By Dave Schwab
The ongoing battle over regulation of coastal fireworks could take a new turn as an item on San Diego City Council’s Monday, April 25 agenda seeks to amend the city’s Municipal Code to exempt fireworks displays on city-owned property from being required to obtain special event permits.
The budget item being introduced by the City Attorney’s office would amend the city’s Municipal Code to “clarify that a fireworks display attended by persons gathering on city-owned property to watch those fireworks is exempt from the requirement to obtain a Special Event Permit, unless the fireworks display also involves the sale of food or alcohol at certain non-exempt locations.”
Environmental attorney Marco Gonzalez of the Coastal Environmental Rights Foundation (CERF), which has a lawsuit pending challenging the city’s failure to conduct environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) at the annual La Jolla Cove Fourth of July fireworks display, has sent a letter to the city protesting the proposed policy change.
“CERF has sought to engage in constructive dialogue with the city to work out a resolution to the lawsuit for many months," Gonzalez' letter states. “The city’s response has been hardball litigation tactics … CERF believes the city needs to address the potential environmental impacts from larger special events. … We’re concerned with the dozens of times each year where more than 10,000 people congregate on public property, utilize public services and potentially (or actually) impact the environment with no required mitigation, alternative analysis or public process by organizers who are profiting from the events. … We cannot, however, stand idly by and watch the city respond to its losing battle over the La Jolla Cove Fireworks Show with an even more egregious and illegal act.”
Deborah Marengo, spokeswoman for La Jolla Community Fireworks Foundation, a nonprofit corporation seeking 501(c)3 tax-exempt status that puts on the community’s Fourth of July display, said the council item is good news.
“We are hoping the City Council will vote for this amendment,” she said. “We’re hoping changes will take place that make it easier for all of the nonprofits to put on these types of patriotic displays.”
Thus far, fundraising for 2011 La Jolla fireworks is going slowly.
“Right now we’re only at $3,500 and we need a minimum of $25,000 or $26,000,” Marengo said.
Marengo has set a June 1 deadline for raising the money needed for this year’s Cove fireworks display.
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Monday’s City Council meeting starting at 2 p.m. is in the Council Chambers on the 12
floor of the City Administration Building, 202 C St.