Newport Beach residents can expect to hear rancorous discussion about the city’s fire rings following the city council’s recent decision to ask the South Coast Air Quality Management District to rollback its recent regulation of the iconic beach fixtures.
The Newport Beach City Council on Tuesday voted to 5-2, with Councilmen Keith Curry and Ed Selich voting no, to send a letter to the AQMD advocating the repeal of a 2013 amendment to Rule 444, which instituted regulations of beach fire rings for the first time.
In July 2013, the AQMD’s governing board voted that wood-burning beach fire rings within 700 feet of residences should be spaced 100 feet apart. Rings used for burning charcoal or gas were exempted from the rule.
Councilman Scott Peotter brought the proposal for the letter to the council last month. The fire rings’ footprint would expand under a proposal currently be reviewed by the California Coastal Commission but the city should instead try to limit the bonfires’ impact to as few people as possible, Peotter said.
“To me this is a local control issue,” he said.
Peotter claimed the majority of the AQMD’s governing board has shifted and that it is unclear whether they would rescind the 2013 amendment. In November, Lake Forest City Councilman Dwight Robinson replaces Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido on the AQMD’s governing board.
City Manager Dave Kiff told the council that the city spends $165,000 per year on a private lifeguard company to issue tickets to those who attempt to burn wrong materials like wood with paint, tables and other furniture in the 60 fire rings divided between Big Corona and the Balboa Pier.
“We’re just making people unhappy,” Kiff said. “That’s just my gut reaction with this.”
Councilman Ed Selich criticized the majority of the council for re-opening an issue that caused so much uproar in the community a few years ago.
“If we do this then the community will never trust us again to come to a compromise and keep our word,” he said.
Mayor Pro Tem Kevin Muldoon described beach bonfires as a wonderful tradition and said he was happy to see this legislation rolled back and citizens’ freedom restored.
Muldoon dismissed concerns from residents about the health impacts of living up-wind from fire rings.
“They knew of the location when they purchased their home,” he said.