Edit ModuleShow Tags

Front Pages


Published:

(page 1 of 4)

a hot-air balloonUp, Up and Away


Urban sprawl deflates North County’s once-soaring hot-air balloon business

Most days around sunset, the skies of North County are freckled with colorful hot-air balloons, floating up, up and away and affording passengers breathtaking views of the Del Mar coastline, Torrey Pines and Solana Beach. But with more and more residential construction filling in the vast expanses of open space that once buffered Carmel Valley and Rancho Santa Fe, hot-air ballooning, at least in San Diego County, is an endangered species.

When the ballooning craze lifted off in the late 1970s, says Conni von Zweck, there were easily a dozen companies offering hot-air balloon rides. Skysurfer Balloon, which she opened with her late husband in 1978, was one of the first.

But today, she says, shaking her head sadly, there are just four companies left. What’s more, several other balloon-ride operators in the Temecula area who used to cruise into San Diego’s North County coastal region now stick to their own turf, simply because there are so few places left to launch or land.

California Dreamin’ used to be based in Escondido but relocated to Temecula last January. The company still offers sunset flights over Del Mar, but, according to co-owner Gail Bradley, their frequency “is decreasing. It’s getting more challenging to fly out there.”

The construction of State Route 56 is eating away valuable open space. And several housing projects still in the early phases of construction have put von Zweck and other balloonists on notice they are not welcome.

Among them is Santaluz, a 3,800-acre planned community, complete with 250-acre championship golf course, in the San Dieguito River Valley. It’s a low-density development, with one housing unit for every 4 acres. The developer has sent balloon-ride companies a letter asking them to please stay away.

Von Zweck is incensed. On several occasions, she says, wind currents carried balloons to Santaluz, where they were met by stern-faced security guards, even uniformed San Diego police officers, warning them that if they land again, they face arrest.

“Now, if wind currents go in that direction, we cancel our flights,” von Zweck says. “There’s nothing there but ugly, flat dirt. This is just ridiculous.”

Not so, counters Bill Stewart, the Santaluz development’s “town manager.”

“If they find a place to land, it’s generally a street, or a golf course, or a park,” he says. “And it’s not just a matter of them simply landing their balloons. They have chase vehicles, one with a trailer for the balloon and another for the passengers, and those vehicles have broken into our community any way they can.”

Stewart says he’s concerned about liability issues. “We have 500 families living here,” he says. “This isn’t a development anymore; it’s a community.”

He concedes he’s called the cops on errant balloonists, but only “after about 30 surreptitious landings—and after we asked them personally and by correspondence not to land on our property.”
Edit Module
Edit Module Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Most Popular

  1. What to Drink at Hundred Proof
    Trust’s sister restaurant keeps the focus on approachable cocktails
  2. First Look: Born & Raised
    Everyone said don't do a steakhouse. So the damn kids at Consortium Holdings did with Born & Raised—to the tune of seven million bucks.
  3. 47 Outdoor Dining Spots to Try in San Diego
    From ocean views, rooftops, and garden patios to simple sidewalk people-watching, we’ve rounded up the city's best outdoor dining spots
  4. The Vegan Fast Food Revolution
    From Evolution to Plant Power, two local vegans look to revolutionize fast food
  5. Adele Stratton Leaves Noble Experiment for Jaynes Gastropub
    Her first menu features light, crisp, approachable cocktails
  6. World Eats 2017
    Join us for the inaugural celebration of San Diego's diversity in cuisine
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Promotions

Go Ahead... Ask McMillin!

At McMillin Realty, we are encouraging you to bring us your real estate questions. We will answer these questions….. for free.

Not Your Grandma's Orthotics

New year, new – shoe? Staying on your feet for long hours at a time just got a whole lot more comfortable with Wiivv’s BASE custom insoles
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module
Edit Module

Connect With Us:

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Sponsored

Enter a Drawing You Could Actually Win

There are more than 1,700 prizes in the Dream House Raffle

Buy a Raffle Ticket, Win This Rare Sports Car

Donate to a good cause to seriously upgrade your ride
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags