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No fireworks in San Ramon for 2014 Independence Day

Parks & Community Services Commission votes down Old Ranch launch site

Plans to bring fireworks back to San Ramon for the Fourth of July were shot down by the city's Parks & Community Services Commission on Wednesday night.

The commission decided not to consider a plan to move the display to Old Ranch Park as a shoot location.

Instead, it recommended continuing the smaller celebration begun in 2012, featuring a salute to veterans, performances by the city's symphonic band and a high-energy band to cap the event, and no fireworks. That's the same sort of show the city began after a 2011 pyrotechnics event that brought record crowds, led to gridlock and created other problems such as small fires and property damage.

A fireworks show at a total cost of $167,000 -- including the aerial display, security and other items -- was eliminated from the list early in the discussion after the commission talked briefly about concerns brought by residents near Old Ranch Park. The park has been considered as a location to shoot off the fireworks, but not as a place to watch them.

In two meetings, on Jan 15 and Feb. 8, residents worried about crowds, fire dangers and fallout from the display. The Parks & Community Services Commission received two petitions opposing the aerial display and the threat of a lawsuit, along with about 100 people who spoke out against the plan.

Some of the opponents to the plan were out at the Wednesday night meeting as well, expressing gratitude that the commission had voted down the plan and repeating their concerns.

Resident Farrakh Khodadadi estimated cost of the aerial display would be about $950/minute for a 20-minute show. He suggested San Ramon work with Dublin to create a show, possibly at Camp Parks, where people would pay to enter.

City officials said the cost of fireworks alone at Old Ranch Park would be about $26,000, putting the cost per minute at about $1,300.

After aerial fireworks were eliminated from consideration, Commissioner Will Doerlich moved that the commission consider an event with about 25 minutes of low-level fireworks at Central Park.

Ground level fireworks, such as those used at indoor concerts, would be visible only by those at the park and would bump the estimated cost of the event from $45,000 to $100,000.

Commissioner Heidi Kenniston-Lee supported the idea of having low-level fireworks at Central Park, saying she thought it could help build a sense of community.

"The beauty of it is we can change directions," she said. "We can try it."

Commissioner Dominique Yancey said the additional $55,000 could be put to better use elsewhere in San Ramon, noting there's a need for extended library hours, and that the city has just begun a push to purchase open space.

"I love fireworks ... (but) I cannot reconcile this," Yancy said. "The public has a right to insist, expect and demand the highest level of public service."

The recommendation to continue the existing show will be forwarded to city council for consideration at its Feb. 25 meeting.

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