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Judge rejects effort to stop La Jolla fireworks

The Fourth of July fireworks show at La Jolla Cove will go on.

Judge Linda B. Quinn on Wednesday issued a tentative ruling denying a temporary restraining order that would have blocked the event. Filed on behalf of the Coastal Environmental Rights Foundation by attorney Marco Gonzalez, the suit contended, among other issues, the fireworks could pollute the sensitive marine life preserve.

After the ruling, Adam Harris of the nonprofit La Jolla Community Fireworks Foundation said, “I was relieved. I’m just excited for the fourth. It’s going to be an amazing event.”

Foundation organizers have been planning for an Independence Day appearance by the Third Marine Aircraft Wing Band, which played at the 2009 show, and the Four Bones Trombone Quartet. An Air Force team patrol sky dive is also expected. The concert will begin at 7 p.m. with fireworks following about 9:15 p.m.

Quinn, who entered the courtroom carrying a several-inch thick stack of documents submitted by the two sides, said there was insufficient evidence to support their claim of irreparable environmental harm. She also ruled that the fireworks display did not require a coastal development permit as claimed by the petitioners.

City officials acted properly, she added, in determining the display was a one-day temporary event, not requiring the coastal permit.

After the hearing, Gonzalez, when asked if he would appeal, said “maybe and added “it could be done in an afternoon.”

The suit was filed by 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.

Fourth of July fireworks, the suit alleged, would harm sensitive coastal resources in La Jolla. The suit also maintained the city had an obligation to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) prior to event approval but didn’t. It also charged that event promoters were remiss in applying for a coastal development permit and that significant impacts to the environment and traffic caused by the event ought to be considered in an environmental impact report.

Deborah Marengo, also on the foundation board, said, “I thought Judge Quinn was fair in dissecting the arguments of both sides. I’m glad we prevailed. We’re all happy that the show will go on.”

The law firm of Latham & Watkins represented the La Jolla Community Fireworks Foundation on a pro bono basis and attorney Robert M. Howard argued the foundation’s case.

Marengo added Councilmembers Sherri Lightner and Kevin Faulconer were both supportive of La Jolla’s fireworks display. She added Lightner, who in papers submitted to the court backed the show, contributed $5,000 to the cost of staging the event, which has been fully funded again this year thanks to large and small contributions from numerous donors.

After Quinn’s decision, Mayor Jerry Sanders’ office hailed it as the correct one.

“This was an utterly baseless lawsuit,” said spokesman Alex Roth. “The judge used her common sense to make a very sensible decision. The winners today are everybody who likes fireworks on the Fourth of July: which is a fairly large group of people.”

After Quinn issued her temporary ruling at the beginning of today’s hearing, Gonzalez gave a 20-minute slideshow presentation arguing the city had abused its discretion in seeking to circumvent CEQUA in granting permitting for the La Jolla fireworks show without proper environmental studies.

In court, Gonzalez compared approving fireworks in La Jolla without considering the attendant consequences — closing of roads, traffic congestion, a concert with amplified music, etc. — to approving a highway without considering the impact of cars traveling on it.

Following the hearing Gonzalez said he felt the judge had already made up her mind on the merits of his case adding, “We will continue the fight.”