Lawsuit over wheelchair access at Torrey Pines Gliderport

"Caused Plaintiffs difficulty, anger, frustration and embarrassment"

(image from Torrey Pines Gliderport Facebook page)
  • (image from Torrey Pines Gliderport Facebook page)

It's a bumpy ride for disabled persons hoping to catch a glimpse of the hang gliders and paragliders at the Torrey Pines Gliderport — at least that's the claim made by two men in a federal lawsuit they filed on December 12.

Scott Schutza and John Karczewski say the cliffs overlooking Black's Beach is far from safe and is inaccessible to those in wheelchairs, as is the case for both men. During a visit in March of this year, Schutza and Karczewski arrived at the park and were unable to find a designated disabled parking space, nor were they able to gain access to the restrooms or the concession area via the dirt parking lots.

"The unlawful and discriminatory barriers at the Gliderport have caused Plaintiffs difficulty, anger, frustration and embarrassment and made them feel unwelcome and like second-class citizens," reads the lawsuit. "The Gliderport is a place of exhibition or entertainment, and therefore a place of “public accommodation” for purposes of Title III of the [Americans with Disabilities Act].

Considered the "Kitty Hawk of the West" by glider enthusiasts (says Wikipedia), the gliderport is located on city-owned property and is privately operated by Air California Adventure. The site has been the hang glider hangout since 1930, when it was first "established as a soaring site."

But improvements on the land aren't easy to accomplish, says owner and flight director Robin Marien. He says the permitting process is arduous and he isn't sure what can be done on city park land, contiguous to Torrey Pines State Preserve.

"We've been doing a lot of improvements since [March] and as far as doing more, well, there isn't much we can do about it."

Marien declined to comment further about the complaint.

According to the complaint, Schutza and Karczewski filed a claim with the City of San Diego's Risk Management Department in May of this year. Those claims, however, were denied.

"Plaintiffs intend to return to the Gliderport in the future, to watch the sailplanes, hang gliders and paragliders. Until the unlawful and discriminatory barriers at the Gliderport are remedied by Defendants, Plaintiffs will continue to be denied full and equal access to the goods, facilities, programs, services and activities offered by Defendants to the general public, and will suffer ongoing discrimination by being prevented and deterred from returning there."

The complaint says that until those improvements are made the Gliderport should be shut down. In addition, the two men are asking they be awarded general, compensatory, and statutory damages."

Share / Tools

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google+
  • AddThis
  • Email

Sponsor Partners

More from SDReader


I'm confined to a wheelchair and get shut out of a lot of public places, it is very frustrating. For example went to Old Town during Halloween. I was not able to enter several of the houses and museums because they were doing construction. Ambulatory visitors had no problem, so the only people left out were wheelchair users. You do feel discriminated against and angry. (Why am I the only one left out.) I went with my daughter and grand kids, the kids kept asking why I couldn't go in.

Oh, stop it. THEY WERE UNDER CONSTRUCTION! You obviously knew that. It's unfortunate that you're in a wheelchair, but that does not mean the world is ganging up against you. Life isn't fair, and there is no way to make it so.

Some people won't be happy until everything is torn down and replaced with single-story buildings with extra-wide hallways and no stairs and every edge padded and no discriminatory colors or sounds (such things aren't inclusive for the sight- or hearing-impaired). IT'S A FREAKING CLIFF!!! Of course it's going to be tough for you if you're in a wheelchair! Same is true with every single staircase in existence. How about all the hiking trails? Let's close them all down because someone in a wheelchair can't make it?

There are some things in life that just plain aren't fair. We cannot guarantee that everybody can do everything equally.

Why is it that the minority seems to rule the majority? Somethings are just not for everyone..get a life.

Many of the comments of Cherie Jacobs Aspenleiter about coastal La Jolla are incorrect or false.

Especially misleading is her description of the "sand bottom pool" that was "engineered and designed for the disabled and small toddlers." She is referring to the Pacific Ocean floor at the so-called "Children's Pool" where, many many years ago, wealthy Ellen Browning Scripps paid for the construction of a huge curving sea wall to interrupt surging surf and protect novice swimmers. Today there is a sandy shelf and precipitous drop-off at the "Children's Pool" but the e.coli bacteria in the water and on the sand are accurate.

What once was thought of as generous philanthropy has turned into a classic example of human hubris and the unforeseen consequences of well-meaning but ignorant interference with Nature. For more than 20 years now, harbor seals have been hauling out there to give birth, fouling the water for swimmers and divers and causing heartburn in the community that wants its clean beach access restored. That It is an incredibly divisive issue is also correct.

It is an urban legend that Sea World surreptitiously planted seals in the area. There had always been seals on offshore rocks, but mysteriously they began to haul out onto the warm protected beach in 1989. Today the seals themselves have federal and state marine mammal protection and the beach is entirely closed to humans during pupping season from December to May.

The colonization of shoreline rocks farther north at La Jolla Cove by large, loud and stinky sea lions is another matter entirely -- probably the inadvertent result of the City's fencing off those cliffs from human access which once was permitted. An omnipresent stench from this now-protected area comes from cormorant and pelican rookeries as well as lounging sea lions. The smell is nauseating, near-constant and extends from the Cove deep into the central business area of La Jolla Village. Big trouble for ocean-view restaurants and cafes with patios.

La Jolla City Council representative Sherri Lightner seems incapable of remedying these problems, especially the Stench -- which is profoundly negatively affecting business sector constituents and La Jolla 's coast as a major tourism site. It seems only former Mayor Bob Filner was able to deal directly, timely and effectively with this noxious phenomenon: he went out and found a company that "cleaned" the rocks with a non-toxic substance that actually worked. But then Filner resigned in disgrace and that was the end of the brief respite.

Probably the City should remove both the sea wall at the "Children's Pool" and the fence along the Cove rocks to end the marine mammal colonization of the La Jolla beach and cliffs. But that would mean politicians with their paper-pushing personal staffs taking responsibility and authority to get something real and substantive done. Another reason to hold my breath -- or not.

Log in to comment

Skip Ad