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Council May Snuff Out July 4 Fireworks Show

July 10, 1986|JAY GOLDMAN | Times Staff Writer

Most Santa Monica City Council members say this year's July Fourth fireworks show on the beach, which attracted hundreds of thousands of people and was marred by numerous gang fights, knifings and a shooting death, may be the last.

In May, the council voted 4 to 3 to go against the recommendations of the city's police and fire chiefs and continue the traditional fireworks display at the Santa Monica Pier.

But Councilman Alan Katz, who voted for the show in May, said this week he may vote to ban future shows as long as so-called "safe and sane" fireworks are legally sold in nearby cities.

Widespread Use

"I am inclined to discontinue attracting people to Santa Monica beaches with our fireworks in an environment where those 'safe and sane' fireworks are so prominent," Katz said.

Many people brought their own fireworks to the beach, Sgt. John Miehle said, although possession, use and sale of all fireworks are illegal in Santa Monica. Police said they were too busy with more significant problems to make arrests for fireworks.

Katz said he has not yet decided whether this year's violence on the city's beaches is a reason in itself to cancel the 25-year-old event. "My sense is the fights and shooting are not related to the fireworks but to the party atmosphere on the beaches," he said.

Awaiting Report

Katz and other council members said they are waiting for a report from the police and fire chiefs in the next few weeks on this year's Independence Day celebration.

Police Chief James F. Keane and Fire Chief Tom Tolman refused to say whether they would continue to recommend that the council ban fireworks shows. Both maintained that it would be improper for the council to hear their recommendations through the media instead of through their reports.

In May the chiefs asked the council to ban the fireworks show, citing the increase in the size of the crowds, the number of crimes and the fires sparked by illegal fireworks in the 1985 show.

Last year eight felony arrests and seven fires were related to illegal fireworks, according to Keane and Tolman.

Although the number of fires was down this year, gang fights and other crimes, including a homicide, led to an increase in arrests.

This year there were 20 felony arrests, Miehle said. More than half of those were for assault with a deadly weapon.

'Too Fast'

"There is no estimate on the number of fights," Miehle said. "They were happening too fast."

Last May Councilmen Jennings, Herb Katz, Alan Katz and James Conn voted to stage the July Fourth show.

Despite this year's problems, Herb Katz and Conn said they do not see a relationship between the fireworks show and violence at the beach.

"There were a number of fights, but I can't imagine there being fewer fights without fireworks because lots of people come to the beach and will continue to come to the beach for the Fourth of July," Conn said.

Herb Katz echoed Conn's opinion but added that he will not make a final decision until he has seen the chiefs' report.

Councilman David Epstein and Mayor Christine E. Reed said this year's violence has confirmed their position that fireworks shows that attract large numbers of people to the beach must go.

Councilman Dennis Zane said that while he is waiting to see the report on this year's show, "my inclination is to no longer continue the fireworks program."

He suggested that the city develop an alternative program to celebrate the Fourth of July which would entertain the city's residents without attracting hundreds of thousands of people from throughout the Los Angeles area.

Councilman William Jennings was unavailable for comment.

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