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Council considers canceling fireworks, will create new July 4 program

The fate of San Ramon's immensely popular Fourth of July fireworks show could be determined in two weeks, and whatever the decision turns out to be, it appears to be shaping up to be a complicated one.

The San Ramon City Council spent nearly two hours Tuesday evening discussing the pros and cons of putting on the aerial fireworks display this summer as part of the city's Independence Day celebration at Central Park. The fireworks display has been an annual tradition since 1985, beginning just two years after the city's incorporation. During the last quarter of a century, the aerial fireworks has grown from a localized celebration to one attracting in upwards of 30,000 revelers from not only San Ramon but from around the East Bay.

Its huge popularity through the years has caused concern at City Hall regarding public safety and cost.

At its Tuesday meeting, the council voted unanimously to instruct Karen McNamara, San Ramon's interim parks and community services director, to direct her staff in devising a potential alternative July 4th celebration -- without the fireworks. McNamara and her staff will present their proposal at the Feb. 28 council meeting, at which time a decision will be made whether to move forward with a fireworks show this year -- or cancel them.

The cost for San Ramon's July 4 celebration amounted to $175,000 last year, but city staff recommends increasing the budget to $318,000 to accommodate for additional equipment, personnel and contractor costs.

"The issue of safety is related to the size of the event," said Police Chief Scott Holder. "The event causes gridlock. The roads (within proximity of Central Park) are not equipped to handle all of the traffic to take people back to the freeway."

Holder added that the "largest concern" from the police department has to do with the growing size of the crowds, year after year.

Police, public services and parks and community services have nearly all staff on-duty during the 10K morning run and evening fireworks event. The need to provide safety and security in the park, the launch site for the fireworks, parking lots and surrounding areas while simultaneously providing safe traffic control measures and pedestrian access has stretched current city sources to the limit, according to a recent staff analysis.

City officials wanted to gauge input from residents on the matter. More than 600 e-mails were received during a period of several days leading up to Tuesday night's council meeting. Among those e-mails, nearly half -- or 296 e-mails -- were in support of continuing with the fireworks display.

Longtime Councilman Dave Hudson said San Ramon residents have always favored the tradition of its fireworks display, saying that a lot of residents would be disappointed if the fireworks were cancelled.

"Once you yank this display, you're going to hear about it," Hudson said.

San Ramon resident Donna Kerger agreed, saying that while she is concerned about the health and safety of the community, Independence Day festivities -- with fireworks -- is something special for the city.

"The Fourth of July is very emotional for me," Kerger said. "For me to stand up here tonight as the city reconsiders it, is very difficult."

San Ramon is one of the few cities in the Bay Area to hold a July 4 fireworks display. Livermore discontinued its display last year, and Concord officials have decided to scuttle its fireworks show beginning this summer.

Once other cities begin cancelling their fireworks, East Bay residents will be attracted to San Ramon even more, said Councilman Phil O'Loane.

"Now that Concord has bailed, we're now going to go from bringing in 30,000 people to 45,000," he added, stressing that San Ramon's event is not capable of handling that large of a crowd.

Mayor Bill Clarkson also stressed that public safety is an important priority which needs to be addressed.

Hudson said as much as he has seen "the writing on the wall" through the years that the size of the crowds converging on San Ramon continues to grow, he admitted that the aerial fireworks is a crowd-pleaser in the city, and to consider cancelling them will not be an easy decision to make.

"People love their fireworks here in San Ramon," Hudson said, adding that if the fireworks display is cancelled, city leaders should consider legalizing the so-called "safe and sane" fireworks. There are few Bay Area cities which still legalize residential fireworks. In southern Alameda County, for example, Dublin and Newark are the only cities where it is legalized.

"People like these aerial displays," Hudson added, explaining that it would be a good option to consider legalizing fireworks, which could serve as a deterrent to residents celebrating Independence Day with illegal fireworks, such as bottle rockets.

The Feb. 28 City Council meeting begins at 7 p.m. at the council chambers at City Hall, 2222 Camino Ramon, San Ramon.

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Dave
a resident of San Ramon
on Feb 16, 2012 at 5:43 am

Story needs to be updated. The Patch is reporting that the decision has been made to cancel the July 4 fireworks show. Too bad!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Tom
a resident of Danville
on Feb 16, 2012 at 7:01 am

If San Ramon cant live up to their end of the relationship on 4th of July, then Danville should not allow them to participate in the Danville 4th of July parade. After all we have to host their residents and all the traffic issues and extra costs it creates. We dont need to see a Mayor from San Ramon clog our streets asking us to spend money in their town when they wont reciprocate with festivities we all share in.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Danville Mom
a resident of Danville
on Feb 16, 2012 at 7:37 am

Tom, I agree to what you're saying about our Fourth of July parade. What about all of the other wonderful festivities our town holds that attracts people from all around the bay such as "Hot Summer Nights"??

As an 18 year resident of Danville, yes, I've seen the crowds get larger at the firework display but we've never had a problem with the traffic. We just wait patiently and talk about what we just experienced.

What a shame it would be to end such a wonderful statement of patriotism that so many enjoy!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Danville Fan
a resident of Danville
on Feb 16, 2012 at 8:01 am

Lets start a petition to bar San Ramon from our 4th of July parade and prevent them from coming to hot August nights. We dont need them.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by [removed]
a resident of another community
on Feb 16, 2012 at 8:02 am

Dear Editor,

Tradition is defined for many as "the excuse we make for the silly things we do repeatedly." Heritage is quite opposite as "the collected wisdom we bring to our pursuits."

It is clear that our corridor could update Independence Day celebrations beyond "A tired Danville Parade and San Ramon bursts bombing in air (subscriber news service headline)" Stan might make that a streetwise question to gather ideas on improving parades, civic gatherings and overall celebration of the freedoms that we enjoy.

What would your readers improve for Independence Day celebrations?




 +   Like this comment
Posted by Pat
a resident of San Ramon
on Feb 16, 2012 at 9:54 am

I hope San Ramon will replace it with some other event that continues to celebrate the great country that we live in and the many blessings we enjoy because of it.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jessica Lipsky
a resident of Danville
on Feb 16, 2012 at 10:47 am

Dave,

Patch reported the story incorrectly with a misleading headline. While the council is leaning toward canceling the fireworks display, they definitely did not take any official action. Officials have been tasked with coming up with an alternate program which will be discussed at the Feb. 28 meeting.

Jessica Lipsky
Editor


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Tom
a resident of Danville
on Feb 16, 2012 at 11:41 am

Fireworks are a tradition for 4th of July and we certainly don't need another parade. I feel sorry for those poor San Ramon people who dont like traffic on the one day year that people come to san ramon to celebrate this country. They are pretty pathetic. What other event do they want. Amazing that a city government that wants people come shop in their town want to give up an opportunity to show off to most of the East Bay what they have to offer. Whats next cancel the memorial day art and wine festival cause they dont like people parking next to the Nob Hill Foods.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by JRM
a resident of Vista Grande Elementary School
on Feb 16, 2012 at 4:39 pm

As I read the newspaper article the key issue is the expense of the police force to direct traffic and a radical idea came to my mind: what if in the interest of civic pride and patriotism the police force agree to not get paid that day, they VOLUNTEER their time as a means of giving back to the community and minimizing the economic impact to the town. What the heck, directing traffic is not all that stressful and they would have one of the best views of the fireworks. Our local men in blue have had a few blemishes with corrupt detectives and runaway overtime pay recently and this would be a great PR move for them.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by frankly
a resident of San Ramon
on Feb 17, 2012 at 6:35 am

Remove the giant GROWING expense for a variety of reasons.

Reduce cost based on modeling fireworks which should not be used in the first place in this day and age. Too costly, insurance costs must be astronomical to deal with that one night. Those who still want it, can donate a couple of hundreds each time for the show.

The tens of thousands who show up also bring potential robberies, burglaries, and car incidents which can be avoided.

The city will most likely develop a less troublesome show with less potential harm to visitors, residents, and employees.

You want fireworks, donate the cash to reduce taxpayers costs.

You want fireworks, watch TV for fireworks.

You want fireworks, go to the San Francisco works.

Happy 4th ta ya!!!

Have a super chat at home with family and friends, be peaceful at home.

There is cost and cost always moves up, just because it appears that nothing came out of one's pocket, it does on a hidden level.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Theresa N Vista Grande Parent
a resident of Vista Grande Elementary School
on Feb 17, 2012 at 7:41 am

I totally agree with the Police donating their time for ONE evening. I have been going to the fireworks show for the last 10 years and I look forward to it every year. It saddens me that San Ramon is concerned about traffic issues, burglaries, car thefts etc. What are the facts on these issues? I don't recall ever reading a mass problem with this. Over all we live in a great community which is why I moved here from Napa 10 years ago. The SR police do have a wonderful view of the fire works while directing traffic which is fairly easy to do. Lets see how hard they will have to work with all the "At Home fireworks" that people will divert too. They will wish they donated their time for fairly easy work.
Lets keep the fireworks not only for our community but for the Children's look in their faces when that Big Boom and Bright lights show up in the sky...That is tradition!
Just my opinion


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Dave Hudson
a resident of San Ramon
on Feb 23, 2012 at 5:55 pm

The decision for the San Ramon portion of the 4th of July programing has not been made.


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