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City Settles Legal Dispute over La Jolla July 4th Fireworks Show

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.

Patch file photo.
Patch file photo.

The San Diego City Council gave final approval today to a settlement in a long-running legal dispute over how the city issues permits for the annual July 4th 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 needed to be performed before the city issued permits for the display at La Jolla Cove, and that the city was violating its own municipal code when issuing permits.

The lawyer won three of the four suits, and 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 it would cost more to continue with the litigation than to settle.

The City Council approved the settlement terms in closed session on April 29 and gave final approval in open session today without comment.

The cases will now be dropped. However, Gonzalez retains the right to legally challenge future city actions in regards to permitting.

Under the deal, 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 all events that have already been applied for if they're scheduled to take place beginning or after Jan. 1 of next year.

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

"It all depends on the scope of the event, of course," Gonzalez told City News Service. "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 of powerful hydroplane boats on Mission Bay.

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

The La Jolla Cove show was initially canceled for this year because funding came in too late to contract with a pyrotechnics company. Organizers got a reprieve when a fireworks company was found, and the show is scheduled to go on.

—City News Service

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