PACIFICA -- July Fourth fireworks on Pacifica's beaches may go the way of smoking in bars and foie gras sales in California.
An effort is under way in the coastside city -- one of the few Bay Area towns that still allow people to sell and shoot off "safe and sane" fireworks -- that could mean a ban on part or all of the summertime institution. Pacifica's City Council is expected in early 2013 to finalize a task force charged with taking on the issue.
In interviews, local officials said there's been talk of prohibiting fireworks from the city's beaches. However, no one is for the moment pushing to shutter the sales stands that serve as fundraisers for community groups. Any proposals from the task force would need final approval from the City Council.
Pacifica was one of just 14 Bay Area cities in 2012 to permit "safe and sane" fireworks, which generally don't fly or explode. The sleepy coastal town has already struggled with whether to continue allowing the tradition. The most recent vote came in 1996 and saw some 70 percent of the electorate saying sparklers, fountains and smoke bombs should not be banned.
But on July 4, Pacifica native Sue Pemberton said she saw something shocking after the sun went down on Linda Mar beach, which draws scores of revelers. A high-tide was lapping up against scattered spent fireworks and was threatening to wash them into the Pacific Ocean. The 52-year-old Montara resident and a friend ended up
The preliminary talk about some sort of ban has left local youth sports groups nervous. Erin Macias, president of the Pacifica Girls Softball League, said the organization relies on the roughly $5,000 a year from fireworks sales to keep the program accessible to any girl who wants to play.
"I don't know what we'd do without fireworks (fundraising)," she said.
According to city records, 15 stands run by groups like Terra Nova High School football and American Youth Soccer Organization raised a total of $100,961 in net proceeds in 2012. The groups paid $32,244 in fees to the city, which is about $1,756 less than the roughly $34,000 in costs to Pacifica police, fire department and public works.
Pacifica Mayor Len Stone said he wouldn't support a ban on fireworks, citing the will of Pacifica voters. But he is open to the idea of moving them off the beach. He's concerned about the mess of plastic and cardboard, which gets buried in the sand.
"It's an environmental concern," he said. "Clean beaches are a local value of our community. (Fireworks) create a lot of garbage."
The environmental impact of fireworks on the beach plays out over the course of months or years, said Pacifica Beach Coalition President Lynn Adams. Fireworks get washed out into the ocean, buried in sand and left behind despite cleanup efforts that include the same groups that sell fireworks.
"We'd rather see them (fireworks) move onto the parking lot," she said. "A million people could not pick up all the fireworks on the beach, simply because you can't find them."
Moving the celebrations off the beach, however, could mean a whole new set of problems. Keeping scores of revelers centralized makes its easier for authorities to keep a lid on the fun and keep sparks away from fire-prone areas. Allowing the party to fragment would leave city workers, "strained to respond to all the problems that might arise," according to a city staff report.
Contact Joshua Melvin at 650-348-4335. Follow him at Twitter.com/melvinreport.