Council Could Make Landlords Legally, Financially Responsible for Tenants' Use of Illegal Fireworks

Published : Monday, May 14, 2018 | 5:54 AM

Pasadena police hand confiscated fireworks to a Pasadena Fire Department arson investigator in this file photo.

[Updated May 14, 2018 | 9:42 a.m.] The Pasadena City Council tonight is scheduled to hear the first reading of an “immediate action” ordinance change which would hold landlords and tenants who “knowingly” allow fireworks on their property responsible for related violations and fines and give the City “greater enforcement power and prosecution of individuals who allow such activities to take place on their property.”

The Council is being asked to vote to authorize the preparation of such an ordinance amendment as well as to vote to authorize the actual new ordinance itself all during tonight’s Council meeting at City Hall.

Normally, Pasadena Fire Chief Bertral Washington writes in his request, “this item would go through the Public Safety Committee. However, in order to have these changes in effect for the July 4th holiday, immediate action is needed.”

Fireworks are illegal in Pasadena, as well as in 49 cities in Los Angeles County and all unincorporated County areas.

Property owners and their tenants could find themselves liable for fines of up to $1,000 and for paying for uncapped expenses for the removal or cleanup of fireworks and fireworks damage if they “ knowingly allow another individual to possess, sell, use or discharge fireworks or fireworks kits on the property where they are the owner or tenant.”

Similar ordinances have been introduced in several Central California cities of the San Joaquin Valley over the past three years.

When the community of Lemoore, 32 miles south of Fresno, considered a similar ordinance, property owners and managers worried that they could be hit with fines if their tenants set off illegal fireworks at the property the tenants are renting, the Hanford Sentinel reported in 2016.

“I think this ordinance sets the precedent that holds property owners [accountable] for any actions the tenant does,” Dustin Fuller, a Lemoore resident who owns a Lemoore home he rents out, told the Sentinel. “I think questions need to be asked.”

Ultimately, in Lemoore, the Council changed the ordinance to making the responsible party the person or people who rent, lease or are otherwise responsible for the property where illegal fireworks are used. That version was passed.

The proposed Pasadena ordinance differs in a material way from others passed in California.

“We’re fine with it,” said Beverly Kenworthy, Vice President, Public Affairs for the California Apartment Owners Association Los Angeles. “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 or even show up tonight.”

Emilie Broughton, president of Pasadena-Foothills Association of Realtors (PFAR), told Pasadena Now Sunday that “PFAR does not have a position at this time” regarding the ordinance change.

In spite of the City’s “zero tolerance” policy against fireworks, the amount of fireworks being set off and seized during, or close to, the Fourth of July has been rising in recent years, as has the noise created by exploding fireworks in parts of the City.

In 2016, the police department’s Special Enforcement Section seized over 360 pounds of illegal fireworks, in what police said was the largest single seizure of illegal fireworks within the City’s recent history.

The threat of fires from illegal fireworks has also forced the fire department to exercise extra precautions, including spraying fire-retardant chemicals on hillsides and heavily vegetated areas in Pasadena before the Fourth of July weekend and mounting extra patrols city-wide.

The public portion of the City Council’s meeting tonight starts at 6:30 p.m. in Council Chambers at City Hall, 100 North Garfield Avenue.



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