On Tuesday, the Oakley City Council agreed to approve an Urgency Ordinance that would increase the penalties on fireworks and hold “social hosts” accountable for firework discharges.
The council voted 4-1 in favor with Vice Mayor Randy Pope dissenting over language in the ordinance.
Under the new ordinance, the city does continue to prohibit manufacturing, sale, use or discharge of fireworks within the city, the fine now jumps to $1,000 per offense. The amendment now can fine a “social host”. The goal is to not only to prohibit discharge of fireworks, but hold homeowners or tenants responsible for the activities occurring at the residence. Other cities have found greater compliance with fireworks.
The prohibition on manufacture, use, and discharge of fireworks would be continued, but liability for such activities would be expanded to include property owners, tenants, or others in control of residences who allow such activities to occur on their properties. Fines would also be increased to $1,000 per violation, even for first violations.
Oakley City Attorney Derek Cole explained many cities have switched to this model as they have found while it may not eliminate all fireworks, over time they will achieve compliance while nothing has changed from the due process where a resident can appeal a fine.
Since it was an urgency ordinance, 4/5 of council needed to approve so that its not a two-step process, it could go in effect immediately.
Chief Dean Capelletti said his prior agency had the same ordinance and it was used as a tool to reduce fireworks. He explained they would begin outreach and already have 72-people on a list who they have identified as offenders.
The chief was also planning for the July 4 Holiday to tackle not only crime, but fireworks.
Councilmember Aaron Meadows stated the issue wasn’t just July 4, but an everyday issue in Oakley. He sought further clarification on “social host” and how it was determined who would receive the fine.
Capelletti explained the decision was often made in the field but sometimes could be a lengthy process.
“I am not opposed to strengthen the ordinance, because there is a problem,” said Meadows. “I do have a problem, its known I am a landlord and I do property management. I guess we are responsible for some of our tenants but I cant be there monitoring them all the time. The landlord gets hit with a $1k fine, we pass it on to the tenant, we can’t evict them.”
Cole stated the landlord who has no connection, they couldn’t cite person because they themselves didn’t use, discharge, store, or sell—if someone owns property but not in possession, the city cannot cite them.
Councilmember George Fuller said it reminded him of drug sales because it then becomes a nuisance issue in terms of the crime/fine.
“Some people don’t get it,” stated Fuller who argued that people, dogs and others are impacted by fireworks.
Vice Mayor Pope admitted he loved the idea of making it easier on cops to chase down people lighting fireworks, including the $1k fine for the social host, but had issues with the language in the ordinance which included party poppers and sparklers.
“I don’t want our officers taking away sparklers from kids,” said Pope who added he didn’t want to issue a fine over a child using a sparkler.
Fuller responded by saying he trusted police officers to make good decisions in the spirit of the law and would use good judgement if kids are using sparklers versus teenagers running after shooting off fireworks.
Fuller then made the motion which passed 4-1 with Pope dissenting.
On Tuesday, Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors also approved an amendment to the County Fireworks Ordinance — click here to read more.