Many Newport Beach residents do not pay attention to what is going on with major issues across the city as long as it does not affect them—or so it seems.
We are divided into seven districts and each district has its own council representative. While the council votes on all issues throughout the city, residents tend not to worry about what goes on as long as the improvements that they want are going on in their part of the city.
Suddenly the fire rings are hotly debated again, as they are considered for other areas of the city.
The fire rings were only an issue for Corona del Mar until recently. They now are a larger issue because they are back on the front burner due to an election and a new plan to spread them to other parts of the city.
The city has proposed seven new plans for the fire rings and is asking citizens to weigh in on them. Informational meetings are also being held on them in the city for citizen input and clarification of the many options being offered.
Residents are lined up on both sides of this as there are those who do not want them because of the health concerns with the smoke, neighborhood intrusion of large groups gathered round them, parking problems, and of course the cost and maintenance of them. There are also the residents who do want fire rings because they grew up using them and hope to see them enjoyed by future generations. They feel it is part of the beach experience and should be an option not only for Newport Beach residents but used and enjoyed by the general public.
There are good supporting arguments on both sides of the issue, but the larger issue is—are they appropriate for any Newport Beach neighborhood?
Life has changed, people have changed, and the city has grown from a small beach town to a city of over 85,000 residents. Nearly every square inch of the city has larger houses, multiple units, apartments, and many more two story homes and buildings.
We need more water, clean bay water, bike trails, parking, rules, police, and park rangers to maintain a high quality of life.
Citizens who have not experienced the smoke, the extra beachgoers, trash, and parking issues near the rings are now becoming highly aware that this may all be coming to their neighborhood. Where were those citizens when this was being discussed two years ago? The point is that we all need to be equally concerned about air quality, parking, noise, and other issues throughout the city not just in “our backyard.”
The not in my backyard concept is hurting all residents and everyone’s quality of life in the city. You should be equally concerned about what happens in all seven districts. Measure Y traffic, airport noise and pollution, bay water, parks, late night music and dancing, and a host of other things should concern all citizens not just a few who it directly affects.
I listened to and watched all the council meetings when the fire ring issue was being discussed and decisions made. While I was one of those people who sat by a fire ring many times with my church group as a young adult and enjoyed it immensely, I was enlightened by the many citizens who had done their research on the affects of the smoke to the health of residents. I wished others could continue to experience the rings. I also knew that it was probably no longer possible because we can do without many things but not good health and a healthy living environment.
Too many residents in Newport live close to the rings unlike Huntington Beach where Coast Highway separates the beach from homes within a reasonable distance.
There is also public parking near them that does not create excessive noise and infringe upon parking for residents. Continued growth decreases our ability to do things the same way and forces us to give up things in order to have more residential housing, facilities, shopping, recreation and a host of other things.
I recently moved to a new home, and experienced open fires in a pit on a ranch in Arizona as part of my Super Bowl experience.
While real fireplaces in Newport Beach are no longer allowed to be built, older ones are grandfathered in. Two of my neighbors regularly burn real firewood during the colder months. The smoke and smell drifts into my bedroom on the nights they are used. It does make me cough and keeps me awake, as the smell is so strong.
At the ranch in Arizona shallow pits were dug for the fires, but they still kept many of us from using the tables near them for our sit down ranch dinner. Smoke was blowing with ash and it was too unpleasant to eat near them.
Sometimes we just do not know what others face unless we experience it ourselves. We all need to get involved, educate ourselves, and weigh in on a decision that is good for all citizens regarding the fire rings and others issues.
We are a community, and what affects one part of the city is also important for all of us to be informed of and care about.
That Is My Take
Dr. Gloria J. Alkire