The Guadalupe City Council called for a community meeting to discuss how to update its fireworks ordinance during its Tuesday meeting as the city looks to address complaints from residents about the noise and disruption caused by fireworks.
Guadalupe’s fireworks ordinance, which was the 23rd ordinance enacted by the city, has not been updated or revised since the late 1940s.
On Tuesday, the City Council heard a presentation on fireworks in the city and asked that a workshop with city staff and community members be scheduled to gather input in advance of developing a new ordinance.
Police Chief Michael Cash said the ordinance was outdated and needed revision for proper enforcement to occur.
“We have four different parts to this ordinance,” Cash said, noting the ordinance covered permits needed for a public display of fireworks, set an age limit of 16 to light fireworks and allowed nonprofit organizations to sell fireworks.
“The problem we have here is that there is no law against possession of [illegal] fireworks,” Cash said. “For police to do an arrest, you have to actually see someone light the fireworks.”
In the past five years, Guadalupe has had fewer than five instances of contact for fireworks violations by law enforcement or first responders.
Cash said he researched how other cities on the Central Coast have dealt with problems arising from fireworks use.
“Santa Maria — they have a huge problem with fireworks,” he said. “They put together a task force, which was extremely costly for overtime for police officers, and they had very few results out of that and they discontinued it.”
Fireworks also have created a noise issue in Lompoc, Cash said. “It’s gotten to the point where it’s just the way it is — I’ve spoken with [Lompoc Police Chief Pat Walsh] and there’s not a whole lot they can really do.”
In both cities, illegal fireworks use rarely leads to punishment, Cash said. “If there are any apprehensions, they never go to court. It’s so low on the totem pole of violations that it just gets dismissed. There’s never really a penalty if someone is caught with those things. It’s one of those things where it's a quality of life issue rather than a criminal issue.”
Cash suggested that a workshop with community members and first responders be held to determine what the complaints are and what solutions could be implemented.
"It’s an issue where I’ve talked to different citizens and some want no fireworks, some all fireworks and some want only some people to be arrested — and not them — concerning fireworks,” he said. “My recommendation is to at least hold some kind of workshop with community members so we can come to a consensus on what they really want.”
Without updating the ordinance, Cash said it did not make sense for first responders to go after offenders for a low-level violation. “If you have an officer who happens to see [illegal fireworks use], they chase somebody, get into a tussle — that situation now turns it into a felony over what was just an administrative issue,” he said.
Councilwoman Liliana Cardenas said it is important to gather more input given the large number of people affected. “It’s a situation with noise violations where, like, everybody can hear,” Cardenas said. “We all need to get on the same page or come to a consensus.”