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Development worries La Jolla cliff gliders

As UCSD began the environmental scoping process for a proposed seven-and-a-half acre, 135,000-square foot, four-story research facility on a bluff above the Pacific, nearby gliderport owner David Jebb expressed concern that the building will infringe on the glider site and interfere with flights.

Pilots protested the facility, proposed by the San Diego Consortium for Regenerative Medicine, at an April 21 community meeting.

A request to expand the borders of the designated airfield was submitted to the California State Historical Resources Commission April 23. The proposal would create a 2,000-foot-long and 450-foot-wide landing perimeter. The Commission deferred action, requesting more information.

“They’ve never had to deal with an issue … about air space,” Jebb said. “It was a whole new thing for them to consider.”

The first glider was launched from Torrey Pines Gliderport sometime in the late 1920s. Gliding was a popular activity that took place up and down the coast. The La Jolla location is now the only coastal glider site in the country and is one of two historically designated gliderports, the other being Kitty Hawk in North Carolina.

In 2007, the gliderport reported 265,000 takeoffs and landings and more than 2,500 tandem flights, 75 percent of them with out-of-town visitors.

“For La Jolla, it’s one of the premiere things that goes on,” Jebb said.

For years, the gliderport and UCSD have coexisted cooperatively. Because half of the airfield lies on University property, pilots cannot use the land without permission. In the past, said Jebb, it wasn’t an issue. This year consent was withheld, however, because of the upcoming U.S. Open golf tournament.

Jebb, who has owned the gliderport for 12 years, said he also worries about the destruction of the area’s natural habitat. An avid conservationist, Jebb powers his small building with solar panels. He said thousands of people visit each week to enjoy the view and watch the flyers.

“This is a beautiful asset the city owns,” he said. “Why would they want to let it go without a fight?”