Newport Beach will ask a state agency to reconsider their restrictions on beach fire rings.
The Newport Beach City Council voted 5-2 to send a letter to the South Coast Air Quality Management District, asking the state board to reconsider a rule that requires wood-burning fire rings within 700 feet of residences to be spaced 100 feet apart.
The letter will ask the air quality governing board to reconsider those regulations, first passed in 2013. If the board removed that restriction, fire rings could move back to their pre-2013 footprint if Coastal Commission gives its approval.
Councilman Scott Peotter, who suggested the letter, said with a recent shift in the makeup of the governing board, the fire ring regulations could find less support. The Air Quality board voted 7-6 on March 4 to oust its top executive, Barry Wallerstein, after moving into a Republican-controlled membership.
The city’s beach fire ring plan, which includes both wood-burning and charcoal-burning fire rings, will involve relocating some rings around Corona del Mar State Beach, the Balboa Pier and several around Newport Dunes. It’s also estimated to cost $165,000 per year to employ a private security firm to ensure people at charcoal-only rings don’t use wood around the Balboa Pier and Corona del Mar State Beach.
Peotter said his ultimate goal is to keep beach fire rings in their current footprint. The city’s plan, approved by the Coastal Commission, would mean moving some of the rings when the commission’s permit finally arrives at the city.
“People are going to be ticked if we implement this (plan),” Peotter said of moving the fire rings.
Councilmen Keith Curry and Ed Selich voted against sending the letter. Selich said the fighting between residents worried about wood smoke and residents trying to preserve beach bonfires “tore the community apart.”
“You’re really opening up a can of worms here,” Selich said to council members supporting the letter.
Before the most recent Coastal Commission-approved plan, the city had 60 fire rings at Big Corona beach and the Balboa Pier.
Roughly five years ago, the council looked at whether all beach fire rings should be removed due to health concerns raised by several residents. The council voted to remove the rings in March 2012, and applied for a permit with the Coastal Commission for their removal. The city eventually removed its application in 2013 when it became clear the commission thought the rings should be preserved.
In July 2013, the air quality board voted 7-6 to approve regulations that govern beach fire rings, and the city the next year moved to limit all rings to only charcoal fuel.
The new council in November 2014 sought a different path, and early last year adopted a plan that kept some wood-burning and some charcoal rings to meet all rules, adding some at Newport Dunes. The Coastal Commission approved much of the new plan, but the city does not yet have the permit from the commission.
City manager Dave Kiff said beach visitors sometimes get frustrated with the new regulations of charcoal in some rings and wood in the others.
“We’re just making people unhappy with this,” Kiff said.
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