Redwood City council passes social host ordinance to prevent illegal fireworks

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A year after increasing fines to curb rampant use of illegal fireworks, Redwood City has adopted a Social Host Ordinance that aims to enable enhanced enforcement of illegal fireworks.

The ordinance, approved by the City Council at Monday’s meeting, is designed to hold accountable those who host or organize gatherings responsible for illegal firework activity on a property in the city.

Since numerous complaints about illegal fireworks during New Year’s Eve in 2017, the city has been stepping up prevention outreach efforts. The city launched outreach campaigns and approved increased fines, but they don’t solve the problem of enforcement. While police are equipped to identify the general location where illegal fireworks are being set off, it is difficult for them to identify the individuals responsible, according to the city. Officers must then insert themselves into a crowd to attempt to identify the user or possessor.

The newly approved Social Host Ordinance, used by other California jurisdictions including Pacifica and Santa Clara County, allows law enforcement to hold the person responsible for the property or event accountable, increasing both enforcement capability and safety, the city said. And once the city educates the public about the new ordinance, the hope is that fewer property renters and owners will allow illegal fireworks to occur, the city said.

“The ordinance exempts property owners who can demonstrate that at the time of the violation they had rented or leased the property to another, they were not present, and they had no prior knowledge of the violation,” the city said.

Mayor Ian Bain said prevention efforts are important due to the dangers of illegal fireworks and their negative impact on people suffering from post-trauma and dogs.

“It’s really a matter of life or death, someone could lose their life and many people don’t realize that when they use these dangerous fireworks,” Vice Mayor Diane Howard said.