In an unusually public rebuke, Los Alamitos Mayor Gerri Graham-Mejia accused City Manager Bret Plumlee of slighting her by not providing a formal written staff report for Agenda Item 11C, Options for the 4th of July Fireworks Spectacular, held annually at Los Alamitos Joint Forces Training Base.
The fireworks display is a joint project not only of the City of Los Alamitos and Los Alamitos Joint Forces Training Base, but also the City of Cypress, the community of Rossmoor, and the City of Seal Beach.
A $5 per car fee for driving onto the Base covers only a small portion of the cost of the event.
Los Alamitos coordinates the event, with the JFTB providing the venue and support personnel.
The other partners contribute financial support. For example, according to Assistant City Manager Patrick Gallegos, Seal Beach contributes $8,000 — and city staffers attend planning meetings. In addition, Cypress provides police, support personnel, and a mobile stage. [Update: the Rossmoor Community Services District contributed $6,200 this year and manned an information booth.]
The motivation for establishing the event was to provide an appropriate venue for fireworks under safe and controlled conditions in place of so-called Safe and Sane fireworks.
Mayor Graham-Mejia had requested that the item be placed on the Council agenda. She asserted that the omission of a staff report showed Plumlee’s lack of respect for her.
The topic of the location of the fireworks display on the Los Alamitos Joint Forces Training Base flared when residents of Carrier Row, north of the Base, filled the Council Chamber to request that the display be returned to its prior location, or to have the fireworks set off higher. Residents claimed to be unable to watch the display from their own yards.
The display was moved to the paved area of Los Alamitos Army Airfield (part of the Base) because of the construction of new buildings. That construction is now complete, and Carrier Row residents want the display moved back.
Corey Lakin, Los Alamitos Director of Recreation and Community Services, gave an oral report.
He confirmed the assertion by Carrier Row residents that it would be next to impossible for those living behind the first row of houses to see the fireworks display at the new location. Instead of just inside the Base boundaries, with 3- and 4-inch shells shooting 300 to 400 feet in the air, for the past two years the display has been at a location about 4000 feet south but at a similar height.
The result is that from Carrier Row, the display is much lower, and for most residents it would be hidden behind houses and landscaping.
Mr. Lakin also reported that changes in regulations in the last two years would make it difficult to move the display back, and that the Base Fire Department preferred the new location for safety reasons and savings on water usage. Those in charge of security at the Base also prefer the new location because controlling crowds is more straightforward. At the old location, those attending tended to find a spot to sit just about anywhere, regardless of whether the space was restricted.
The former location was in weedy dirt dotted with gopher holes.
The paved area is easier for ADA access, and less likely to lead to sprained ankles and falls. Further, the Fire Department does not have to water the pavement, saving about 300,000 gallons.
During discussion, other off-Base locations for viewing the display were noted: the parking lot at Cottonwood Church; the Navy Golf Course; and The Shops at Rossmoor.
(Old Ranch Country Club on the southern boundary of the JFTB mounts a private fireworks display.)
Also included in the discussion was the cost of possibly shooting the fireworks higher, to make them more visible from Carrier Row. According to Mr. Lakin, shells rise in height about 100 feet for each inch in size, but the cost rises faster. So, for instance, while a three-inch shell rises to about 300 feet and costs $8, an eight-inch shell rises to about 800 feet — but costs around nine times as much.
Therefore raising the height of the fireworks display at the new location would require either much greater expense, or many fewer shells.
The discussion ended for the evening with Mayor Graham-Mejia instructing staff to figure out how to move the display back to its prior location. Councilman Warren Kusumoto seconded her position while noting that allowing residents the use of Safe and Sane fireworks should be considered if the display cannot be returned to its prior location.
The discussion will continue at
today’s special Council meeting, starting at 5:30 p.m. the regular Council meeting on Sept. 15.
Editor’s note: thanks go to Bret Plumlee for correcting us about when the fireworks discussion will continue.
- Rifle volleys scheduled at JFTB Tuesday morning, Aug. 19 (oc-breeze.com)
- Fireworks at Los Alamitos City Council meeting (oc-breeze.com)
- Orange County Breeze wishes all our readers a happy and safe Independence Day (oc-breeze.com)