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San Ramon council nixes Independence Day fireworks

Vote to continue smaller celebration featuring bands, tribute to veterans

Area residents will have to travel to some other neighboring city if they want to see a fireworks display this Fourth of July after the San Ramon City Council on Tuesday voted 3-1 against bringing back aerial pyrotechnics to its community.

Mayor Bill Clarkson, Vice Mayor Phil O'Loane and Councilman Harry Sachs voted to approve a recommendation by the city's Parks & Community Services Commission to hold a scaled down event at Central Park with no fireworks, at an estimated cost of $45,000.

Councilman Dave Hudson voted against the measure and Councilman Scott Perkins was absent.

The council made its decision after a report by Esther Lucas, parks commission division manager.

Lucas said that in early October an investigative team began evaluating sites for an aerial display using safety, security, traffic control and other criteria. It concluded that Old Ranch Park was the best location as a launch site -- but not a viewing site -- with an estimated cost $167,000.

The commission held public hearings in January and February in which a majority of attendees opposed shooting fireworks. They expressed concerns about costs, public safety, fire protection, overcrowding and traffic gridlock. Staff also conducted an online survey, with most people who responded saying they preferred to have aerial fireworks at Old Ranch Park.

On Feb. 12, the commission voted 6-0 to recommend that the city hold future Fourth of July events similar to the 2013 event at Central Park with a fitness race, band and tribute to veterans, but no fireworks.

Hudson urged the city not to end its fireworks tradition.

"If you haven't heard from people who say they want a fireworks display," the councilman said, "then you haven't been listening,"

The other council members were not moved by Hudson's appeal.

"The reality is that we don't want to have an event that isn't safe," Clarkson said.

Sachs noted that the cost of an aerial display was about $5,000 per minute for a 30-minute show.

"I'd rather see us put $100,000 towards parks and facilities," he said.

The decision means that future celebrations will look more like the smaller events begun in 2012, which featured a salute to veterans, performances by the San Ramon city symphonic band and a closing performance by a high-energy band, but no fireworks.

According to a city survey of the East Bay area, Fourth of July fireworks are being planned this year in Antioch, Richmond, Martinez and the Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton.

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