La Jolla July 4 fireworks display set to proceed despite lawsuit

Fireworks explode over La Jolla Cove during a past Independence Day celebration.

Despite a lawsuit trying to stop it, organizers of La Jolla’s planned Fourth of July fireworks said the event is going to happen.

“We are still proceeding with the fireworks display, which is scheduled for July 4 at 9 p.m.,” said Deborah Marengo, director of the La Jolla Community Fireworks Foundation.

When asked if the necessary permits had been approved and acquired, she said: “Everything has been approved. We are just finalizing some things right now. We pretty much have everything in order.”

However, she said the Community Fireworks Foundation — which works with the La Jolla Town Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, as a fiscal partner for tax-deductible contributions — is still fundraising.

“The goal is to have all the funds in hand before July 4. We have some commitments but would like more,” she said.

Marengo said she had been served with the lawsuit trying to stop the fireworks display.

“It’s the same suit we were served a few years ago, which had no merit,” she said. “We will be dealing with it as we did last time.”

A lawsuit seeks to stop La Jolla’s planned Fourth of July fireworks display, citing harm that could come to local marine life.

The suit, filed in San Diego County Superior Court by San Diego environmental attorney Bryan Pease on behalf of the Animal Protection and Rescue League, “seeks to enjoin defendants Deborah Marengo, La Jolla Community Fireworks Foundation, La [Jolla] Fireworks Foundation Inc. and La Jolla Town Foundation from blasting off fireworks over La Jolla Cove at Point La Jolla, a sea lion rookery, which is an area where marine mammals give birth on land.”

Sea lion pupping season is recognized from June 1 to Oct. 31, and some have expressed concern about sea lion mothers being frightened into the water and abandoning their pups, which might have challenges swimming.

Sierra Club groups called for an emergency declaration, citing people’s harassment of the animals.

Similar suits were filed from 2010 to 2014 on behalf of the Coastal Environmental Rights Foundation to try to prevent the fireworks or limit their scope due to concerns about their impact on the environment. None prevented the fireworks shows.

In the event the most recent suit doesn’t head off the fireworks, Pease said the Animal Protection and Rescue League would seek a temporary restraining order.

“Lawsuits typically take a long time; it could take a few years in the suit for a permanent injunction to keep these from going in the future,” he said. “To get immediate injunction relief before this year’s show, we could ask for a restraining order in short order. … If it does go through this year, a lot of evidence will be gathered in terms of environmental impacts and sea lion impacts.”

Pease said he is offering his services at no charge but that APRL is accepting donations to help cover other legal costs.

Sierra Club San Diego chapter director Richard Miller said he also has “grave concerns” about this year’s fireworks show.

He said sea lion pups have difficulty swimming in the first few months of their lives, and “if the sea lions are flushed from The Cove, they will most likely drown and we will have wiped a generation of sea lions from that area.”

“We’re not against fireworks,” he said. “We support the idea of celebrating the Fourth of July. It just needs to be moved.”

Should the display go on, Sierra Club volunteer docents will count the sea lions and their pups July 3-5 to collect data, he said.

The annual fireworks show was launched in 1985 by restaurateur George Hauer, owner of George’s at the Cove, who financed it himself for more than 20 years. The Community Fireworks Foundation took over in 2010.

The display was canceled in 2018 and ’19 due to lack of funding and in 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions. ◆