Council acts on parks permit rules affecting events like La Jolla fireworks


City News Service

The San Diego City Council Monday gave final approval to revamped municipal code sections on issuing permits to organizers of fireworks shows and other major events.

In a separate vote, the council upheld a decision that the city does not have to follow state environmental guidelines by implementing the code amendments.

Both actions came on 5-3 margins, with council members David Alvarez, Marti Emerald and Todd Gloria dissenting.

The amendments, which take effect in 30 days, will bring the municipal code into the actual practice followed by Parks and Recreation Department workers, who routinely give out permits if the requested location has enough available space.

The action stems from a judge’s ruling that nearly put some Independence Day pyrotechnics displays out of business. Superior Court Judge Linda Quinn sided with environmental lawyer Marco Gonzalez, who contended that the city’s practice of giving out permits to organizers of the shows conflicted with current code language, which calls for individual scrutiny of park use permits -

  • including costly environmental reviews.

The City Attorney’s Office opined that the code amendments would make Gonzalez’s lawsuit, which the city is appealing, moot.
Gonzalez disagreed when he spoke to the council. This will not withstand judicial scrutiny,’’ he said.

The lawyer believes debris from airborne explosions over coastal waters harms marine life. The fireworks show discussed the most in the case was the one at La Jolla Cove, which is adjacent to a marine sanctuary.

The judge did not base her ruling on environmental factors, but on city officials not following the municipal code.To give the officials a chance to figure out how to implement her order, she stayed her ruling, allowing this year’s shows to go on.Organizers of the displays said they would go out of business without ministerial permits because they could not afford annual environmental reviews. The city estimates such studies, required for park use permit applicants deemed to be non-ministerial, would cost about $15,000.The amendments also codify a summertime moratorium on events at Balboa Park, Mission Bay Park and parks along the shoreline other than named annual events, including:-- the Pride Festival;-- Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon;-- AFC Half-Marathon;-- Over-the-Line; and-- Ocean Beach Street festival, and several smaller events.People who want to organize a large event that requires a special permit in those areas can still apply for an exemption, according to city officials.