Council cancels Independence Day pyrotechnics, makes plans for possible 'safe and sane' fireworks

Aerial display may return in 2013

It is the end of a summer tradition in San Ramon, at least for 2012.

On Tuesday night, the San Ramon City Council voted unanimously to eliminate the immensely popular July 4 aerial fireworks display as part of the city's Independence Day festivities.

The end of San Ramon's fireworks show comes as neighboring cities such as Livermore eliminate their pyrotechnics displays. Concord city officials decided recently to discontinue its Fourth of July fireworks as well.

But, San Ramon's discontinuance of its fireworks show is, at this point, not necessarily permanent. It could return in 2013.

After Tuesday night's 5-0 vote, the council directed city staff to come up with a new plan that would address public safety concerns by Police Chief Scott Holder and city officials.

"I support putting it on hold for a year," said Councilman Jim Livingstone. "Then perhaps we can do it right for next year."

"If we're going to do this right, it will take time," added Councilman Phil O'Loane. "We don't have enough time (for this year)."

The councilmembers' unanimous vote also means city staff will proceed with planning for a July 4 celebration at San Ramon Central Park this year, but without aerial fireworks or ground pyrotechnics. The latter had been suggested as an alternative to aerial fireworks by interim Parks and Community Services Director Karen McNamara and her staff.

The council also instructed city staff to devise a proposed ordinance designed to allow so-called "safe and sane" fireworks. If approved, it would apply to future Independence Day celebrations, but not this year's. If approved, San Ramon residents would be able to celebrate with "safe and sane" fireworks from several designated areas throughout the city, including California and Dougherty Valley high schools. These types of fireworks are legal in California (Dublin is the only Tri-Valley city -– and one of the few in the Bay Area -– which allows the sale of "safe and sane" fireworks).

"The majority of problems come from illegal fireworks," said Councilman Dave Hudson. He said cities which legalize the "safe and sane" variety are taking a proactive position against illegal fireworks, such as bottle rockets, which he said are responsible for much fire damage throughout California during the Independence Day holiday.

The aerial Independence Day fireworks at San Ramon Central Park, which began in 1985 from the lawn of Toyota in the Bishop Ranch Business Park, was a community tradition which remained popular with residents. They said their city identified strongly with the annual pyrotechnics event. After all, San Ramon incorporated only two years before the first aerial fireworks were launched into the evening sky.

The city's aerial fireworks has also grown in popularity with residents from neighboring communities who head for San Ramon on July 4. More than 30,000 people from San Ramon and other East Bay cities have headed into town to watch the pyrotechnics.

City officials have also been concerned about the rising costs to present a city-sponsored July 4 celebration with fireworks. Last year's cost amounted to $175,000 but city staff recommended 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," Holder said at the Feb. 14 council meeting. "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."

With San Ramon eliminating aerial fireworks at least for this summer, the nearest city that will continue with the tradition is Martinez.

"With Concord out of the picture now, there would be this tsunami of people coming to San Ramon if we had the aerial fireworks," said Mayor Bill Clarkson, favoring a coordinated plan that would address the public safety issues.

Only three San Ramon residents, two of whom were teenagers, spoke before the City Council, to ask them not to eliminate the aerial fireworks show.

"It's disappointing," said San Ramon resident Steve Rettig. "It'll be very disappointing for a lot of families. I understand the public safety concerns, but it's a shame to see it go. Hopefully, the city will come up with a plan to bring it back next year. The aerial display is what brings the neighborhoods together."

"I have to emphasize how critical this (aerial fireworks) event is to San Ramon," said Roger Zhou, a San Ramon teenager. Zhou was in favor of Hudson's idea to allow "safe and sane" fireworks in San Ramon.

There was no public outcry at the council meeting, which was not held in the council chambers at City Hall, but at the Dougherty Station Community Center in the city's Dougherty Valley. The meeting followed a reception there for former Mayor Abram Wilson and former Councilwoman Carol Rowley.


Like this comment
Posted by Tom
a resident of Danville
on Mar 1, 2012 at 6:22 am

I sure hope Danville doesn't invite San Ramon politicians to our 4th of July parade

Like this comment
Posted by William
a resident of Blackhawk
on Mar 1, 2012 at 6:27 am

I have a feeling that the Danville 4th of July Parade will be next on the items to be slashed under financial austerity measures. It must cost the town a lot for police overtime and maintenance etc. The times they are a changing!

Like this comment
Posted by SRVHS Parent
a resident of San Ramon Valley High School
on Mar 1, 2012 at 7:23 am

Unfortunately not a San Ramon Resident, so can't vote the bums out.

Got to love their positions: "Then perhaps we can do it right for next year." Didn't know it hadn't been done right all these years.

"We don't have enough time (for this year)." Been doing it for how many years? and they need more time? What a bunch of frauds!

Ground Fireworks? They have got to be kidding!!!

Concerned with gridlock? Are they kidding? how about Primos Run?

Polititions depend on the "Public" not questioning their positions, and most importantly of all, short memories.

What an embarrassing bunch of "leaders".

Like this comment
Posted by Susan
a resident of Blackhawk
on Mar 1, 2012 at 7:30 am

If you really want to send a message to San Ramon, boycott their stores, their community center programs and anything else that would hurt their city's economy as that would send the loudest message of all to the imbeciles running the city!

Like this comment
Posted by MMz
a resident of Danville
on Mar 1, 2012 at 9:52 am

It's a shame that they are cancelling an American tradition.
What if neighboring towns whose residents also attend the fireworks chipped in?
You're opening a can of worms allowing "safe and sane" fireworks.
People know that there is heavy firework traffic. Everyone needs to be more patient and enjoy the holiday.

Like this comment
Posted by Theresa N Vista Grande Parent
a resident of Vista Grande Elementary School
on Mar 1, 2012 at 10:50 am

I am sickened by this decision. I can't believe a tradition as grand as this one comes to an end. I agree with the boycott and the biggest boycott we can do is the "4th party" do they honestly think that a stupid party in the park with some bands is going to make up for NO firework show...I am truly disgusted.

Like this comment
Posted by Sue
a resident of San Ramon
on Mar 1, 2012 at 10:57 am

This is bogus. I own property in SR. Asked the Mayor if they could re-think this & look at alternative ways to still offer the fireworks. Got a definite "No." Seems they "dodged a bullet" (of what could have happened, with people drinking) & can't handle the traffic (gee, aren't there 40,000 people at the Danville parade each year, from ~ 8am-1pm? I heard that there are people parking on Bollinger to watch the parade because they can't get to the park! Deja vu - I remember doing that in 1985, watching out of a sunroof! Sounds more like an unwillingness than a money issue for San Ramon. Huge disappointment in those politicians. Yet, they still want us to shop there, so they can gain the sales tax? Can't have it both ways. Where's Abram Wilson when you need him?

Like this comment
Posted by Terrible Decision!!!
a resident of San Ramon
on Mar 1, 2012 at 2:55 pm

Our family and friends loved the annual fireworks show. We made a tradition of it with our children. Now we have to explain to them why such a wonderful family tradition has been cut from San Ramon's budget, when as the commenters say, Danville spends a huge amount of town and volunteer time and resources each year to put on a great parade which helps keep alive a wonderful American tradition. Sure, they could cancel that and save money too- but they don't! Now there is no place near enough that we and the other families who have built a family tradition around attending the fireworks can realistically take our young children, where we can safely relax and enjoy celebrating our nation's birthday in the spectacular tradition and style in which it should be celebrated.

This is a terrible, Scrooge-like decision and we are disgusted with the politicians in San Ramon.

Like this comment
Posted by Proud American
a resident of Blackhawk
on Mar 1, 2012 at 6:02 pm

Good move ... conserves city resources.

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Posted by GG
a resident of another community
on Mar 1, 2012 at 6:46 pm

""People just show up out of the woodwork for these's like we're putting on a show for everybody but San Ramon," said Councilman David Hudson." ...from Contra Costa Times 3/1/2012

This has got to be the stupidest statement ever made. Nothing like a bit of suicidal Public Relations for both the Councilman and San Ramon. How about a boycott of anything San Ramon, let San Ramon support itself. Better yet, wall off the City so the outside world won't contaminate anything in the City Limits.

Like this comment
Posted by Bill
a resident of Danville
on Mar 1, 2012 at 8:24 pm

Dave Hudson has never been reluctant to show the world his shortcomings. Like all good right wing Republicans he just can't wait to make a ignorant comment, then try and backtrack on it. Sounds as familiar as the person he is backing for president.

Like this comment
Posted by Member
a resident of San Ramon
on Mar 2, 2012 at 8:08 am

Such a shame to cancel our city's annual tradition. Young and old come together on the 4th of July to celebrate Independence day with the anticipation of experiencing the tradition of the 4th of July fireworks show. Have the politicians walked the neighborhoods of our city on the 4th just befor the show? Have they stood with the residents, their families and friends in our parks as the excitement of the firework show can be heard from the young and old? Yet another American tradition gone. I moved from Oakland to San Ramon because of the wonderful lifestyle here and the same traditions I experienced as a child still existed here. This is very sad......

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Posted by Disgusted...
a resident of Greenbrook Elementary School
on Mar 2, 2012 at 12:10 pm

Public safety concerns...Wow...yea all that San Ramon gang violence rising up on the 4th must be a big strain on the PD. Maybe it is the rowdy Blackhawk mommies sipping their Rombauer too loudly that is the issue. Scrooge would have been be very proud of these politicians. Hey why don't those five nice folks get their own float in the D-ville 4th of July parade so we can all show our appropiate respect for their leadership and decision making skills.

Like this comment
Posted by Sandy B
a resident of San Ramon
on Mar 3, 2012 at 2:45 pm

What a disappointment. Did the City Coucil members ever think that teenagers were all in one location for the fireworks show with less police activity needed? Let's see where all the teenagers end up this year. Perhaps they need to make sure they think. This is a tradition as well and residents know the score here. Once an opportunity to vote all 5 members out is available, let's band together and do so. A boycott of businesses does nothing to hurt council members only our own community well-being. We can bombard the City Council Meetings with residents and encourage them to reconsider, strongly encourage. A shame that celebrating our Independence is up to only 5 people. Put it on the ballot for the residents to decide. It is still WE THE PEOPLE. (for now)

Like this comment
Posted by frankly
a resident of San Ramon
on Mar 5, 2012 at 6:25 am

Good that the local politicians had the strong fiber to stop, despite its popularity, a city sponsored program which invited plenty of drinking, traffic, and potential other harm to say nothing about the constant rising cost.

To do what is necessary takes much valor in the face of some public support.
But to correct what was a breeding financial and crowd problems is the issue not the immediate pleasure for some.

Thank you for doing what was necessary for prudent, safer public demonstration.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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