UNION CITY – Safe and sensible fireworks have long been allowed in Union City, but with this dose there is a constant stream of complaints about noise that can disturb people and pets, litter and debris, and sometimes property damage, every summer as well as the city … sees many explosive and often flying illegal fireworks.
In hopes of limiting the use of illegal fireworks and encouraging safer use of sanctioned fireworks, Union City Council approved violations of city fireworks rules and increased fines to $ 1,000 a piece, or 10 times the current $ 100.
The ruling, unanimously backed by the city council on Tuesday, will also establish new liability for property owners, who could also be fined up to $ 1,000 for allowing them to illegally set fireworks on their property.
The city will also shorten the time it is allowed to use “safe and sensible” fireworks by one hour on July 4th, reducing the curfew from 11:00 pm to 10:00 pm.
And while Union City has also looked into banning all sales and use of fireworks, the results of a new poll suggest that most residents will probably not like it.
Union City has long allowed nonprofits and school programs to raise money by selling “safe and smart” fireworks at kiosks throughout the city from July 1-4.
Currently, 21 organizations are eligible to sell on kiosks, although only 18 were sold in 2021 due to concerns over COVID-19. Union City recorded just over $ 1 million in gross fireworks sales in 2021, according to city officials.
After these nonprofits paid approximately $ 550,000 to TNT and Phantom fireworks brands for products and kiosk rentals, and paid approximately $ 158,000 in city and state taxes and business license fees, this year the nonprofits received about $ 291,000, city reports say.
People are prohibited from lighting these fireworks in public parks and on the streets or other urban areas, and fireworks cannot be used east of Mission Boulevard, where the usually dry grass in the hills is ripe for ignition.
According to the previous rules, fireworks were allowed to be launched until 22:00 on most days when they could be sold, and until 23:00 on July 4.
People setting illegal fireworks or violating city rules for the safe and prudent use of fireworks in the past have been charged with fines of $ 100 for the first violation, $ 200 for the second violation during the year, and $ 500 for the third violation during the year, although City records show. that reoffending is extremely rare.
In 2021, the city issued 29 fireworks from June 28 to July 4, nine of which related to safe and reasonable violations. According to city data, the total number of allegations of fireworks-related violations varied greatly in previous years: 11 in 2020, zero in 2019, 16 in 2018, five in 2017 and four in 2016.
Under the new rules, the police department, as well as city code law enforcement officers or officials in charge of construction, can issue up to $ 1,000 for a first violation, although officials stressed that the decision to issue a quote would be at the discretion of the city. ticket issuer.
Councilor Jaime Patiño said during a council meeting on Tuesday that he would prefer to see a different structure for people found abusing or initiating safe and normal fireworks after curfew.
“Whoever lights a Bengal fire at 10:30 pm does not have to meet the same standards as someone who blows up an M-80 or fires a mortar into the air to explode,” he said.
Mayor Carol Dutra-Vernachi disagreed, saying the fines should be uniform and the decision on whether to issue a charge should be left to the discretion of the police.
“When they come to the scene, they look at the facts and circumstances and decide then,” she said during the meeting.
Police Chief Jared Rinetti said most police officers quote people using illegal fireworks.
“We understand that many families are coming together to celebrate safe and smart fireworks in Union City. We are not trying to cite minor violations. The vast majority of our contacts are educational, so when we see people too close to a structure or when we don’t have water, we are here just to remind people how to use it safely, ”he said. …
Some leaders and residents of local school groups said they feared the possibility of a complete ban on all fireworks, as it could become the main source of funding for programs such as forensics and wrestling at James Logan High School.
The mayor said the city is not considering a fireworks ban right now, but has left the door open for this potential in the future.
“Let’s try to get serious about law enforcement, get the public involved and get rid of illegal fireworks,” she said at the meeting.
“And then we’ll come back … after July Fourth of next year and talk about how it went and if there is anything else we want to do at this point,” she said.
A poll conducted by Godbe Research in San Mateo, commissioned by the city in September, found that only 39.5% of 442 residents surveyed strongly support the ban on all fireworks, and 31% strongly oppose the ban. About 11% opposed the ban to some extent and about 13.8% supported the ban to some extent. The survey margin was approximately 4.6%.
Union City has banned all fireworks since the “particularly difficult Fourth of July 2001,” which injured injuries and carried out a major cleanup of city parks and streets, but this was canceled in a referendum supported by fireworks vendors, city reports say.
In early elections in March 2002, voters rejected the ruling, with 3,085 voters supporting the ban and 3,795 voters opposing the ban.