Crazifornia: Regulating the rockets’ red glare

Laer Pearce Author, Crazifornia
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It should come as no surprise that the leftist legislators and authoritarian bureaucrats who run California are vehemently opposed to fireworks shows. After all, the shows are always fun and usually patriotic.

And against them they are. The California Coastal Commission has led the charge with a multi-year assault on the Sea World theme park in San Diego, which blasts fireworks over Mission Bay every night. That effort shipwrecked on the rocks of Sea World’s considerable political clout and even more considerable legal budget, so the Commission looked for a more vulnerable, less wealthy target.

It found that in the Fourth of July fireworks show put on by local business owners in the tiny, picturesque hamlet of Gualala on the northern California coast. After a three-year battle that pitched small-town capitalists against an army of aging hippies backed by the powerful Coastal Commission, the California Supreme Court refused the business owners’ appeal, ending the war. That means the Coastal Commission’s determination that fireworks shows constitute “development” and therefore require a coastal development permit stands. And since the business owners can’t afford the legions of lawyers, lobbyists, botanists and biologists needed to process the permit, and the Coastal Commission wouldn’t approve it anyway, the skies over Gualala will remain dark on the Fourth of July.

California’s coastal cities are bracing for similar regulatory skirmishes, and now, thanks to a challenge brought by a particularly rabid environmentalist lawyer, Marco Gonzales, similar restrictions may apply to every fireworks show in the state.

Gonzales has had a chip on his shoulder about fireworks shows for years, but it took until this May for him to find a judge, Linda Quinn, extreme enough and a city attorney office, San Diego’s, incompetent enough to actually win his case. On the losing end were the sponsors of the La Jolla Cove fireworks show, who now must go through a full-fledged environmental review in order to prove their “development” — 15 minutes of fireworks — won’t irreparably harm the environment. Don’t laugh. This is California, and it could be a tough slog for them, especially with someone like Gonzales eager to challenge them every step of the way along California’s tortuous path to environmental permit approvals.

Worse, Gonzales’s victory doesn’t just apply to fireworks shows; it applies to any event that requires a park use permit — and San Diego issues about 20,000 of them every year, from private parties to the city’s huge Cinco de Mayo festival. Gonzales is probably stocking up on legal size paper in anticipation of filing a lot of challenges.

Why would he do that if his beef is with fireworks? Well, because, as San Diego columnist David King put it, “Environmentalists make bad neighbors, but good ancestors.” Gonzales just filed paperwork asking deficit-ridden San Diego to reimburse him $756,132 for his attorney fees in the La Jolla Cove lawsuit. That request is causing so many fireworks in San Diego that someone should demand Gonzales write an environmental impact report of his own.

Laer Pearce, a veteran of three decades of California public affairs, is completing a book on California’s impending collapse, “Crazifornia: Tales from the Tarnished State.”