San Diego May Change the Way the City Celebrates

San Diego’s Fourth of July festivities may be at risk after a Superior Court Judge called into question the environmental effects of such displays.  Scrupulous environmental reviews of large events including Fourth of July celebrations and birthday parties at city parks are currently being assessed.  Ruling by Superior Court Judge Linda Quinn means all such celebrations will require an evaluation under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

Judge Quinn’s ruling came after a lawsuit filed by Environmental Lawyer Marco Gonzalez put into question the safety of the La Jolla Cove firework display.  City spokesman for Mayor Jerry Sanders, Alex Roth said Gonzalez’s lawsuit is shameless and questions what other events will be brought into question under California’s environmental laws.  Several other representatives of the city second Roth’s opinion stating this decision “opens the door to absurd results.”

Marco Gonzalez stated his intent was never to stop all large celebrations.  Instead he wants to bring awareness of negative the environmental impact some of the events are causing.  He went on to state there are some shows that are located in environmentally sensitive areas that concern him.  One of the major events is the La Jolla Cove firework display.  Gonzalez said his main concern is the firework display sets close to a marine sanctuary.  Noise and debris generated by the celebration may harm nearby sea life. 

La Jolla Community Fireworks Foundation representing lawyer, Robert Howard doesn’t agree with Gonzalez.  Howard said the firework show would continue despite the ruling.  He said if the ruling is allowed to stand all other forms of entertainment will be subjected to strict environmental reviews.  Spokesman Alex Roth also stated that the city plans to appeal the ruling.  Roth spoke out saying Gonzalez was merely on a “bizarre crusade to stop fireworks” and questioned if lawsuits against swimming in the ocean with suntan lotion would be next.

Friday, May 29’s ruling was a victory for Gonzalez.  Gonzalez said the win is vindication for both those he represents and the environment.  He’s quest for keeping California beaches environmentally safe for the sea animals is far from finished.  He will continue seeking reviews of firework shows under the state’s environmental law.  Judge Quinn’s ruling was indeed a win for Gonzalez and others, but he wants the impacts of firework shows studied and mitigated.  Pyrotechnic displays impact the environment by way of marine life, water quality, traffic, noise and air.  His win means regional pollution regulators must create a new permit for fireworks shot over beaches and bays.

Roth, Howard and other city officials hope to come to an agreement with Gonzalez.  San Diego issues thousands of permits annually for events at 350 parks.  With such a large volume of applicants, the process must be kept simple.  Show organizers fear if the ruling stands the permit process will become lengthy, time-consuming and expensive.  Organizers would need to file an environmental impact report before receiving any permits.  Mayor Sanders said no one would want to go through such rigorous procedures.  The La Jolla Community Fireworks Foundation asked the ruling to be on hold for 90 days, while the city and the show organizers plan to ask California’s 4th District Court of Appeal to overturn the decision.

After months of being called un-American for challenging the American tradition of firework displays, Gonzalez, as of now, can put a check in the win column.  For his part he said protecting water quality and coastal species is patriotic.    

Photo Credit:  pullman-wa.gov/Departments/Fire/DrawOnePage.aspx?PageID=963

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