December 16, 2011
by Ed Joyce
Encinitas-based Coastal Environmental Rights Foundation (CERF) filed a lawsuit Friday against the City of San Diego over the city’s permitting process for special events, including fireworks events.
In November, the city approved amendments to the Municipal Code that provide some events, like fireworks, with special exemptions in the permitting process for events in public parks. The lawsuit is challenging that approval.
The group’s fourth lawsuit is an effort to force the city to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) regarding the discharge of fireworks into the ocean and city waterways.
In a news release posted on the group’s website, Marco Gonzalez with CERF said the city’s attempt to exempt fireworks shows from CEQA rules unfairly elevates those special events above the numerous other events in public parks which will require CEQA review.
“CERF has repeatedly offered to work with the City to develop a fair permitting practice – one that is not overly burdensome to event organizers, while at the same time does not abandon basic environmental protections” said Marco Gonzalez, lead attorney for CERF.
“Unfortunately, the City has instead chosen to vilify environmentalists, delay and avoid dealing with the issues head-on, and side-step the law. All of this is being done for the right to play favorites with certain annual events.”
Gonzalez said CERF is not trying to stop traditional fireworks shows in San Diego County.
“There are two locations we’re concerned with,” Gonzalez said. “One is La Jolla Cove and the other one is Lake Murray. The Cove is a pristine, highly protected habitat and Lake Murray is a drinking water reservoir.”
Gonzalez said the creation of a new permitting process “raises environmental and constitutional concerns about whether all events are being treated equally in the permitting process.”
Earlier this year in a related case, the City was found to have violated CEQA by failing to review and mitigate the potential environmental impacts from the annual La Jolla Cove Fourth of July fireworks event.
Gonzalez said rather than comply with CEQA as directed by the Judge, the City of San Diego has twice amended its municipal code to give some favored events, including the La Jolla fireworks show, a “free pass” from environmental review, while subjecting subject other events, such as the Balboa Park Earth Day Fair, to a higher level of scrutiny and CEQA review.