Are fireworks coming back to San Ramon? It's too soon to say for sure, but the city is taking the first steps toward restoring the show.
The shows were canceled two years ago after concerns about costs and safety. Scott Holder, police chief at the time, estimated it would cost $318,000 to do the show right, with adequate staffing that would include everything from improved traffic control to better trash collection.
Holder told the City Council that the Independence Day celebration in 2011 left the city in gridlock from 8-11 p.m., with emergency vehicles unable to respond to calls. Central Park, the previous location of the show, was left in a sea of debris, with trash cans overflowing and litter everywhere.
Since the problems in 2011, the city has held a scaled-down July 4 event dubbed Celebrate America that featured a cover band and San Ramon's all-volunteer symphonic band performing patriotic music. The event has drawn about 2,000 people, a far cry from the 30,000 that turned out for the last fireworks show.
Now, after two years and multiple public input sessions, the San Ramon Parks & Community Services Commission will hold two public meetings on potential new locations for the fireworks to be set off. Both meetings will be held at Dougherty Station Community Center, 17011 Bollinger Canyon Road, with an evening meeting set for 7 p.m. Jan. 15 and a daytime meeting at 10 a.m. Feb. 1.
A team of police, San Ramon Valley firefighters and workers from the city's Engineering Services, Public Services, Parks and Community Services was formed to research alternate locations, with help from a pyrotechnics expert.
The team was asked to evaluate potential new sites, looking at safety, public access, traffic control and road closures, emergency access and crowd control. It was also asked to consider property rights and regulatory restrictions, how well fireworks could be seen from different locations, and the maximum height, shell sizes and drop areas.
A current proposal is to use Old Ranch Park as a place to shoot off the fireworks, but not as a place to watch them. The park would be secured, allowing access only to the pyrotechnicians, police and firefighters.
The team concluded that would be the place where the aerial displays could be best seen from both sides of the city; it also noted that Old Ranch Road can be closed from the east and west during the fireworks, which would minimize its impact on traffic.
City officials could not be reached for comment, but several have said in the past that they'd favor bringing back the shows if they could be done safely and inexpensively.