A proposed Huntington Beach ordinance would hold a home's occupants responsible for fireworks set off on the property.
The proposed law, which passed 4 to 3 on a first reading Monday, is an attempt to crack down on people who flee or deny using fireworks on the Fourth of July. Mayor Matthew Harper and Councilmen Dave Sullivan and Joe Carchio dissented.
The council must deliver a second approval for the proposal to become official.
State-approved fireworks were recently made illegal again after the city had legalized them during a two-year trial period, 2012 and 2013. During that time, safety officials confiscated about 300 pounds of fireworks.
"A lot of times, the problem with enforcing the use of illegal fireworks has been that they get shot off at someone's property, and when the fireworks suppression team shows up, everybody scatters," Councilwoman Connie Boardman said.
"Or if you knock on the door, people say, 'We don't know who was doing that.' So this becomes a way to hold the resident, renter or owner of the property [or a mix of them] responsible."
Though the city already has a means of citing people for using fireworks, City Atty. Jennifer McGrath explained that the existing law only allows citations to be issued if safety officials see the person setting off a device. The proposed ordinance would allow authorities to cite people if there is simply evidence of fireworks use on the property.
"That's been a gap in our coverage," she said. "Once we get there, it's over. So this [proposed ordinance] gives us permission that if there's evidence of fireworks in the driveway, in the grass or in the backyard, we have the potential to cite them based on that evidence."
McGrath added that citations do not need to be issued the day the incident occurred and can be mailed later. Fines begin at $250 for the first offense, $500 for the second and $1,000 for the third.
The proposed ordinance originally made property owners eligible to be fined as well, but that language was removed to avoid citing absentee landlords and to focus on those living in or visiting the property during the time of the incident.
Harper pointed out a problem that is not addressed in the proposed ordinance, and McGrath concurred.
Officials would still not be able to cite those who use fireworks in the streets unless they are caught in the act.