Council settles permit dispute on fireworks, other events
Published - 06/12/14 - 01:16 PM | 2682 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
San Diego City Council gave final approval Tuesday, June 17, to a settlement in a long-running legal dispute over how the city issues permits for the annual July Fourth fireworks show in La Jolla and other events.

Under the agreement, Marco Gonzalez, of the Coast Law Group, will receive $250,000 to end the litigation, while the city will have to perform environmental reviews before issuing future special event permits or discretionary park use permits.

Gonzalez filed four lawsuits against the city beginning four years ago, contending that such a review needs to be performed before the city issues permits for the display at La Jolla Cove and that the city was violating its own municipal code when issuing permits.

Gonzales won three of the four suits. The last one is on hold while the city appeals the first three, according to documents from the City Attorney's Office. The documents say the city has a strong appellate case but that it would cost more to continue with the litigation than to settle.

City Council approved the settlement terms in closed session on April 29 and will consider final approval in open session at Tuesday's meeting.

The cases would be dropped if City Council gives the settlement the final go-ahead. However, Gonzalez would retain the right to legally challenge future city actions in regards to permitting.

According to the agreement, the city will have to perform environmental reviews for special event permits and discretionary park permits submitted beginning July 1. Such reviews will also have to be performed for events already applied for if they're scheduled to take place beginning or after Jan. 1, 2015.

The documents do not state how extensive the reviews will have to be. City lawyers argued in court that it wasn't reasonable to require a costly environmental impact report for the hundreds of mundane, smaller events permitted each year.

“It all depends on the scope of the event, of course,'” Gonzalez said in an email. “I expect smaller events will be fine with exemptions (and maybe some larger ones too); but some, such as the

Thunderboats, will require significantly more review and mitigation.'”

“The Thunderboats'' refers to the weekend of racing on Mission Bay by powerful unlimited hydroplanes.

Gonzalez targeted the La Jolla Cove fireworks show because it takes place above a protected marine area. Environmentalists contend that debris from the pyrotechnics is harmful to marine life.

The settlement details actions that must be taken by organizers, including erecting a fire-retardant debris barrier, in view of the reinstated La Jolla Cove fireworks show.

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