San Ramon's City Council has voted to confirm a recommendation not bring back fireworks in next year's July Fourth celebration without much fanfare.
Council chambers were nearly empty for the final decision, after holding many meetings, public hearings and an online survey.
In October, the Parks and Community Services Commission voted to recommend that San Ramon's 2013 Independence Day celebration include a fun run, a concert and armed forces tribute, but no aerial fireworks display. The Council confirmed the recommendation in a 4-1 vote, with Vice Mayor Dave Hudson dissenting.
"To me, this is the most important event in San Ramon," he said.
But Council and commissioners agreed that an aerial display is cost prohibitive at $318,000 -- not necessarily a result of the fireworks themselves, but because of necessary additional safety personnel. Nearly all San Ramon Police employees are on hand during the event and are "becoming increasingly stretched thinner relative to these duties," according to city documents.
Approximately 30,000 people attended 2011's fireworks, compared with 2,000 in 2012, in what's become a regional rather than city event. Councilmember Phil O'Loane said the city couldn't cordon off Central Park to increased traffic or families who want to be center stage for the display.
Regarding the city's budget deficit and increased cost for aerial fireworks, O'Loane asked what residents would be willing to give up to balance the cost.
"If this then what not? Is this more important than soccer? I consider soccer more important even if I don't play it," he said.
A citizens group tasked with finding alternatives to the 2011 celebration also considered other locations for the fireworks display, as the future City Center would occupy the site where fireworks are currently set off. The Council agreed to work on a long range event plan for beyond 2013, Division Manager Esther Lucas said.
In a report to the Council, the citizens group had to identify a drop zone which could not be too close to homes. Member Dominique Yancey said using high school football stadiums would require permission from the school district and could damage the expensive turf. Yancy and the Parks Commission said they, too, would continue to look for alternatives.
City officials held community meetings on the future of fireworks as well as polls and online surveys using Open San Ramon. In an October 2012 survey of 287 residents living around elementary school zones, 202 were in favor of an event with on-site fireworks (an event like the 2011 celebration). Forty-two wanted an event with no fireworks.
Although Councilmember Scott Perkins said it was worthwhile to find an alternative launch site, he later agreed with the commission on budget and safety issues.
Roz Rogoff, a member of the citizens committee, was the only speaker during public comment and encouraged the Council to look for an alternative site. San Ramon should do something similar to the city of Cupertino and hold events in the park during the day and the fireworks later at night in a location not open to the public, she said.