This fire ring saga has been going on three years, and the former mayor was called a liar in a public forum this week. So, I thought it was time for an update.
Many residents are already aware that in July of last year, the AQMD unelected bureaucratic party poopers passed new regulations, Rule 444, eliminating fire pits on the beach, unless they meet the following criteria (taken from the AQMD website):
Effective March 1, 2014, fire pits can remain if:
–They are located at least 700 feet from the nearest residence; OR
–They are at least 100 feet apart (if a city has 15 or fewer fire pits, they must be separated by at least 50 feet) and
–Air quality for fine particulates (PM2.5) in coastal areas is not forecast to exceed 100 on the Air Quality Index. (This is expected to occur infrequently under special meteorological conditions.)
The Council Reversed Itself
The Newport Beach City Council voted to abolish all 60 fire pits in the city. Based on the AQMD’s regulations, the council voted late last year to reduce the 27 Fire Rings in CDM to 12 and the 33 fire rings on the peninsula to 15. The remaining fire rings will be spaced out and natural gas fire rings will be added. The city still needs California Coastal Commission (CCC) approval, at least according to the CCC. The City is stating that they need to comply with the AQMD and no CCC is required. A classic “mine is bigger than yours” contest.
Our Local Assemblymen Have Gotten Involved
Assemblyman Travis Allen (Huntington Beach) and co-author Assemblyman Mansoor (Newport Beach) have introduced AB1102. This bill passed its first hurdle, the Assembly Committee on Natural Resources, unanimously this last Monday. AB1102 eliminates AQMD authority on Beach Fires and will require the City of Newport Beach to obtain a coastal development permit from the CCC before any removals of fire rings can occur. The Assembly is stating that the CCC is bigger than the AQMD.
Our Own Councilman Curry Is Making Fire Rings a Campaign Issue
In a candidate forum for the 74th Assembly District last week, Councilman Curry made the fire rings a major issue. Curry, who is running to replace Mansoor (who is running for John Moorlach’s 2nd supervisorial seat), tried to explain Newport’s vote as “home rule.” Huntington Beach Mayor Matthew Harper was not having any of it and characterized the Newport Beach fire pit ban as being bad for Southern California. A third candidate for the seat accused Curry of lying about AB1102. I am sure that we have not heard the last on this, for this campaign. But it is an ongoing contest between Newport and Huntington Beach.
Lawsuit Filed to Save the Fire Rings
In the meantime, a group calling itself “Friends of the Fire Rings” filed suit in Superior Court asking for a Writs of Mandate invalidating the AQMD rules on fire pits. According to the group’s website, the lawsuit claims that the AQMD used politics rather than science in the making of the rule. Now the citizens are trying to get into the act.
Sounds Like a Contest to See Who Has the Most Power
The AQMD believes that they have the power to regulate air quality, the CCC believes that it has the power to regulate the beaches, the cities of Newport Beach and Huntington Beach believe that the fire pits are theirs and can do what they want with them, and the public is involved taking the issue to the courts to see if they can come out on top.
Seems like a lot of bravado going on. Think the fires can stay lit?
Scott Peotter is an Architect and former Planning Commissioner in Newport Beach. Scott can be reached at email@example.com.