Sprint Nationals (copy)

Competitors in the super stock category round the buoy last year during the Sprint Nationals at Marine Stadium.

An effort to salvage the Sprint Nationals speedboat races is down to its last gap, with the organizer saying he'd need a permit next week to have the races this year.

Ross Wallach, organizer and president of the Southern California Speedboat Club, said he needs a permit "essentially by the first week in August but I could possibly stretch into the second week if it was touch and go. All the racers and fans are ready. It's the printing of the programs/posters that I'm holding up as long as possible. I will just be waiting for the city for a yes or no."

The speedboat races, sometimes called circle boat races, have taken place at Marine Stadium for decades. The biggest controversy in the past has been the noise from the high-powered engines.

Last year, driver Gregory Paul Duff died two weeks after his boat was hit by another boat that had gone airborne in a turn. City officials have said that was not the direct cause for stricter permit conditions. The after-race review is where stronger safety precautions were required.

This year, additional safety requirements were added to the permit, as well as a requirement for $10 million in liability insurance. City officials say they notified Wallach of the additional requirements in November, but he had not met them by May, and a final denial was issued.

Wallach said in June that the city's Special Events Bureau and Fire Marshal had not communicated with him for months. He threatened legal action in June, but instead began the process to resubmit, with a new event date of Aug. 17 and 18.

On July 18, manager of Special Events and Filming Tasha Day sent Wallach a three-page letter detailing all of the issues remaining to be resolved before a permit could be issued. There were 27 separate bullet points, ranging from a copy of credential requirements for a pit lane pass to an evacuation plan should a disaster occur.

In that letter, Day said that the 21-business-day review period began on Friday, July 19. Tuesday, July 30, she said that additional documentation had been received from Wallach and had been distributed to the appropriate departments for review. No decision had been made, she added.

Twenty-one business days from July 19 would be Aug. 19 — after the proposed event date. Day and other city officials have said they are trying to expedite the process, but that all of the permit conditions must be met, including the certificate of insurance. A completed insurance policy is one of the 27 bullet points.

Wallach continues to say that the city has been dragging its feet and really wants to end the event.

"This wasn't right from the start," Wallach wrote in an email. "They continually ignored me hoping I'd just go away. Had they been forthcoming and honest they could have given me these unreasonable demands/conditions back in September or October last year and we wouldn't be talking right now. But they didn't and they severely underestimated my resolve to put on this historic event. 

"This is a great case of bureaucracy run wild."

Harry has been executive editor of Gazette Newspapers for more than 26 years. He has been in the newspaper business for more than 35 years, with experience on both weekly and metropolitan daily papers in Colorado and California.

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