Worries near Gillespie Field

With planned redevelopment, El Cajon residents seek "enforceable rules"

Cajon Air Center
  • Cajon Air Center

It’s been 11 years since the drone and snarl of race cars was heard around East County’s Cajon Speedway. Now that noise has been replaced by the drone of small aircraft from adjacent Gillespie Field.

The El Cajon airport, owned and operated by San Diego County, has reclaimed the 70 acres on its west side it had leased to the speedway for 50 years. The site also included a golf driving range and a motocross course.

The airport’s redevelopment plans for the proposed Cajon Air Center include a new taxiway and construction of aviation-related businesses on a portion of the land. The County Board of Supervisors approved the final environmental impact report on the Gillespie Field 70-Acre Redevelopment Project, which includes the Cajon Air Center, in 2012.

“Site development will be in phases and is contingent upon [Federal Aviation Administration] funding,” Gillespie Field manager Marc Baskel said in a recent email.

The project has so far received $2.84 million in FAA grants and $292,000 from the airport’s enterprise fund, Baskel said.

Building would house aviation-related businesses

Building would house aviation-related businesses

But some of Gillespie Field’s neighbors in Santee, Lakeside, and the Fletcher Hills area of El Cajon have concerns, including increased air traffic and noise from low-flying aircraft, as well as possible expansion of the current seven flight schools at the field.

“We are not calling for the closure of Gillespie Field and never have,” said Sue Strom of ASAP (Advocates for Safe Airport Policies), a group of Fletcher Hills residents. “We have always been asking for enforceable rules.”

Strom says her group spent three years “talking to everybody” but received pushback from government officials, some pilots, and the Gillespie Field Development Council. Now the group is ready to file a mass tort suit against the Gillespie Field flight schools and the County of San Diego. The civil action will ask for injunctive relief to reduce the use of highly leaded aviation fuel and monetary compensation for noise remediation, reduced home values, and decreased enjoyment of their homes by the resident plaintiffs.

Decreased enjoyment is important to ASAP member Christopher Dean, a Celtic guitarist who performs professionally and records music in his home studio.

“When I record an acoustic guitar track, I have to do at least five takes to edit out airplane noise,” Dean said.

Dean and his wife bought their Fletcher Hills home in 1990, and he said there were “no issues” until 2005 when he noticed an increase in small planes flying low over their home, some at intervals of three every 60 seconds.

“We have been deprived of what we’ve been guaranteed,” Dean said. “We are unable to enjoy our home.”

However, figures provided by Baskel show the aircraft operation (a takeoff or a landing) number for 2014 was 199,388, down from a high of 300,391 in 2007 and a 51-year average of 218,795.

Safety concerns also include the fact that pilots often fly under radar due to the surrounding mountains. FAA rules call for an altitude of at least 1000 feet over the highest obstacle in a congested area, except for takeoff or landing. The radio control tower at Gillespie Field is open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, but there are no curfews on flights.

The airport curfew is voluntary because federal grant assurances don’t allow airport sponsors to restrict access, Baskel said. “However, just because it is voluntary doesn’t mean that aircraft operators don’t treat our voluntary noise abatement procedures as policy,” he said.

Lakeside resident Robert Germann is a founding member and spokesperson for CAGE/LFA (Citizens Against Gillespie’s Expansion and Low Flying Aircraft). Although CAGE and ASAP agree on some issues, he says one of CAGE’s main concerns is the flight schools. Germann said the FAA is proposing a grant to Gillespie Field to train foreign pilots, a program he calls “pilot mills, essentially.” Many of the student pilots do not understand English very well, leading to possible safety issues while communicating with the control tower, he added.

CAGE’s position is that Gillespie Field should move or even close, Germann said, calling the airport “a sacred cow that’s been there forever — it’s time to take another look.”

The Cajon Air Center project is currently in design. For information, visit the county website.

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“When I record an acoustic guitar track, I have to do at least five takes to edit out airplane noise,” Dean said.

“We have been deprived of what we’ve been guaranteed,” Dean said.

So Dean, did you get that "guarantee" in writing? If so, enforce it. If not, you never had any guarantee to speak of.

Also Dean, when you offered to buy the house, did you notice the airport? It was there first. You knew there would be noise and that with growth, that airport would get busier.

People like Dean are the same folks that move next to a chicken ranch and later complain about the smell.

Ponzi - You do not know me or my family, our history, or the circumstances surrounding our decision to move to Fletcher Hills in 1990. Yet you profess to make public statements regarding me.

Your comment about "moving next to a chicken ranch" is ludicrous. Let me clarify a few points for your edification. My family and I lived in close proximity to Gillespie Field from May 1980 through November 1990. We were very familiar with the activities of Gillespie Field when we made our decision to purchase a home in Fletcher Hills. At that time, there were flight schools teaching students to fly. The activity was unobtrusive. For the first 15 years in our home (12/90 - 2005) the same was true regarding flights over Fletcher Hills. It was a comfortable coexistence. That all changed when the flight schools specializing in training foreign students started conducting business at Gillespie. Over the years since, the constant flights over our neighborhood has created the issues currently being addressed.

You asked if I received a "guarantee" in writing regarding my (our) right to be able to enjoy a degree of peace and quiet in our home or on our property. The answer is yes. CA Civil Code: 3479 - 3486, CA Health & Safety Code: 46000 - 46002, San Diego County Ordinance 9962, and El Cajon City Code 9.40.010 - 9.40.020.

People in Point Loma have been complaining for decades too. Is there any living person there who moved there before the airport? They all knew there was noise.

I almost bought a building on India street. What an amazing price for an excellent old building. But the incoming planes' landing gear was too close to the roof for my comfort, not to mention the ear shattering noise.

Love Point Loma. Used to go there for the drinking and the fishing.

After the fact NIMBY. Most airports, race tracks and the like started in places that were sparkly populated and then the developers came and then the people and then the complainers.

Folks under the San Diego Airport are getting a pretty sweet deal...called "Quieter Homes Program." Free windows and door replacements as well as new Heater/AC.

Of course, the decibel level from San Diego International and Gillespie is somewhat different....Pointers all are familiar with the habit of "freezing" until conversation can be continued, just like the folks at the old "Starlight Opera."

I'd be more worried about the submarine base.

CAGE/ LFA and ASAP seem to be the same group of people and they cannot be contacted. The .com does not exist and the phone number is not working. Seems that the group does not exist except in the mind of Mr. Germann. Maybe Anne can get the email / website / phone number for CAGE / LFA or actually contact Mr. Germann to see if there really is a group or just NIMBY. Same with Ms. Strom.

"Hey, look, a great deal on a house! Let's buy this one! OH NO, we saw it was right next to an airport, but we figured they'd operate the airport at our convenience! We've been screwed! We've been shafted! This is unfair! The rest of the world must adapt to us!"

Friggin' idiots.

Don't forget the free dual pane windows.

from writer Anne Terhune: the written-out names of ASAP and CAGE (in blue) are live links to each separate group's website. Otherwise, the sites are asapgillespiefield.com and cagelfa.com.

"Coming to the nuisance" is what they call the defense when someone gets a good deal on a property next to the airport or Freeway, and then spends all of his/her time trying to stop expansion. But you must still examine the circumstances in each case. Painting with too broad a brush is an over generalization error. As such, it is a cognitive distortion.

Unlimited growth is not possible on a finite planet. Today to you, tomorrow to you. You don't howl until your ox is being goured.

Maybe we need to see that we are the next victims. Empathy is rare.

I did some of my student flying at Gillespie. Avgas has lead in it. I spread lead all over for what was a hobby?

I hope other hobbyists wake up to the consequences of their hobbies.

If your hobby sprays lead on someone else children, are we having fun yet?

Americans can be disgusting self-centered, immoral, uncaring, shallow, destructive, lacking in any insight...... They had what they called a Revolution. Now they are worse than the British. Native peoples enjoyed this continent for 10,000 years. We ruined it in 200 years and called that "progress."

There is very little hope for the bored populace of self-centered polluters. Shame on you! Better wake up or your kids will blame you and rightly they should!

Lead causes attention deficit syndrome, lowers IQ, causes criminal behavior, causes cancer, and kills wildlife. You are going to just fly around for a hobby?

They should take the lead out of the gas in aviation fuel. The pilots I flew with we big drinkers . We were cool. Not!

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