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Mayor Sanders Says Ruling Means Birthdays Need Enviro Review Too

The city's Fourth of July fireworks displays aren't the only celebrations in doubt after a judge ordered rigorous environmental reviews of large events, Mayor Jerry Sanders says. Birthday parties may be at risk if more than 75 people are invited.

Sanders says Friday's ruling by Superior Court Judge Linda Quinn in a lawsuit over a La Jolla Cove fireworks show applies to the roughly 20,000 park permits that the city issues each year. That includes city fireworks shows and other large events that include a Mardi Gras party in the city's Gaslamp Quarter and a Cinco de Mayo festival.

Thousands of events that require a park permit, including small private parties, would be subject to an expensive, time-consuming review under the California Environmental Quality Act, Sanders told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

"It's ludicrous," he said. "It takes forever, it costs a lot of money, and nobody would do it."

If upheld, the ruling may also affect other cities, Sanders said.

Quinn scheduled a hearing Thursday on a request by the La Jolla Community Fireworks Foundation, organizers of the La Jolla show, to put the ruling on hold for 90 days. Both the city and the show's organizers plan to ask California's 4th District Court of Appeal to overturn the judge's decision.

Robert Howard, an attorney for the La Jolla foundation, said the ruling was extreme.

"People who are running weddings aren't trained in environmental law," he said. "It's going to be chaotic in the short term" unless the ruling is put on hold.

Marco Gonzalez, an attorney who filed the lawsuit last year on behalf of Encinitas-based Coastal Environmental Rights Foundation, said he is only concerned for now with the La Jolla Cove show because fireworks are shot off over a sensitive marine sanctuary, scaring the sea life with the noise and debris.

"I'm not even allowed to paddle my surfboard over there. I'm not allowed to boogie board there, I'm only allowed to swim over this area, but yet the city believes it's OK to turn a blind eye to the tons of chemicals that are shot off over these waters," Gonzalez said.

Still, Gonzalez said he plans to take his fight statewide.

"Every fireworks show that takes place next to sensitive wildlife habitat is on our radar screen," he said.

Gonzalez, who has been fighting firework shows in sensitive areas for more than a decade, said city officials are trying to scare people to build public pressure against his efforts.

"It's not about patriotism. It's not about who loves the country more. It's about our environmental laws and the potential impacts to our waterways and our species from these shows in certain locations," he said.

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