La Jolla fireworks organizers vow to carry on despite court ruling

The crowd watches fireworks at La Jolla Cove in 2010. Photo: Brittany Comunale

By James R. Riffel
City News Service

An attorney for the sponsors of the July 4 fireworks at La Jolla Cove vowed Friday the event will continue after a judge affirmed her previous ruling that the city is bound by state environmental laws when issuing permits for pyrotechnic displays.

“We’re not going to go away,” said Robert Howard, an attorney for the show’s organizers after the ruling by Superior Court Judge Linda Quinn. “We want the fireworks to continue —we want the tradition to continue.”

Environmentalists sued the firework shows’ organizers and the city, contending the permitting process failed to follow the guidelines of the California Environmental Quality Act. They said the fireworks are shot off next to a marine sanctuary, generating debris that harms sea life.

The ruling potentially means that all organizers of fireworks shows in San Diego will have to file environmental impact reports before receiving city permits. Because of the costs involved, that could put the shows out of business.

“That’s never been our intention,” environmental lawyer Marco Gonzalez said after the hearing. But he added that there are a few shows in environmentally sensitive areas that concern him, and La Jolla tops the list.

“I don’t think La Jolla (Cove fireworks) should happen this year — or ever,” Gonzalez said.

Howard said his group will decide whether to seek an emergency stay of the judge’s order, or file an appeal so that this year’s event can go on this July 4.

The group will file for a permit from the city, but Friday’s ruling means its issuance could be challenged, he said.

Meanwhile, following the hearing, Alex Roth, a spokesman for Mayor Jerry Sanders, issued a statement about today’s court ruling in Marco Gonzalez’s legal battle against July 4th fireworks:

“Marco Gonzalez’s bizarre crusade to stop fireworks on the 4th of July is truly shameless, especially considering he’s also seeking hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to cover his legal fees. What’s next, a lawsuit against swimmers for polluting the ocean with their suntan lotion?”

The arguments in the case did not involve environmental issues, but rather the city’s permitting process and how it conforms to the law.

Special event permits do not automatically have to follow the California Environmental Quality Act, but others do. According to Gonzalez, as affirmed by Quinn, special event permitting by the city is discretionary as defined by its own municipal code, making it subject to environmental laws.

Glenn Spitzer, a lawyer for the city, said the Parks and Recreation Department issues tens of thousands permits annually for events at 350 parks ranging from fireworks to birthday parties with bounce houses. The volume of applications requires the city to keep the process simple, he said.

The City Council on Tuesday exempted private sponsors of fireworks shows from having to apply for permits under certain conditions.

Several City Council members said Tuesday they believe environmental concerns over fireworks were addressed by recently adopted regulations by the state Regional Water Quality Control Board, which requires organizers to file for annual permits and prove they have cleaned up debris.

Before the court hearing, Gonzalez filed a lawsuit challenging the council’s action.

Related posts:

  1. Fourth of July fundraising begins; fireworks still challenged
  2. City Council eases some regulations on coastal fireworks
  3. Fireworks displays along San Diego’s coastline debated
  4. Parents, students rally for education at La Jolla elementary schools
  5. Donor steps up to cover La Jolla fireworks fee, but $20,000 still needed

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Posted by Staff on May 27, 2011. Filed under Featured Story, La Jolla, News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

2 Comments for “La Jolla fireworks organizers vow to carry on despite court ruling”

  1. Gayle Bates

    As the operator in charge of the La Jolla Cove fireworks show for the last ten years, I have to comment on Mr. Gonzalez remarks. Even the though the Fireworks are shot over the water, the debris do not fall into the water. The prevailing wind blows them right back to the shore where my crew cleans them up with rakes, brooms and an industrial vacuum cleaner. Last year a group of Sea Lions have taken over a rock, right next to the area we discharge the Fireworks. I fully expected them to jump into the water when the show started. To our surprise, they sat on the rock calmly watching the show. It was comical, as they seemed to enjoy it as their heads turned to watch each time they burst. When the show was over the Sea Lions were still there sleeping.
    The show at La Jolla Cove has gone on for several years now with no evidence of harm to the marine life or the environment. The Sea Lions and the birds that nest there are thriving like we have never seen in the past. My children and I swim in the cove. We love the animals and the clean water to swim in. If Mr. Gonzalez could provide proof that the Fireworks harm the environment, I would refuse to perform the show. If he truly cared about the environment, he would stop riding a surfboard that is manufactured with some of the most toxic chemicals known to man.

  2. Jerry Sanders' quote is perfect. What a waste of taxpayer dollars on this charade.

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