Huntington Beach lifts ban on fireworks sales
The City Council vote Tuesday lifts the ban on the usage and sale of safe-and-sane fireworks during the Fourth of July holiday for a trial period of two years, the Huntington Beach Independent reported Wednesday.
The vote also came despite opposition from the police and fire chiefs, who strongly opposed lifting the ban. The council approved the ordinance with a 5-2 vote, with Councilwoman Connie Boardman and Councilman Joe Shaw dissenting.
"I'm going to work as hard as I can ... to repeal it," Boardman said.
Mayor Don Hansen introduced the proposal as his first item on the list as mayor and said he wanted Huntington Beach residents to enjoy the tradition of fireworks just like neighboring cities that allow it.
Fireworks will not be allowed on city beaches, in parks and environmentally sensitive areas, everything on the ocean-facing side of Pacific Coast Highway to protect Sunset Beach, the specific downtown business area, and all streets except sidewalks and alleys in residential districts.
Boardman said she thinks the guidelines are likely to confuse some residents and especially the nearly half a million visitors who flock to Huntington Beach on the Fourth of July.
A 2007-08 Orange County Grand Jury report found that the use of illegal fireworks increases in cities that allow the sale of legal fireworks.
Law enforcement officials from cities that allow them were also mentioned in the report, saying they are overwhelmed with calls for service and describing areas in their cities as "war zones."
Huntington's police and fire departments have said they are already stretched thin during the Fourth of July holiday and the lifting of the ban will be an added hurdle.
Fires related to safe-and-sane fireworks have drastically been reduced since the city banned fireworks in 1987, following an Orange County Grand Jury report that recommended the ban across all cities throughout the county.
It all seemed to come down, however, to two opposing ideologies on the council: the right to purchase and ignite fireworks, and the obligation elected officials have to enforce regulations to minimize risk and accidents to their constituents.
"This is an issue about people having choices," Huntington Beach Councilman Matthew Harper said.
Ten safe-and-sane fireworks sale permits are expected to be issued this year and 20 next year, with priority going to the Fourth of July executive board. The rest of the permits will be distributed through a lottery process to nonprofits that wish to sell fireworks for fundraising purposes, according to the ordinance.
The organizations that didn't get a permit can negotiate a deal with the Fourth of July board to sell fireworks.
-- Mona Shadia, Times Community News
Photo: Fourth of July fireworks explode over the Huntington Beach Pier last year. Credit: Gary Ambrose / Los Angeles Times