Housing Threatens Historic Landmark

    LOCAL NEWS — Though Chancellor Marye Anne Fox should be recognized for taking one step forward to achieve her transfer-housing goal, the new 14-story residential building poised to sit beside Cafe Ventanas has already become a point of community contention — and ground for the project was only just broken.

    The problem stems from UCSD’s negligence in analyzing possible detrimental impacts the project would cause for the university’s neighbors. Planners, led by Director of Community Planning Milton Phegley, completed a brief mitigated negative declaration — a shorter report that states there is no environmental impact — rather than investigating the potential influence on the surrounding area through a more extensive environmental impact report.

    But this hasty administrative decision is one that wrongs not only students, but La Jolla community members as well.

    Aside from the on-campus parking woes the project has already caused, the new building threatens to shut down the historic Torey Pines Gliderport by obstructing its main landing path.

    The summary campus planners submitted to the UC Board of Regents and the California Coastal Commission for approval reported that the new building would have no impact on the gliderport’s existing flight paths. This, however, is an obvious fallacy.

    Instead, the building would stand smack in the middle of the most convenient and often-used path, leaving the gliderport nearly useless. UCSD’s complete disregard for this culturally and historically rich site reveals a startling disconnect that seems almost irrational.

    While gliderport patrons — both pilots and historians — have written to the chancellor and regents asking that the project be seriously reconsidered, or even moved just a few hundred feet out of the flight path, university officials have ignored these pleas.

    Instead, Phegley has continued denying reality, claiming over and over that the path would remain unaffected. Meanwhile, aviators familiar with the path and third-party officials such as State Historic Preservation Officer M. Wayne Donaldson have said otherwise, repeating that the mitigated negative declaration was hurried and flawed.

    As it appears now, an 80-year-old historical site — the only place in the country where gliders can take off from coastal cliffs — will be crushed by what’s sure to be a skyscraping eyesore.

    And for what? So that a few transfer students can take part in the dorm-life experience? Forget for a moment that most adults well out of high school aren’t exactly dying to eat overpriced cafeteria macaroni and deal with paternalistic residential security officers every night, and pretend that UCSD is just looking out for the well-being of students. If this is the case, why can’t university officials compromise? Moving the project over just a few hundred feet wouldn’t stop transfer students from participating in on-campus events, and the gliderport could remain a vibrant and thriving part of La Jolla.

    It almost seems like Fox and Phegley’s stubborn and illogical separation from reality could be motivated by something more than pure ignorance.

    Considering this, it is interesting to imagine what would happen in three years, after the project is completed and the gliderport — with its most popular flight path blocked — becomes a virtually unused plot of land.

    Meanwhile, UCSD will have finished as much construction as is possible within its allotted land; although there are still parking lots to be built upon, east campus is already more or less filled.

    So there administrators will sit, having built the campus to its brim with still so much more planned, looking down the road at a successfully crushed gliderport. The plot of land — conveniently empty and conveniently adjacent to campus — may begin to look pretty appealing. And with a strong eminent-domain argument, why wouldn’t city officials be swayed to hand the seemingly worthless land over to university planners?

    Curious, very curious.

    But that’s all speculation of course — rewind to the present, and all you’ve got is a cluster of careless administrators, a bunch of pissed-off pilots and an ominous pile of dirt.

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