By Emily Rasmussen

San Juan Capistrano residents are spearheading a petition to stop airplane noise from John Wayne Airport in South Orange County cities, claiming that a settlement between the city of Newport Beach and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) left southern cities left to fend for themselves.

On Jan. 23 a settlement was reached to adjust flight paths from a lawsuit filed in 2016 against the FAA, by the city of Newport Beach, which involved the city of Laguna Beach and the County of Orange. The settlement agreement included designs to flight paths that would lessen noise impacts for the Newport Beach or Laguna Beach areas, which led to a design of a curved flight path that goes out to the ocean, turns and heads east, then crosses over Dana Point and San Juan Capistrano.

Robert McDonald tracks planes that go above his home off of Caminos Las Ramblas. Photo: Emily Rasmussen
Robert McDonald tracks planes that go above his home off of Caminos Las Ramblas. Photo: Emily Rasmussen

“The county threw us under the airplane,” San Juan Capistrano resident Robert McDonald said. “Laguna Beach got some relief and so did Newport Beach, but the (rest of) in South County didn’t.”

McDonald, an 11-year resident of San Juan Capistrano whose home in the hills near Camino Las Ramblas boasts an ocean view, feels frustrated with how the settlement turned out.

McDonald has been collaborating with residents of his city, Dana Point, Laguna Niguel, Aliso Viejo and other nearby cities to create a petition to stop airplane noise over South Orange County. The petition calls to expand noise limits under the new flight path, that planes fly further out into the ocean to gain altitude before turning back to cross land at a minimum of 18,000 ft.

Within a few weeks, the petition’s about 200 signatures away from its 1,000 signature goal to bring it forth to the Orange County Board of Supervisors.

Orange County 5th District Supervisor Lisa Bartlett, whose district encompasses the petition’s cities and others, said that she doesn’t believe the other South County cities received additional airplane noise from the lawsuit settlement with the FAA.

“The County was a part of the lawsuit as well, along with Laguna Beach and Newport Beach,” Bartlett said. “We were all a part of the same lawsuit and we thought we had some really good solutions and compromises with the FAA, but we are still having some issues from time to time and we’ve got to get these things settled out.”

San Juan Capistrano Councilwoman Kerry Ferguson has met with the group forming the petition and shares some of their concerns.

“In the winter I don’t notice much airplane noise because all of our doors and windows are usually closed,” Ferguson said. “But when it warms up and you open the doors and windows, it’s noticeable.”

Ferguson said that the city of San Juan Capistrano did keep an eye on the FAA lawsuit involving the county and other cities, but she felt they weren’t efficiently updated to be a part of it. The settlement was a surprise to her also.

“The county, Laguna Beach (and Newport Beach) participated in lawsuits regarding this issue and apparently when the County settled, they didn’t take into account the needs of South County,” Ferguson said. “They had a line of demarcation of south Laguna Beach.”

Ferguson said she understands the issue is a “tug of war” for the County between John Wayne Airport and the residents. because there are financial benefits from there being more flights. However, Ferguson said that people are suffering.

“I have a lot of work to do, we need to build a mini-coalition of our southern cities,” Ferguson, adding that she’ll be reaching out to Dana Point representatives as well as people from her city.

Meanwhile, 20-year San Juan Capistrano resident Lisa Hosinski said the airplane noise is affecting her in every way, also being a real estate agent in Dana Point. During open houses and showings, Hosinski recalls at least five times she’s had people looking at houses express disinterest upon hearing planes overhead.

“Just last week I was standing outside with some people at an open house (in Dana Point), a plane went over and the people went ‘I don’t think so,’” Hosinksi said.

Personally, Hosinski swears that she no longer keeps an alarm clock for the morning because the sound of planes at around 7 a.m. wake her up every morning.

“It’s not a sound that is friendly. When those jets go over, it literally sounds like skin burning. It’s that crinkly noise, it’s a disturbing sound,” Hosinski said.

To learn more about the petition, visit their website at www.change.org. To learn more about the routes from John Wayne Airport, visit www.faa.gov.

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