Thursday, April 24, 2008

San Diego UT: Down with Gliders, Up with ESC

"Lamentable in the extreme" – that's how the San Diego Union-Tribune characterizes the opposition of glider airplane fans to the $115 million stem cell research facility proposed in La Jolla.

The lab is being planned by the San Diego Consortium for Regenerative Medicine, which wants $50 million from the California stem cell agency to help build it.

An editorial in the San Diego paper this week cited the "enormous potential" for development of therapies at the laboratory and said,
"It would be a tragedy of enormous proportions if glider advocates succeeded in snuffing out this promising initiative."
It should be noted that embryonic stem cell research is a hot issue in the San Diego area, which has a strong, conservative element. The newspaper's editorial on behalf of the consortium did not contain the word "embryonic," which we assume is deliberate, although the newspaper has supported embryonic stem cell research in the past.

The editorial also contained more details on the opposition. It said:
"The Associated Glider Clubs of Southern California and the Torrey Pines Soaring Council are attempting to kill the project because it would be built on North Torrey Pines Road near the Torrey Pines Gliderport(see photos from the Associated Glider Clubs). The unpaved airstrip, on land owned by UCSD, is used intermittently by glider pilots, while a larger number of hang-gliders use the nearby cliffs to launch into flight over the Pacific.

"The new research lab, about 60 feet tall, would have no impact on the hang-gliders. But there is fierce disagreement over whether it would interfere with conventional glider operations, which are relatively few and scattered throughout the year.

"Opponents claim the new building would force closure of the gliderport, an assertion they also made unsuccessfully in their bid to prevent UCSD from building a 14-story dormitory on a nearby parcel. Supporters of the lab point out, however, that it would be no taller than the surrounding eucalyptus trees, which glider pilots have been negotiating for years. An environmental impact report compiled for UCSD concludes the lab would not prompt the end of glider operations, but that it could require pilots to alter their flight patterns. In the end, both the California Coasstal Commission and Caltrans' aeronautic division must issue permits for the lab's construction."
The newspaper also printed two letters concerning the project , including one from Rolf Schulze, president of the Associated Glider Clubs of Southern California. He commented on the meeting Monday night on the environmental impact report for the laboratory, which the newspaper did not cover. Schulze said:
"Some speakers in opposition to the location of the stem cell facility not only mentioned their vote for the stem cell initiative in 2004 but also their personal interest in the anticipated benefits of such research due to their own, or a relative's illness, which could perhaps be cured.

"UCSD owns many other nearby sections of land that would be even more suitable for the stem cell facility, while not resulting in the destruction of a world-renowned and historic aviation facility used by Charles Lindbergh and many other aviation pioneers."
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