San Benito stops closing streets for parties

SAN BENITO — The street party’s over.

City officials have scrapped the decades-old practice of closing streets to allow residents to hold private parties.

Mayor Ben Gomez said the practice could have opened the city to liability.

“The safety issue is my main concern,” Gomez said about deciding on the change.

Earlier this month, city commissioners denied Cynthia Leija’s request to close the 100 block of Second Street, where she planned her son’s graduation party.

Leija, who lives at 1011 Ebano St., told commissioners the city had approved her request to close a street for her child’s party years ago.

“I don’t doubt we’ve done these kinds of things in the past,” City Manager Manuel De La Rosa said during the June 5 meeting. “That doesn’t make them right.”

The practice of closing streets for private parties opens the city to potential lawsuits in the event of incidents such as car accidents, officials said at the meeting.

“The utilization of public property for private events has the potential for causing undue distress,” De La Rosa stated yesterday. “The risks associated and protecting the general health and welfare of the community are a primary component in all decision-making processes.”

During meeting discussions, Commissioner Tony Gonzales said the city recently approved newly-elected state District Judge Adolfo Cordova’s request to close a street to allow him to hold a public Mother’s Day party last month.

But officials said Cordova’s request was approved because he held the party for the community.

Instead of closing her street, Gomez suggested Leija hold the party at a city venue, such as a park.

Leija told commissioners she would consider a public venue.

Yesterday, Gomez said the city offers an array of public areas for these types of events and celebrations.

“We have parks and pavilions,” Gomez said. “We will work with people on payments or reduced costs.”

The city’s public venues include the Community Center, Heavin Park amphitheatre, Plaza de San Benito, Kennedy Park and Stookey Park.