Eventually, he says, the Federal Aviation Administration remedied the problem, implementing a precision departure system of GPS points to keep the planes within their original flight path.
Murphy, who lives on Santa Monica Avenue in Point Loma, 50 feet outside the loudest portion of the flight path, is also a member of the Peninsula Community Planning Board. This organization advises the City of San Diego on various land-use and community issues regarding Point Loma and some of the surrounding areas, such as Loma Portal and Ocean Beach Highlands, and has a representative at the San Diego County Airport Authority’s Airport Noise Advisory Committee. Members of Golden Hill, Little Italy, Midway, and Ocean Beach community associations have seats as well.
The last meeting, which was held March 20 in the Commuter Terminal building at Lindbergh, addressed issues of curfew violations and complaint statistics and updated members on studies that are being conducted regarding the airport and noise. Additionally, two statistical presentations were given, one on “early turn” — which is when planes violate the approved turning radius — and the other on “head to head” — which is when planes depart to the west instead of to the east, usually due to weather difficulties.
Frazee’s role as director, which includes acting as a representative at these meetings, is, he says, “to work with the community to try and mitigate aircraft noise to the maximum extent possible for the most noise-impacted communities.”
The Airport Noise Mitigation department, in addition to hosting the bimonthly Airport Noise Advisory Committee meetings, has set up a 24-hour hotline for residents to report noise violations. The department, consisting of Frazee, two technicians, and an administrative coordinator, listens to and reviews each complaint, logs it, and investigates claims that need to be addressed.
Currently, they are in the process of amending their two-part noise compatibility program study.
“The federal government says that a 65-decibel contour is the contour at which people become significantly annoyed at noise,” says Frazee. He points to a map on his desk that shows the portion of San Diego affected most by the airport noise, a section defined by a red almost-oval. “That’s that contour.” He points at a series of marks. “And those dots with the numbers on them are where our 25 noise monitors are that define the contour for us. So [when] an airplane comes and makes a noise, it comes back to our central computer that says, ‘This is 65 decibels.’ ”
The second part of the study reviews programs that are in existence to help communities cope with aircraft noise, determining whether they are effective.
“Part 2 [looks] at the programs that are out there now,” says Frazee, “[and determines if] they continue to help the community and [if] there is anything out there that technology has come out with that could conceivably help the neighbors even more.”
Inside Chris’s home in Loma Portal, the planes’ rumble is just enough to interrupt a conversation, but it’s nothing compared to what it could be — and was — a number of years ago. Chris’s home and scores of others have been greatly noise-reduced thanks to the Quieter Home Program, an initiative run by the San Diego Regional Airport Authority, the same venture that owns Lindbergh Field and funded largely by the FAA. The program, started in 1999, seeks to “quiet” homes by replacing old windows with updated, double-paned panels and adding insulation, even in older houses, where “matching” the replacements has in the past proven difficult. All of this, including labor, comes at no cost to the homeowner and is reported by the Quieter Home Program to reduce the noise level by five decibels, a difference that the website describes as “noticeable.”
Not all houses are eligible for the Quieter Home Program. They must be either a single-family home or contain under six housing units (though this may change); more importantly, they must receive no less than 65 decibels — considered “a normally unacceptable” amount of loudness, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development — of aircraft noise.
Bob Wilder, like Chris, had his house outfitted free of charge, thanks to the Quieter Home Program.
“They dropped ten guys off at my house with tools, and they worked for a week,” he says. “A week. The men told me that this installation was over $100,000 since I had so many windows and doors. And, since this house is over 100 years old, those windows and doors had to be wood wherever they could be seen.”
Still, despite all the positive points associated with the Quieter Home Program, there have been grievances along the way. Sehnert, who was chosen by lottery to be in the pilot program for Quieter Home, describes the hassles he went through during his home’s renovation.
“This was my home office,” he says, “and before [coming in] they told me, ‘You can continue to work here. You might lose your phone or computer connection for 15 minutes or something while we’re changing things over.’ ” The entire process was supposed to take just a few weeks. But “it was well over a month, a month and a half maybe, [that] it was being worked on. My boss — I was importing wine from Mexico — my boss in Mexico said he thought I’d just quit or something. I had no contact with anybody; my phones were out, my computers were out.”
Wilder had similar problems.
“There were some good laborers and some bad laborers,” he says. “I had a lot of neighbors who talk about not getting very good work. But I got good work because I was here all the time. Homeowners who were going to be away at work — and some of these are widowed women and stuff — their windows didn’t close correctly. My labor was good because I had them fire a few guys on the job who weren’t painters. I called the main guy and he sent over a good painter, and he knew exactly how to do it, and I was happy then. So I got good stuff; all my stuff is wonderful.”