City Council Fast-tracks New Fireworks Ordinance

Amended Municipal Code ordinance could result in fines or prosecution of property owners and tenants for knowingly allowing illegal fireworks

Published : Tuesday, May 15, 2018 | 5:23 AM

Fast-tracking the legislation and bypassing the usual committee meeting and recommendation process, the Pasadena City Council Monday unanimously passed a municipal code amendment under which property owners and tenants who knowingly allow fireworks “to be possessed, sold, used or discharged on their property” could be fined up to $1,000 or prosecuted.

City Attorney Michelle Bagneris explained the speeded up track was taken so that the amendment’s first and second readings could be held at consecutive Council meetings and the mandatory thirty days could pass before the Fourth of July when the ordinance could officially go into effect.

Pasadena Battalion Chief/Deputy Fire Marshal Wendell Eaton explained to the Council that under current rules fire officials or police officers must actually witness persons lighting fireworks or see fireworks in their possession in order to issue a citation or affect an arrest. Fireworks are generally seized in such cases.

“We walk up to the crowd,” said Eaton, “and we ask, ‘Whose fireworks are these?’ and of course, no one wants to accept the responsibility. At that point we seize what is left, and we are done.”

With the new ordinance, Fire Department personnel could now fine and prosecute property owners and tenants.

A single word in the new ordinance plays a major role: the property owners or tenants must “knowingly” allow the use of fireworks in order to be fined or charged.

“The ordinance turns on the word, ‘knowingly.’ How would we establish that?” asked Councilmember Victor Gordo. “Would we treat a property with an onsite manager differently than one which doesn’t have one?”

Chief Assistant City Prosecutor Michael Dowd responded that “‘Knowingly’ is defined in state law. It’s defined as facts that exist that would bring the act or admission within the provisions of the code. It does not require any knowledge of the unlawfulness of the act or admission.”

As Dowd explained further, should a property owner or tenant “know that the facts are happening, which would make it unlawful, then, that is all that is required for ‘knowingly.’”

“All you have to know is the facts that would give rise to the crime,” continued Dowd. “You do not have to know that [an act] is actually illegal.”

As Dowd explained, “If a property manager or owner was on site and witnessed the fireworks, that would bring him or her into the provisions of this code,” and make them liable for prosecution.

Should an owner not be present when the acts occurred, said Dowd, “They would not be prosecuted by my office.”

Dowd explained that the violators on site would be cited, however, and a notice would be sent to the property owner or management company.

“Should this happen again,” said Dowd, “We can go after the property owners, because they know this is happening, and they are not doing anything to stop it.”

Earlier Monday before the meeting, Beverly Kenworthy, Vice President, Public Affairs for the California Apartment Owners Association Los Angeles said that the inclusion of the word “knowingly” makes this ordinance acceptable.

“It’s different than other ordinances that we’ve seen. But the fact that it says ‘knowingly’ gives it a level of protection against owners, and [a tenant's use of fireworks] would be a breach of a lease anyway so we’re not going to oppose this,” she said.

Pasadena would be at least the fifth city in California to enact similar ordinances, including Monterey Park, Lemore, Hanford, Tulare, and Clovis.

The ordinance will be read again on Monday, May 21, and if approved, will go into effect in 30 days.



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