Judge’s stay paves way for La Jolla Fourth of July fireworks show

New permitting cost and lack of fundraising could mean no Fourth of July fireworks in La Jolla this year.

The fate of July 4th fireworks at La Jolla Cove remains up in the air, pending court action. Light file photo

By JAMES R. RIFFEL
City News Service

La Jolla’s Fourth of July show is a go.

That is, if residents can pledge the remainder of the estimated $28,000 needed to stage it in time.

Superior Court Judge Linda Quinn, who recently ordered the city of San Diego to follow state environmental laws when issuing permits for fireworks shows and other special events, today stayed enforcement of her ruling until Aug. 31.

Quinn’s stay means the Independence Day show will go on as scheduled this year.

“The show must go on, thank you Judge Quinn for giving us a 90-day stay,” said an elated Deborah Marengo, spokeswoman for La Jolla Community Fireworks Foundation, the nonprofit sponsoring the annual Independence Day event.

Marengo, who has $21,000 in hand in donations, noted many prospective donors have been holding off waiting for Judge Quinn’s decision.

“We need to do more work to make sure Fourth of July happens, donations are even more important now,” she added.

Robert Howard, an attorney representing the La Jolla Community Fireworks Foundation, said he was “relieved, thrilled and appreciative” of the court’s ruling noting “it gives the city time to address the judge’s concerns and us (Foundation) time to assess the complications of the new reality (increased environmental fireworks regulations).”

The decision by Judge Quinn stems from a lawsuit filed by environmental lawyer Marco Gonzalez against the city and the organizers of the July 4 fireworks display at La Jolla Cove.

Environmentalists contend debris from the airborne explosions harms sea life at a nearby marine sanctuary.

Gonzalez said he found the stay to be “troubling” because the judge indicated early in a Thursday court hearing that she opposed the idea of holding off enforcement of the ruling, and did not give any reason for her change of heart in the written ruling she issued today.

“While we’re of course not happy with the court’s ruling, we understand the immense pressure the city and fireworks organizers have created by delaying these proceedings so long and by dragging in all of the other events that could be possibly impacted by the ruling,” Gonzalez said.

“But in the end, what’s most important is that regardless of whether the La Jolla fireworks happen this year, there will be significant changes in
the way the city handles these events going forward, and that has been our goal all along,” he said.

Organizers of the pyrotechnics displays say that since their costs are nearly too high already, they would not be able to afford the added expense of
filing environmental reports.

Attorneys for the city argued that Parks and Recreation Department employees issue thousands of permits annually, and cannot take on the additional burden of processing the reports.

Quinn’s original decision on May 27 was based on the city’s municipal code, not the environmental issues. In her written ruling issuing the stay, she
also ordered the city to return to court on Aug. 31 to update her on options it had to comply.

Mayor Jerry Sanders called the stay “great news for the thousands of San Diegans who plan to mark this Independence Day with a beautiful La Jolla fireworks show.”

“The idea that a once-a-year fireworks display poses a threat to the environment defies both basic common sense and scientific evidence,” he said.
Earlier this week, the mayor went on national television to defend fireworks displays and vowed to appeal the ruling.

Light staff writer Dave Schwab contributed to this story.

Related posts:

  1. La Jolla’s July 4th fireworks fundraising effort extended as city prepares appeal
  2. Judge says environmental rules must govern fireworks shows like La Jolla’s
  3. Donor steps up to cover La Jolla fireworks fee, but $20,000 still needed
  4. Fireworks groups to seek delay, compromise on new rules
  5. Fourth fireworks could be delayed again in 2011

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Posted by Staff on Jun 2, 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

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