Say Building Will Interfere With Approach
Glider pilots and
enthusiasts fear they may lose one of the most storied launch
sites in the continental United States.
San Diego's Torrey Pines glider port (CA84) -- located on bluffs
overseeing the Pacific Ocean, and one of only two flight areas in
the country listed on the National Register of Historic Places --
may soon be rendered useless by a high-rise dorm building being
built to house students attending the University of California San
The San Diego Union-Tribune reports pilots are concerned the
planned 14-story structure will render the launch site unsafe, and
unusable. So far, UCSD officials have refused to move the building;
university leaders broke ground on the structure earlier this
"It's truly a national treasure, and it's being stolen from us,"
said Bruce Coons of the Save Our Heritage Organization.
Once a haven for glider pilots, with as many as 10 glider
ports... today Southern California hosts but one; all others but
Torrey Pines have disappeared to urban sprawl.
UCSD officials maintain pilots' unconcerns about the dorm are
unfounded... and anyway, it's too late to change locations.
"It's a little late in the process to be moving the project
site," said Milton Phegley, UCSD's director of community planning.
"Since the project is not going to have an impact on the glider
port, moving it to the east would be of no value."
Torrey Pines is also used by hang glider pilots, paragliders,
and radio-controlled aircraft... but glider pilots will be affected
most by the building, opponents say, since it will be in the path
of the preferred landing approach to runway 27 when the winds gust
higher than 20 knots.
Members of The Associated Glider Clubs of Southern California
have appealed to lawmakers, including Congressman Bob Filner, and
historic preservation groups to persuade UCSD officials to
reconsider the building. Gilder port supporters say the university
mishandled the approval process for the dorm, and under-reported
glider port activities to the Board of Regents and to the
California Coastal Commission.
"There was no participation or input from people who are
affected by this," said David Jebb, who has operated the Torrey
Pines Gliderport since 1996, according to the Union-Tribune.
College officials reply an environmental impact study was
conducted in 2004, and found the dorm would not impact operations
at the gilder port significantly.
"No new issues were raised that were not already addressed" in
earlier documents, planners wrote in the report submitted to the
Board of Regents for approval. The new housing "would not disrupt
an existing flight path," the summary added.
However, another sentence in the report flies in the face of
those statements. It says the dorm tower "would be a major new
incursion that could preclude a permitted approach to the
gliderport from the east."
Phegley is quick to explain the apparent contradiction. "That
sentence should not be read as a stand-alone sentence," he says.
"The project will not affect the operations of the glider port and
it certainly doesn't affect the historic designation."
Architect M. Wayne Donaldson, state historic preservation
officer since 2004, says the university ignored concerns about the
"They have to consult with us; they certainly don't have to
follow our opinion," Donaldson said. “The university has done
that, but they really don't care what we think."