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Plan underway for Fourth of July light festival at Ocean Beach Pier

Resident Mike James wants to bring a “Luminosity Festival” to the Ocean Beach Pier next Fourth of July.
Mike James, former president of the Ocean Beach Merchants Association (now MainStreet Association), wants to bring a “Luminosity Festival” to the Ocean Beach Pier next Fourth of July.
(Nelvin C. Cepeda / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

A local resident has launched an effort to bring a Fourth of July light festival to the Ocean Beach Pier.

Mike James, former president of the Ocean Beach Merchants Association (now MainStreet Association), said he’ll be seeking community input and volunteers for committees while demonstrating the possibilities, which include lasers, drones, light displays on buildings and more, during an inaugural meeting on the project at 6 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 25, at Rincon Reservation Road Brewery, 4836 Newport Ave., Ocean Beach.

James is targeting next July 4 for his “Luminosity Festival.”

“I’ve done a lot of research on festivals throughout the world and what’s going on and what the potential is,” James said during the Ocean Beach Town Council’s July meeting. “With the creativity in this community, we can go beyond that and we can really make it our own thing.”

The formerly annual Fourth of July fireworks from the pier were canceled this year because the city of San Diego was unable to issue a permit for them due to concerns about the 56-year-old pier’s ability to handle trucks and other heavy items necessary for the show, according to the MainStreet Association. It was the third consecutive year the fireworks were not held.

Though the pier fully reopened for public use July 8 following a year and a half of at least partial closure after it was damaged by high surf in January 2021, the city has made design and construction of a replacement one of the top priorities of a new unit in the Engineering & Capital Projects Department.

The Ocean Beach Pier has been a landmark for the coastal community since it first opened in July 1966.

An evaluation report completed in 2019 and released in April 2021 said the pier has “reached the end of its service life” because of cracked pilings and erosion.

Hoping to garner feedback and assistance from groups such as OBTC and OBMA, James — who brought the original fireworks display to town in 1980 — received some immediately when Town Council board member Gary Gartner said Imperial Beach organized a drone show for its Independence Day celebration this year.

James said he had scheduled a meeting with a local drone company owner. “So already things are starting to come together,” he said.

Though a light festival at the pier could be restricted because of its proximity to San Diego International Airport, James said that had been taken into account.

“We know that’s going to be a big issue with the FAA [Federal Aviation Administration],” he said. “We’ve already looked at some of the legal ramifications of doing that. We’re going to find out a lot more ... about the limitations we’ll have with the FAA.”

James recently moved back to Ocean Beach after a 21-year hiatus during which he raised his children in the neighborhood around San Diego State University. He was praised during the meeting for taking on a community project so quickly upon his return.

“It’s a great idea,” said Denny Knox, executive director of the OB MainStreet Association. “For those of us who have put on the fireworks many of these years, it’s a nice alternative.”

Return to online only

The Town Council’s July meeting returned to an exclusively online format on Zoom and Facebook after attempts at a hybrid mix of online and in person in May and June.

OBTC President Corey Bruins noted that only four community residents, other than the board, attended the June meeting in person at the Masonic Center, while about 30 were present online.

Because of the time and resources required from a volunteer board to produce a live broadcast of the meetings, the Town Council reverted to the online-only format that originally was launched to cope with restrictions arising from the pandemic.

“We’re grateful ... that we’re able to continue to gather in this format, which has truly been very successful over the past 2½ years,” Bruins said. “So thanks for engaging with us as we navigate these changes, kind of moving back to an in-person world.”

Unless a volunteer can set up and produce hybrid meetings consistently, the board will decide case by case whether future meetings will be held solely online or in a hybrid format.

“We’ll continue to keep you posted about what the next months’ meetings look like,” Bruins said. “What we’re committed to is taking it month by month based on the resources we have, the topic of the meeting, all of those things.”

OBTC’s next meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 24. For more information, visit facebook.com/obtowncouncil.

Committees event draws 50 people

Following the creation of four committees concentrated on specific activities to attract greater participation from the community, the Town Council held a special event in early July intended to get residents to join, drawing about 50 people.

For the first time, directors of each of the four committees — Advocacy, Engagement, Events and Improvement — gave reports on their activities, which this time consisted generally of the number of residents who have expressed interest.

“We’re doing the groundwork,” said OBTC board member Tony Cohen, director of the Improvement Committee. “There’s a lot going on behind the scenes. ... We’re building this thing out. We’re all working on this together.”


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