La Jolla Fireworks to proceed as judge puts his ruling on hold

Judge william Dato issued a stay on his June 14 ruling, which invalidated amendments to the city code that make environmental reviews of fireworks under the California environmental Quality act (CeQa) unnecessary. his stay effectively clears the way for La Jolla’s annual fireworks show to proceed. Pat Sherman PhotoS
Judge william Dato issued a stay on his June 14 ruling, which invalidated amendments to the city code that make environmental reviews of fireworks under the California environmental Quality act (CeQa) unnecessary. his stay effectively clears the way for La Jolla’s annual fireworks show to proceed. Pat Sherman PhotoS
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Judge William Dato issued a stay on his June 14 ruling, which invalidated amendments to the city code that make environmental reviews of fireworks under the California environmental Quality act (CeQa) unnecessary. His stay effectively clears the way for La Jolla’s annual fireworks show to proceed. Pat Sherman Photos

By Pat Sherman

It appears that La Jolla’s Fourth of July fireworks will proceed as planned, despite an- other legal challenge from environmental attorney Marco Gonzalez, who says the city’s practice of routinely granting permits to the organizers of pyrotechnics shows con- flicts with its municipal code, which calls for scrutiny of park use permits — including costly environmental reviews.

In a statement released June 18, San Diego Superior Court Judge William Dato affirmed his June 14 tentative ruling against the city on two related counts. His ruling invalidated last year’s city code amendments designed to avoid assessments of fireworks under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), and said San Diego also erred by not conducting an environmental review of those amendments.

A statement released by the city attorney’s office in response to the ruling said “applying CEQA in this manner is unprecedented.”

“The judge’s decision precluded the city from adopting an ordinance that sets out a permit process no different than many other cities and consistent with the city’s histori- cal practice,” the statement read.

Dato issued a stay on his ruling through Sept. 7 that basically clears the way for La Jolla’s event and carries San Diego through the summer fireworks season.

Robert Howard, a lawyer for the La Jolla Community Fireworks Foundation, is urging the city to appeal Judge Dato’s rulings, saying they could significantly delay the city’s ability to issue permits for everything from street fairs to non-profit fundraisers. Conducting an environmental impact report on fireworks shows could take 12 to 18 months, the city estimates.

Despite environmentalists’ plans to issue a temporary restraining order on this year’s event, Howard said he is confident they will not have enough time to do so.

“The threat that there’s going to be a tem- porary restraining order is overstated,” Howard said. “It was tried two years ago, and that was before the state granted us a permit to put on the show at Ellen Scripps Park.

“The state has approved the specific location at which we operate ... (and) has since weighed in and said there’s no evidence of environmental harm from fireworks. So, it can be undertaken exactly where it’s been undertaken for the last two decades.”

Speaking with the

La Jolla Light

last week, Gonzalez said he has a message to send the city, which he planned to unveil this week during council testimony.

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Speaking with the media June 14 Robert Howard, a lawyer for the La Jolla Community Fireworks Foundation, said he feels environmentalists will not have enough time to get a temporary restraining order or initiate other legal challenges that would prevent La Jolla’s annual fireworks display from proceeding.

“We’re not 110-percent sure whether we’re applying for a temporary restraining order or taking some other action,” he said. “The city lost three lawsuits and the events have taken place illegally twice before, so we’re factoring that into all the other variables when we decide what we’re going to do.”

Gonzalez, of Encinitas-based Coast Law Group, said he and his nonprofit group, CERF, are seeking three things in La Jolla.

“One, we want an environmental review — that’s what the law requires,” he said. “Two, we actually want the show moved. There are a lot of places in La Jolla where you could do a fireworks show where it wouldn’t be on a bluff next to a sensitive habitat — go to La Jolla Country Day School, go to La Jolla High School, get it off of the water.”

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