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Santa Monica May Observe July 4th by Dawn's Light

March 08, 1987|JAY GOLDMAN | Times Staff Writer

Overwhelmed by crowds at its traditional Fourth of July fireworks display, Santa Monica officials have proposed beginning the event at 5:30 a.m. to attract fewer people and eliminate some of the traffic and violence encountered in recent years.

The early morning show, dubbed "By the Dawn's Early Light," is one of several ideas for Independence Day celebrations that the Santa Monica City Council will consider Tuesday as replacements for the city's trouble-prone July 4 evening fireworks display.

Most council members said they now endorse recommendations from the police and fire departments to cancel the 1987 nighttime fireworks show.

In recent years the annual event, which has drawn hundreds of thousands of people to Santa Monica's beaches from throughout the Los Angeles area, has been marred by increasing traffic and violence, including last year's shooting death of a 16-year-old boy.

'Disaster Waiting to Happen'

"From what I saw the Fourth of July was a disaster waiting to happen," said Councilman Dennis Zane. "The only responsible position is to try to prevent it and find some more local way to celebrate."

Councilwoman Christine E. Reed said, "The most important thing is getting rid of the nighttime show on the Fourth of July. We end up being responsible for all that stupidity and insanity because we provide the show."

However, Councilmen William H. Jennings and Zane said they oppose the morning show.

"The early morning idea is just impractical," Zane said. "There are a whole set of new problems associated with it."

Zane and Jennings said an early fireworks show would wake up residents on a holiday. "Can you imagine all the complaints we would be getting in City Hall with pre-dawn fireworks?" Jennings said.

Sleeping on Beaches

Zane also said an early show might cause some people to attempt to sleep on the beaches the night of July 3. "We would be forcing the police to monitor (the beaches) all night."

Other alternatives outlined in a report to the council from the city manager's office include sponsoring a small fireworks show on July 3 at Santa Monica College or rescheduling the annual beach fireworks show for the evening of July 3.

City Manager John Jalili said he is recommending that the council adopt either the pre-dawn show or the Santa Monica College proposal, both designed to attract smaller, mostly local crowds.

The early morning show "is a wonderful idea and a great solution to a very complicated problem," said Mayor James P. Conn.

"It solves the police concerns as well as really presenting a great opportunity for Santa Monica to get some positive press," he said. "I think a lot of people will be interested nationally in the fact that we are doing this at dawn."

Councilman Alan Katz said the pre-dawn idea is "artistic, patriotic and maintains the tradition" of city fireworks shows.

Councilman Herb Katz said he also supports the pre-dawn plan. Reed and Councilman David Finkel said they want to hear from the public before deciding which plan they favor.

Both Zane and Jennings said they were leaning in favor of a fireworks show at Santa Monica College, but said they would not make a final decision until they could determine whether residents near the college would object to the plan.

Police Chief James F. Keane said an early morning show or a small-scale celebration at Santa Monica College would greatly reduce the size of the holiday crowds.

"More and more people are coming" to the city's fireworks show each year, he said. "We are just not equipped to handle that many."

Overwhelmed by Crowds

Keane said he deploys his entire 150-member police force every July 4. Last year, according to a city report on the 1986 celebration, "by 8:30 p.m. drinking and fireworks violations on the pier and in the beach area were so blatant that enforcement was impossible. Between 9 p.m. and 12:30 a.m. only felony violations were handled in those areas."

Last May, the council narrowly voted to continue the fireworks show, which has been held north of Santa Monica Pier since 1961, and to allow private beachfront fireworks shows at the Jonathan Club and Sand and Sea Club.

Councilmen supporting the shows said at the time they allowed the displays because there was not enough time to develop an alternative celebration and let people know that the fireworks shows were canceled.

Asst. City Manager Lynne Barrette said the Jonathan Club and Sand and Sea Club fireworks displays were not considered in an option paper prepared for council members. "That is an open question for the council," she said.

Managers for the clubs said they did not know whether they would apply for a fireworks permit this year if they had to hold their shows at dawn.

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