Planning Board member, “The short-term plan for Lindbergh is the same short-term plan that was developed years ago. Add a few gates and parking. They’ve also planned to move the rental cars off the waterfront. To the short-range plan, I have no objection. San Diego must stay in the game economically.”
Some, however, disagree with how the airport is handling its current situation.
Lance Murphy, a Point Loma resident, argues that the airport, as it reaches its physical limits, will pose more and more of a problem.
“As the airport gets closer to its capacity, they’re going to have more and more unplanned excursions,” says Murphy. “That is dangerous. First and foremost, I don’t want to be near an airport that’s dangerous. And as we get too close to capacity, it’s going to get more dangerous.”
Murphy is the founder of SANNoise.org, formed, as its website states, by “a couple of concerned residents that would like the Airport Authority to demonstrate some respect for the communities impacted by the planned growth of Lindbergh Field.”
“The airport is about at its capacity,” Murphy, who is both an engineer and a business consultant, explains. “There were 227 [thousand] flights last year — 260 is what the FAA says is the rational productive limit. The airport keeps touting 300 as the ultimate physical limit. That would be like saying that the freeway can handle 300,000 cars. As soon as you [have] a breakdown, as soon as you have bumper to bumper, any kind of mishap, production goes down.”
Murphy began to get involved with airport issues four years ago when he noticed planes taking off farther south than their original course.
“I went to the [Airport Authority] board, and I said, ‘Guys, you’re doing something wrong, and you need to help me fix it. You’re allowing these airplanes to take off south, and it [is] disrupting more and more people.’ ”