La Jolla fireworks organizers awaiting Wednesday hearing on legal challenge


Organizers of La Jolla’s July 4th fireworks show said Monday it was uncertain what — if any — of the other planned festivities would take place if an environmental group succeeds in blocking the pyrotechnic show in its 26th year.

Deborah Marengo, who is working with Adam Harris of the La Jolla Community Fireworks Foundation, said Monday they were busy working with pro bono attorneys, pushing to meet deadlines for a court hearing scheduled for Wednesday to determine whether a restraining order is to be granted to stop annual show at La Jolla Cove.

The hearing is before Judge Linda B. Quinn in Department C-74 in Superior Court at 8:30 a.m. on the lawsuit filed on June 25 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, that the city was obliged to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) prior to event approval and didn’t, that event promoters had an obligation to obtain, but did not even apply for, a Coastal Development Permit, that significant environmental impacts to sensitive resources and significant impacts from event traffic have not been considered in an Environmental Impact Report and also that the city has a pattern and practice of failing to comply with CEQA and other environmental laws when approving fireworks shows over water.

Before the suit was filed, organizers of the annual La Jolla event said they were ready to go — despite the possibility of the show not going on.

“We’re moving ahead,” replied La Jolla restaurateur George Hauer, who spearheaded the event for 24 years before backing out last year because of rising expenses and flagging public support.

“I have a permit to put on the event: The show will go on,” said Adam Harris last week prior to the announcement of the lawsuit. Harris, along with Deborah Marengo, teamed to create a 501(c)3 nonprofit, La Jolla Community Fireworks Foundation, to save the fireworks event last year after Hauer withdrew.

Refusing to reveal exactly how much has been raised to stage this year’s fireworks, Harris said, “We’ll have the money to pay for the full product.”

He said then the Third Marine Aircraft Wing Band was scheduled to perform again, that an Air Force team patrol sky dive was arranged and that state-of-the-art amplifiers would be used so “everyone in the park can hear.”

But on Monday, they were still weighing their options.

Meanwhile, law enforcement is beefing up staff and resources to ensure this Fourth of July in the Jewel will be as safe as it will be fun.

“We’re going to provide a strong police presence which we’ve done for the last four years with a command station at Kellogg Park in La Jolla Shores to deal with crowds anticipated at the beach,” said San Diego Police Lt. Jim Filley, adding officers will assume a non-aggressive posture with guests.

Most of what they’ll do, he added, will not be crime-related. “The biggest problems we deal with in the La Jolla area are people not being vigilant about trash and fire rings,” he said, noting people leave behind illegal glass containers and don’t properly dispose of hot coals from fire rings which become hazards causing accidental injuries to others, especially children.