La Jolla's July 4th fireworks fundraising effort extended as city prepares appeal

By Dave Schwab

Staff Writer

On Tuesday a spokesman in Mayor Jerry Sanders office said an appeal was imminent of last week’s decision by Superior Court Judge Linda Quinn that the city is bound by California environmental quality laws when issuing permits for fireworks shows.

Meanwhile, Deborah Marengo, a board member of the La Jolla Community Fireworks Foundation formed in 2009 to coordinate the event, said the group has raised $19,600 as of Tuesday morning so she said she would “extend the deadline another week (June 8).”

Marengo has estimated $28,000 in donations is needed for the show to go on this year.

The annual La Jolla Cove event is the subject of an ongoing lawsuit filed by environmentalists, who claim the discharge from the show affects water quality in the protected marine reserve adjacent to the Cove.

The San Diego City Council recently approved municipal code changes that exempt private sponsors of fireworks shows on city-owned property from having to apply for special permits. The changes affect privately run shows where food and alcohol are not served.

In doing so, council members denied an appeal of its tentative decision last month by environmental attorney Marco Gonzalez, who’s sued the city and organizers of La Jolla’s July 4th event on behalf of the Coastal Environmental Rights Foundation.

Gonzalez’ s suit claims debris from fireworks pollutes the water and

endangers marine life. According to Gonzalez, Quinn’s ruling means an environmental impact report will need to be compiled before the show can go on about six weeks from now.

However, Gonzalez said he expects the city to appeal the decision or seek an exemption for the La Jolla Cove event, which would get show organizers off the hook for this year.

“I don't trust them to do the right thing,'' Gonzalez said of city


Meanwhile, San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders has gone on the offensive rallying support for Fourth of July fireworks displays, issuing press releases and taking to the airwaves to plead his case.

“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,” said Alex Roth, spokesman for the mayor in a prepared statement. “What’s next, a lawsuit against swimmers for polluting the ocean with their suntan lotion?”

Terry Underwood, general manager of Grand Colonial La Jolla Hotel, said no fireworks at the Cove this year “would not be a devastating blow,” while adding, “But it certainly is part of the typical holiday weekend festivities, something customers ask about.”

Megan Heine, who, along with husband David owns Brockton Villa restaurant overlooking the Cove said “it would be a shame” for locals and visitors alike if there were not a display adding, “people will find fireworks somewhere else.”

Heine said Fourth of July is good all day long for their business adding both breakfast and dinner would be adversely impact. “But over the long weekend, I think people will still flock to the Cove and La Jolla,” she said.

“I will do everything in my power to make sure that La Jolla celebrates the Fourth of July as it always does — with fireworks,” said First District Councilwoman Sherri Lightner in a prepared statement. “This ruling is both ridiculous and unnecessary. We already have a common sense approach in place – one that strikes a balance between protecting our environment and allowing the tradition of fireworks on the Fourth of July to continue.”

Lightner said the city’s recent ordinance change along with the Regional Water Quality Board’s new regulations are more than sufficient to ensure limited impact on the environment.

“This is not just about La Jolla,” she said. “This could affect firework shows throughout San Diego from Ocean Beach to Pacific Beach to Lake Murray.”

Concerning Fourth of July fundraising, Marengo noted, “If everyone in La Jolla gave $10, it would really push us over.”

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