Legal Battle Continues following November 14th Council Approval of Special Treatment for Fireworks Shows
CONTACT: Marco Gonzalez
Coast Law Group LLP
ENCINITAS, CA – Friday, December 16, 2011
The Coastal Environmental Rights Foundation (CERF) today filed suit against the City of San Diego challenging its November 14th approval of Municipal Code amendments that provide certain events, including fireworks shows, with special exemptions in its process for permitting events in public parks.
This is the fourth lawsuit in response to the City’s continued efforts to avoid responsible and appropriate environmental requirements pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
In its latest action, the City carves out an exemption to CEQA for fireworks events, and in doing so, unfairly elevates these special events above the numerous other events in public parks that will require CEQA review. The City’s action raises environmental and constitutional concerns about whether all events are being treated equally in the permitting process. A companion constitutional challenge to the recent Municipal Code amendments will soon be brought in Federal Court.
“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.”
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. Rather than comply with CEQA as directed by the Judge, the City 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.
The City’s unwillingness to comply with CEQA in approving the latest amendments will simply result in even greater uncertainty for all event organizers. “With these amendments, the City clearly indicated it wants to retain the ability to place conditions on a variety of events,” explained CERF’s legal advisor Livia Borak. “The City admits this triggers CEQA review, but is unwilling to follow the law.”
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Coastal Environmental Rights Foundation (CERF) is a nonprofit environmental organization founded by surfers at Coast Law Group LLP in North San Diego County and active throughout California’s coastal communities.
CERF was established to aggressively advocate, including through litigation, for the protection and enhancement of coastal natural resources and the quality of life for coastal residents.