Group files lawsuit to stop La Jolla fireworks show


An environmental attorney has carried through on his threat to try and stop the Fourth of July fireworks at La Jolla Cove by filing a lawsuit in San Diego Superior Court on Friday.

The suit was filed by The Coastal Environmental Rights Foundation (CERF) — an environmental group dedicated to the protection of coastal natural resources — against the city of San Diego, the La Jolla Community Fireworks Foundation and Promote La Jolla.

The lawsuit alleges:

  • The event will harm sensitive coastal resources in La Jolla including the coastal beaches and offshore waters; the San Diego-La Jolla Underwater Park, the San Diego-La Jolla Ecological Preserve, the San Diego-La Jolla area of Special Biological Significance; and the seal rookery at Children’s Pool.
  • The city had an obligation to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) prior to event approval, but did not do so.
  • The promoters of the event had an obligation to obtain, but did not even apply for, a Coastal Development Permit.
  • The significant environmental impacts to sensitive resources, and significant impacts from event traffic, have not been considered in an Environmental Impact Report.
  • The city has a pattern and practice of failing to comply with CEQA and other environmental laws when approving fireworks shows over water.

Sara Honadle, CERF programs director noted, “We would have preferred not to have to sue the city over this issue, but it totally refuses to follow the law. It’s unbelievable that just this morning we found out the organizers weren’t even going to be required to get the mandatory Special Events Permit.”
Speaking on behalf of the La Jolla Community Fireworks Foundation, the nonprofit group created last year to raise funds to support the annual Fourth of July event, Deborah Marengo, who along with Adam Harris co-founded the nonprofit group, said she was unable to address, point-by-point, the criticisms raised by attorney Marco Gonzalez, legal director of CERF, in his lawsuit.

“That will be done be legal experts in court,” she said, adding she was “shocked” Gonzalez would file a lawsuit challenging a 25-year-old community tradition.

“I’m also shocked (Gonzalez) believes that La Jollans would harm the ocean,” she said. “Our quality of life here is very important to us and the ocean is a very big part of our quality of life.”

Marengo also questioned why La Jolla, specifically, has been singled out in the lawsuit, particularly when the community has such strong ties to renowned scientific research organizations like Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

“Scripps is right here in La Jolla and they look at our fireworks display every year and if they felt we were harming the ocean in any way, they would have sounded some kind of alarm,” she said. “Gonzalez said we did not do everything correctly in following the guidelines to get the permits. But we have done everything the exact same way for 26 years.”

Marengo said she felt Gonzalez might have had reasons, other than environmental concern, for filing his lawsuit.

“I e-mailed him and offered to sit down with him and find out what his concerns were,” she said. “And the e-mail I got back from him said he would only sit down if we were planning on canceling the show. His intentions here are obviously some sort of self-promotion for his organization.”

Gonzalez said he was seeking a court date next week, “as late in the week as possible,” so he could have “enough time to brief the restraining order we’re going to be seeking.”

“If the court issues a restraining order, and they do not cancel the event, we will show up with the police to stop the event,” Gonzalez said. “I’m expecting the courts to rule one way or the other. Whoever wins is going to win. Whoever loses, I would expect, is going to follow the judge.”