Several paragliders in action at Torrey Pines Gliderport. /PHOTO BY THOMAS MELVILLE
Want to operate a gliderport?
Here's your chance.
The city has a request for proposals out for an operator for the oceanfront 6.74-acre Torrey Pines Gliderport on the bluffs at 2800 Torrey Pines Scenic Drive.
The RFP was issued Feb. 22 and applicants have until April 10 to apply.
The gliderport property is a San Diego designated historical resource and is on the National Register of Historic Places, the State Register of Historic Sites, and is a dedicated National Soaring Landmark. It is contiguous to the Torrey Pines State Reserve, Torrey Pines Municipal Golf Course, UCSD campus and the Salk Institute.
The gliderport site is wholly within largely undeveloped Torrey Pines City Park, which had a master plan approved for its future development in 2012. Established in 1899, the 57-acre Torrey Pines City Park is renowned for its contributions to the development of wind-powered flight.
In the city's RFP, use of the site is: limited to the operation and maintenance of a gliderport; can be used only by non-powered aircraft and radio-controlled models (take-off and over-flight); allows sale of hang gliding, paragliding, and sailplane parts and accessories and sale of related merchandise; as well as operation of a small food retail site (café).
Applicants should have a minimum three years’ experience in the past five years conducting similar operations, and lease terms of only 10-plus years will be considered. There is also a stipulation that applicants “shall not provide to its customers any prepared, takeout, or supplied/resale food in polystyrene foam packaging, nor will any such customer food packaging be allowed at or on the property.”
Annual rent is $3,412. But there currently is no on-site power supply, water, or sewer, the cost of which would have to be picked up by the tenant.
Torrey Pines City Park Advisory Board, which included stakeholder groups appointed by the mayor including non-motorized aviators, environmentalists, UCSD and surrounding community advisory boards, drafted the conceptual master plan for the city park that was adopted by the City Council.
That master plan calls for redeveloping the city park, but not “overdoing” it by bringing in water, electricity or other infrastructure. Instead, the advisory board recommended conserving the 44-acre park’s coastal bluffs and native habitat, while protecting site access for all users, especially gliderport pilots requiring flight clearance.
The conceptual master plan envisions adding an additional 18 acres of plantings, including some Torrey pines, to 18 existing acres of native vegetation, while retaining all of the 565 parking spaces on the park’s unpaved bluff top.
Project improvements to implement the new park master plan were estimated to cost $12 million to $15 million five years ago when it was adopted.
Two members of the Torrey Pines City Park Advisory Board which worked on crafting the master plan, architect Michael Stepner and consultant Laura Burnett, commented on it.
“The Torrey Pines City Park General Development Plan was prepared to meet strenuous environmental requirements and a vision as bold and unique as the park,” said Burnett. “It included recommendations for phased implementation, and remains a tremendous opportunity for San Diego’s leaders and entrepreneurs to both protect the resources and enhance a world-class park. It needs to be operated and managed like the unique priceless treasure that it is.”
“It was part of an extensive process to really look at Torrey Pines Gliderport, its historical importance, and its importance as a regional park,” said Stepner. “The plan was adopted with lots of input from different interest groups and stakeholders.”
Meanwhile, Robin Marien, the gliderport's current operator for the past eight-plus years, said he's been running the facility on a month-to-month lease for nearly that long.
“I've been patiently waiting for eight years,” said Marien, of his negotiations for a long-term lease on the city-owned property.
Of his job as leaseholder of the gliderport property, Marien said, “I'm here practically seven days a week.”
Marien added it's a big responsibility.
“You've got to keep an eye on all the flyers and make sure they're following all the rules — we've got no road pilots,” he said, adding, “I'm the one with my head in a noose for what happens out here.”
Of the non-motorized aviation business, Marien noted, “It's one of the busiest places of its kind in the world. It's a unique job for sure. It has its moments.”
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