Planning is underway for up to $3 billion worth of improvements to the airport, including replacement of the aging Terminal 1 building.
Dennis Probst, vice president of development for the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority, presented on the airport’s expansion plans.
Noting 24 million passengers came and went from the airport in 2018, Probst said that was a 37% increase from 2012.
“In 2004, the airport served 36 domestic and three international lines,” said Probst. “Fifteen years later, there are now 60 domestic and 11 international markets being served. It’s been estimated that San Diego International Airport has a $12 billion economic impact annually for the county and the region.”
San Diego International Airport is the busiest single-runway airport in the United States and third-busiest single runway in the world behind Mumbai, India and London Gatwick.
Probst said the centerpiece of the airport’s ongoing development plan is construction of a new Terminal 1. He pointed out that the airport will always be limited in capacity because of its having a single runway. He said studies have projected the airport to have a maximum capacity of 290,000 flights (landings/takeoffs) a year. “This last year we had about 225,000 flights,” he added.
At that point, Point Loma aircraft noise activist Casey Schnoor, from the audience, challenged the airport’s estimate for when maximum operating capacity will be reached, claiming it will happen sooner than the airport’s 2030-2040 projection.
“What are you going to do for the 15,000 residents and 7,300 homes in the area that are going to be impacted dramatically?” asked Schnoor. “What are you doing about mitigation?”
“We’re doing what we can within the limits of what we can do,” replied Probst.
PCPB board members chimed in on the airport’s expansion.
“Driving in the area is already a complete nightmare,” said board member Margaret Virissimo. “It’s dangerous and congested and you're talking about bringing more people in.”
Virissimo said cruise ships are bringing more international travelers to San Diego claiming that is not being factored into airport expansion projections.
“We care about noise, pollution, safety and airplane-approach issues affecting the community,” said PCPB board and airport subcommittee member Fred Kosmo. “There is a lot of stuff going on with the airport.”
“A lot of stuff is going on with the airport, but not a lot is happening other than stuff going on,” quipped board member David Dick. “You’re not telling us what you’re doing with mitigation, other than to say everything that we can.”
Probst and his colleagues then countered that the development plan’s new EIR accounts for sound mitigation for more residents, that more time and money is being devoted to noise monitoring and that money from airlines being fined for violating flight curfews will be redirected toward mitigating future community impacts.
“Are you addressing the number of intersections and traffic signals in the vicinity of the airport that need improvements?” asked board member Mandy Havlik.
“This is going to result in significant and unavoidable impacts to our community,” said board member Korla Eaquinta.
“With 15,000 homes being impacted, more and more people are going to be impacted by the 65-decibel limit,” noted Kosmo about that threshold level, above which the airport must provide residential noise mitigation.
If all goes well, Probst said the Airport Authority will certify the airport expansion development plan’s EIR on January 2020, and that construction could start on the new Terminal 1 in 2021.
“After that we will be essentially built out, filling up all the space we have available,” Probst said.
In other action:
Group chair Robert Goldyn said the City Council has approved an agreement to close the formal complaint received of alleged violations against PCPB board member Don Sevrens. Goldyn said City Council suspended the application and enforcement of the "no slates" provision in the group’s bylaws. “With this understanding and direction from City Council, this complaint received is hereby closed without action taken,” Goldyn said, adding negotiations between the parties continue to resolve Sevren’s lawsuit filed against PCPB in May.