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."