An Orange County judge this week rejected a bid by Huntington Beach officials to stop an oceanfront music festival from being held this weekend.
Judge Jamoa Moberly said Wednesday the city failed to prove that it might suffer irreparable harm from the Wet Electric event, which is scheduled for Saturday at Huntington State Beach.
The judge also said the city could have acted sooner in its effort to halt the event, noting that Huntington Beach officials knew about the rave as early as April.
Attorney Dan Ohl, representing the city, argued the event would violate the city's zoning laws for the area, but the judge sided with attorneys for the state, who argued the part of the beach where the event is planned falls within the state's jurisdiction.
After the April meeting when city officials were notified of the event, they again were alerted about it in July, Moberly noted.
"Now we're two or three days from the event with an emergency," Moberly said.
Ohl said city officials only recall being aware of the party during the U.S. Open of Surfing, when fliers were being handed out. The Huntington Beach City Council voted recently to file a lawsuit in hopes of stopping the event.
Event organizers noted that the event was being held on a state beach, and had been approved by state officials.
The city's concerns over the festival came about a month after an outbreak of violence that followed the U.S. Open of Surfing in late July.
During that riot, thousands of people took to the streets and broke store windows, looted businesses and overturned portable toilets. Six people were arrested, with police posting photos and videos online in hopes of tracking down suspects.
City Attorney Jennifer McGrath said the riot did not motivate the city's response to the event. The legal tussle represents a breakdown in communication between the state and city that needs to be improved, McGrath said.
"We need to become better partners," McGrath said after the hearing. "This is a very good example that we don't have the relationship we'll need to have if (parties on the state beach) is going to become the norm."
McGrath implied that state officials were hosting the party in an attempt to generate revenue to offset budget cuts, but Orange Coast District Superintendent Brian Ketterer said that wasn't the case.
"The revenue is minimal," Ketterer said.
The state will receive $90,000 from the party's organizer, Premiere Media Group, but much of that will go toward expenses with little profit, Ketterer said.
State parks officials are more interested in "reaching a demographic we haven't reached," referring to the crowd of 8,000 to 10,000 young adults expected to attend, Ketterer said.
About 20 to 30 state police will be on hand for the event, Ketterer said. Premiere Media Group has also hired about 90 security guards, according to Premiere President Steve Thacher.
The event's promoter also has contracted with a taxi company and chartered buses to help get revelers home safely, Ketterer and Thacher said.
Also, there will be places for party-goers to park their bicycles if they ride to the festival, Thacher said.
Ketterer and Thacher rejected characterizations of the event as a rave.
"We're looking at it as any music festival," Ketterer said.
Thacher added: "It's just about a fun day on the beach. I don't know of any raves that end at 9 p.m. and occurs on a state beach. ... If there are any similarities, it's the music."
Premiere started Wet Electric at the now-shuttered Wild Rivers Waterpark in Irvine in 2010, but organizers have been moving the festival around to various locations since then, Thacher said. The organizer has had 10 concerts without any incidents, he added.
The festival will include electronic music, zip-line rides and other attractions for about nine hours until 9 p.m. Saturday.
Huntington Beach police plan to beef up patrols in the area to enforce against drunken driving, said city spokeswoman Laurie Frymire.
—City News Service.