City plans to sue over Wet Electric rave

Huntington Beach has authorized the city attorney to file suit to halt a daytime rave planned for the beach.

City attorney Jennifer McGrath announced during Tuesday night's council meeting that the city will be filling a lawsuit against the groups associated with Wet Electric — event promoter Premiere Media Group, the state of California and nonprofit Giving It Back To Kids — to prevent the event from occurring Sept. 14.

Councilman Joe Carchio said the concern is for public safety, but the official letter sent by the city attorney asking the promoter to cancel the event refers to zoning and ordinance issues.

Council members voted 6 to 1, with Councilman Dave Sullivan dissenting, during closed session to sue the three groups.

"It doesn't surprise me," said PMG President Steve Thacher, who said he hadn't received notice of the lawsuit by Wednesday. "They've been pretty irrational up until this point, so I wouldn't expect anything else to change."

Kevin Pearsall, a peace officer with the California State Parks who has been involved in the planning of the event, said he was shocked to find out that the city is going to such lengths to stop it. He said the promoter and state have done everything possible to ensure the safety of those in and around the area.

"All safety precautions and permits are in process," he said. "Everything to make sure that everybody is content and that the event is as safe and successful as possible has been put into play or is currently being put into play."

In August, McGrath sent Thacher a letter requesting that the promoter cancel the event because the company's permit did not abide by the city's zoning and subdivision ordinance regarding temporary use and land use control.

But Pearsall said the event is taking place on the state beach and not city property.

"Her letter is completely incorrect," he said. "She's quoting city ordinances, and city ordinances have no relevance over state property and she knows that. … It's not even close to city property. It's 100% on state property. We're using state resources and not using the city resources, and we have assured them that we will not."

Pearsall said he and the promoters have met with the city many times to "put them at ease" and sees no purpose in the pending lawsuit.

"The state attorneys have contacted the city attorney and have expressed their views on it, and everybody's behind this thing," Thacher said. "We're in the 11th hour."

Representatives from Giving It Back To Kids were not available for comment by press time Wednesday.

The Surfrider Foundation, a former supporter of the event, has not been involved with it since it was last held locally, in Irvine in 2011, Huntington Beach chapter president Tony Soriano said.

Soriano said Chamber of Commerce President Jerry Wheeler showed Soriano a video of the 2011 event. He didn't know why Wheeler was mad at him until he saw the Surfrider logo at the end of the video, which showed scantily clad people and drinking. From a crime standpoint though, reports of trouble at the 2011 event were minimal, Irvine police said.

But what has many people concerned is that the upcoming event would be held beachside, and not within the confines of a water park.

Soriano contacted PMG about a month before the U.S. Open of Surfing and told the promoter that Surfrider would not be involved or associated with the event.

"I wanted to get our name away from this whole thing because it's not in our best interest," he said. "We're out of it."

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