Residents React as Staff Moves Forward With Plans to Remove Fire Rings

posted: March 14th, 2012 01:01 pm | 20Comments

The Newport Beach City Council moved swiftly on Tuesday, voting unanimously and without any debate to ask staff to remove the city’s 60 beach fire rings because of concerns of safety and air quality.

But it will take several months — and Coastal Commission approval — before the rings are gone.

Newport Beach City Manager Dave Kiff met with staff today to discuss the next steps following the Council’s vote, said Laura Detweiler, the city’s Recreation and Senior Services Department director.

“We’ll consult with both the Coastal Commission and state parks,” she said. “It’s probably a couple of weeks’ process to pull all the pieces together.”

Removing the rings would only take a couple of days and would be done by a regular beach maintenance crew, Detweiler said. Corona del Mar has 27 concrete fire rings, and the Balboa Pier area has 33 rings.

Coastal Commission permission likely will take months, coastal staff said.

“It’s going to take some time,” said Fernie Sy, a coastal program analyst with the California Coastal Commission. “It’s not a simple dock on someone’s house. There’s a bigger impact on this project. It’s an amenity for the public.”

Before issuing a permit, a full, public Coastal Commission hearing would be held, he said. Scheduling a hearing usually occurs between eight and 12 weeks after a permit is received, Sy said, in order to give coastal staff time to review and create a staff report.

The City Council’s unanimous vote followed an hourlong public hearing at Tuesday’s Council meeting, with most of the 29 speakers testifying in support of removing the rings.

“Before I go to sleep at night, I put my face in front of the purifier to remember what clean air smells like,” said Charles Farrell, a Peninsula resident who said he has 15 fire pits directly in front of his home. “It’s the plastic smell that makes me sick…I am a victim of slow asphyxiation.”

A lifelong Newport Beach resident and Hoag Hospital pulmonologist, Ryan Klein, told council members that the smoke aggravated asthma and other chronic lung diseases. Some residents of Breakers Drive, located above Big Corona State Beach, said family members could not visit because the fire ring smoke aggravated their lung diseases. And others expressed concern about crime, injuries and floating embers that could cause a fire, all side effects from the fire rings.

Other residents expressed desire to keep the rings, perhaps with changes to limit what kind of fuel is burned, or a reservation and payment system that would pay for fire ring-specific park rangers.

Sisters Sophia, 11, and Vanessa Koop, 9, spoke in favor of keeping fire rings.

“We like the fire rings,” Sophia said. “Say we go swimming and it gets cold — how will we warm up?” her younger sister, Vanessa, said.

A few Parks, Beaches and Recreation commissioners, who voted 4-3 in support of the fire ring ban at a meeting last month, also spoke at the hearing. Commissioner Kathy Hamilton described the dangers of the rings, while Commissioner Roy Englebrecht described air quality tests he conducted with rented equipment that showed high levels of air pollutants at the rings that were not present 300 and 500 feet away.

Mayor Nancy Gardner thanked those who spoke and said it helped form her opinion. Councilman Mike Henn moved to accept the staff’s recommendation to remove the ring, and all seven council members voted unanimously without any further discussion.

The audience applauded after the vote, and today some residents praised the decision.

“I thank Mayor Gardner, the City Council, and staff for their review of the research and studies about wood smoke health effects, and for making this ethical decision,” said Barbara Peters, a Breakers Drive resident who has regularly testified about the dangers of wood smoke. “So many people voiced their concerns, and they were heard.”

Others expressed dismay at the speed of the council decision.

“We were surprised by how quickly the council took action following the PB&R recommendation, leaving little time for the resident outreach that we agreed to do at our February Board meeting,” said Karen Tringali, the CdMRA president, in an email. At that meeting, the group agreed to use a mailer to the 92625 ZIP code and an April town meeting as opportunities to explain the issues to Corona del Mar residents.

An online petition asking to stop the Coastal Commission from removing the rings had 117 signatures this morning. Others against the removal of the fire rings have left comments on Facebook and online publications, some urging for political change.

Longtime fire ring supporter Nadine Turner said removing the fire rings would affect non-Newport Beach residents who likely were unaware that the matter was being considered.

“It’s just very sad,” she said in an interview today. “Newport Beach is not what it used to be. It’s turning into a country club. Pretty soon the only people who will be able to enjoy the beachfront are those who live there. I’m looking at the whole thing and asking, ‘Do I still want to stay here?’”


20 Responses to “Residents React as Staff Moves Forward With Plans to Remove Fire Rings”

Comments

Jamie Dow

March 14th, 2012

This idea is absurd. The reasons given were that it's better for air quality (in which case, ban gasoline vehicles, barbeques and fireplaces as well) and it will stop gang activity (which is not only untrue, but also wouldn't it be better to keep gangs in a centralized well-lit area than all around the city and a dark beach?). These are obviously nonsense reasons, and the fire pits, which are a tradition and bring money to the city, should stay. It's an anti-business move, as many small businesses already have a hard time surviving with the anti-tourist stance the city has. That beach belongs to everyone in the state, not just the citizens of Newport Beach, and a few old wealthy citizens should not be able to take away the small amount of low-cost fun which is left in our fair city. In all the conversations I've had about this, I haven't talked to a single person who supports this move. It's a stupid move, it will be bad for the city, and it's just another symptom of how the city council is working to remove anything interesting from Newport.

Jamie

March 14th, 2012

This action was not undertaken speedily or without serious consideration. It has been discussed at length for 15 years through multiple city councils. The problem has continued to worsen each year. It is too much and too many people for a residential neighborhood to absorb. It does bring crime into the neighborhood that otherwise would not occur. It is a HUGE expense and liability to the city. It is also not the responsibility of the taxpayers of Newport Beach to provide recreational services to non-residents. In addition there is a virtually unused State beach at Crystal Cove with 3 MILES of nearly empty beaches where fire rings could be relocated to - that would not impact nearby residents or bring constant late night crime into a neighborhood. There are simple solutions that will allow everyone to be happy. If the general public wants fire rings, great - put them at Crystal Cove where they don't impact other people's lives on a daily basis. This not an issue of rich people trying to keep people out, it is an issue where non-residents are DESTROYING the ability of residents to enjoy their lives. A question for the folks who live inland - how would you like it if thousands of people invaded your neighborhood and stayed until midnight on a regular basis? How many of you have had drunks passed out in your front yard? I have. Yes, this is the "beach" but what we are saying is it didn't used to be this way. The fire rings once were not overused and the community was not overwhelmed. It has become too many and too much. Times have changed and changes need to be made. Instead of killing the messenger - why don't you folks who come to enjoy the beach DEMAND the Coastal Commission relocate the fire rings to Crystal Cover State Beach - where even larger numbers of people could be accommodated without impacting nearby homes - and where there are already park rangers and procedures in place and where the costs of providing entertainment for the public would be paid by the State, not by local residents who do not benefit from the amenity. Don't fight the fire ring removal - MOVE them.

jamie

March 14th, 2012

Oh - also - that petition letter contains misrepresentations and outright false statements. The vast majority of the people who use the fire rings DO NOT spend any money in local stores. They pack their coolers at home, they fill their gas tanks at home, they buy their ice at home. When they arrive they sit in their cars in line for the beach parking or else they turn the small residential streets into gridlock seeking non-existent free street parking to the point residents can't park near their own homes. All the tourists bring is their traffic and noise, all they create is their smoke, and all they leave is their trash!

Kris

March 14th, 2012

I do think that visitors bring in dollars to the city when they come in. They spend money at the beach stands, each at local restaurants (Gina's Pizza, etc), when they are here. I grew up in CdM and we always used the fire rings- for family gatherings, as teenagers for group and church gatherings, and as an adult with my out-of-town visitors. The rings have been used by tourists and locals alike. The city belongs to all residents, not just the ones who live on the beach or cliffs in Cdm. The rings were probably in place when most of those people bought their properties. And, the beach belongs to everyone. We should share it in a responsible way to keep it enjoyable for everyone for many years to come.

Becky Bee

March 14th, 2012

Our city government is a BIG joke...I went to the meeting last night and witnessed the dog and pony show about this . Lots of public comments mostly by ANTI people who live in the surrounding area and feel that the beach need to be controlled to their liking. There was no attempt or discussion of the alternative solutions by the council, they had their mind set and they were itching to get out of there. They set the table by getting right people in that beach commission thing and voted unanimously based on their (4-3) vote. I hope this is not the end of it and coastal commission can stop these idiots. If you wanna outlaw the fire rings you should install a marshal law as this is getting ridiculous. Most of the council and the staff are not even from Newport...yeah some claim that they had all of their boring life here so they know whats good for people. Only a very small percentage number of people vote (10-20% of population) to get these people elected to get free healthcare benefits.They should not make decision behind closed doors and they should discuss issues openly and make the informed decisions rather these hasty decisions that involves public and their general amenities as in case of fire rings. If it bothers you that much then MOVE!

Thomas Eastmond

March 14th, 2012

"A question for the folks who live inland - how would you like it if thousands of people invaded your neighborhood and stayed until midnight on a regular basis?" Tell you what: I will trade you my house in the Bluffs for a house on Breakers Drive. Any takers?

jujlie mellum

March 14th, 2012

Wood smoke is the "other" secondhand smoke. It is inconceivable that children and others with asthma and other disabilities can't breathe clean air on the beaches if the wood burning fire rings are not removed. This would be a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which requires that cities remove all barriers to the use and access of public spaces such as beaches. To many with breathing disabilities and heart disease, and to others who don't dig wood smoke, the smoke presents an actual physical barrier. It's not cool. to smoke out others.

Ron Carter

March 14th, 2012

I left SoCal in 1997 after living on the coast in Laguna Beach for ten years and returned home to Colorado. As I continue to read the Daily Pilot and Coastline Pilot weekly, I am convinced that I made the right move and am deeply saddened about what has happened to the Gold Coast from stupid government over-reach. I now have no desire to ever return, even for vacations or to visit family. It is truly a shame what has happened. The good days are definately in the rearview mirror.

Dan

March 14th, 2012

Thank you Newport Beach leaders for taking a stand on air quality. The advancement is long overdue. The days of reckless pollution of our natural environment for a cheap thrill are coming to end. Maybe the wood and plastic-burning ruffians can amuse themselves at home by daydreaming of the tradition of harpooning whales that pass along our shores. Good riddance!

Bob Watts

March 14th, 2012

I am glad to have left Newport and SoCal as a whole. Here is your new slogan....If it is fun, it is illegal. Having a beer on the beach with a small fire going should be one of life's little pleasures. In Newport it is about 4 violations of the law. It is sad truly sad. Most people listen to Jimmy Buffet and it takes them to that "One Particular Harbor." In Newport, a Jimmy Buffet song merely documents what has been restricted by law. This is the reason i pledge to never spend a dime in that California again. Enjoy your nanny state. Next up for new laws: No swimming for an hour after eating (Two hours if the food you ate had trans fats), mandatory sunscreen application provided free from the government of course, mandatory lifejackets for all beach goers (also free and government provided), biodegradable towels only on the beach, and showering before entering the ocean (who knows where you have been). A once utopia where anything was possible has now come to this: California Sucks!!!!! Enjoy.

Ted Bell

March 14th, 2012

Someone obviously took Jamie's parking spot once. Such a tragedy!

Bob Watts

March 14th, 2012

A couple of responses to the idiot posts on this site. Hey Jamie: The PUBLIC beach existed long before your stupid home was built or bought. When you buy a home next to a public beach, you deal with the good and bad of living near a public beach, not ban everything and everyone you can. Thomas: Inland people deal with the same invasion as you describe. How many people invade the inland lakes and the River, then return to the OC after raiding hell on the water. It works both ways. Sorry you have been burdened with having to live right next to the beach, you poor thing. Your right, I see your point, how dare there jerks come to the coast to enjoy the beach. Don't they know you bought a house there and now the whole cost is off limits. How inconsiderate of them. Thanks for sharing by the way. Jujie and Dan: Really, I small fire in the fire rings is the next dire emergency to our environment? I can think of a worse one, he CO2 that you both exhale is far more detrimental to our environment. I think both of you should do the environment a favor and just hold your breath for the rest f your life. Ron Carter: The only intelligent comment. it is a funny thing. When you live in SoCal all these things seem normal. When you leave, one realizes that all you people are idiots. CA has become a litigious society where everyone just wants to control the behaviors of everyone else. Keep it, I will never return. Many of you will wonder why I would still read the new from a place I left. It is kind of like watching a train wreck, I just gotta watch the carnage and be happy I am no longer on board.

Dan

March 14th, 2012

Bob Watts’ new neighbors are wishing he’d stayed in California with all the other nuts.

Becky Bee

March 14th, 2012

Question is who owns the CDM beach? 1) People of CDM/Newport 2) handfull of Residents on Ocean Ave/Breakers Drive 3) City of Newport Beach 4) City Staff 5) City Council 6) State of California 7) "Do you know who my Daddy is" People? 8) American Indians 9) Persian Community 10) Mexican Goverment And the correct answer is for all people regardless of race, nationality and origin to enjoy in a responsible way - The fact that the ignorent city council did not consider any alternate solutions and jumping the decision to ban all fire rings the way that they did is flat out WRONG - The City needs more involvement from responsible people to kick these idiots out. Havin fun should not be illegal EOM 7)

Corona del Mar Today Staff

March 14th, 2012

Reply to

Bob Watts

March 14, 2012

A couple of responses to the idiot posts on this site. Hey Jamie: The PUBLIC beach existed long before your stupid home was built or bought. When you buy a home next to a public beach, you deal with the good and bad of living near a public beach, not ban everything and everyone you can. Thomas: Inland people deal with the same invasion as you describe. How many people invade the inland lakes and the River, then return to the OC after raiding hell on the water. It works both ways. Sorry you have been burdened with having to live right next to the beach, you poor thing. Your right, I see your point, how dare there jerks come to the coast to enjoy the beach. Don't they know you bought a house there and now the whole cost is off limits. How inconsiderate of them. Thanks for sharing by the way. Jujie and Dan: Really, I small fire in the fire rings is the next dire emergency to our environment? I can think of a worse one, he CO2 that you both exhale is far more detrimental to our environment. I think both of you should do the environment a favor and just hold your breath for the rest f your life. Ron Carter: The only intelligent comment. it is a funny thing. When you live in SoCal all these things seem normal. When you leave, one realizes that all you people are idiots. CA has become a litigious society where everyone just wants to control the behaviors of everyone else. Keep it, I will never return. Many of you will wonder why I would still read the new from a place I left. It is kind of like watching a train wreck, I just gotta watch the carnage and be happy I am no longer on board.

Comment of the week, Marie? Thoughts?

Joy

March 15th, 2012

As a resident of CdM for just over 50 years, I think I have a bit of perspective on this matter. Some of my fondest memories are of CdM High School beach parties there. Of course there are sentimental attachments, but things are not nearly as simple as some of your writers want to believe. This is not a matter of evil people making a selfish decision. As a former Parks Commissioner I can't begin to tell you how many hours are spent researching these items before decisions are made. With air pollution and liability concerns, it seems the City has no other good options and I'm sure they made their decisions with great care and concern.

Jamie

March 15th, 2012

Thanks Bob - hey guess what - my house and the house on the site of my house WAS here many years BEFORE the beach became a state beach - it dates back to the 1920's back when there was like 300,000 people in SoCal, not 20 million. OK, so STFU. Next - I have on numerous occasions for 15 years presented a very simple solution to this whole situation - MOVE THE FRIGGIN FIRE RINGS 1 MILE DOWN THE ROAD TO CRYSTAL COVE STATE PARK - WHERE THERE ARE THREE MILES OF EMPTY BEACH WITH NO NEIGHBORS TO BOTHER. Is anybody listening to me - or all you all just complete morons? Thank you, end of rant. Amy - there's your comment of the week. LOL ;-)

cdml local

March 23rd, 2012

The Commission will be voting on this decision. To send an email comment expressing your opinion, which will be forwarded to all Commissioners, email: vmiller@coastal.ca.gov Vanessa Miller in the Executive Office The Commission does not have a global email for comments. According to the Executive Office, this is the best way to reach them.

Tink

March 24th, 2012

"remove the city’s 60 beach fire rings because of concerns of safety and air quality". Of the 60, 27 are at big coroma state beach. I counted over 200 fireplaces on ocean blvd. alone, not counting barbeques and out door fire places. You could figure there are thousands more just on the flower streets. 27 firerings = bad air quality and not thousands of fire places ; come on now.

Kati

April 18th, 2012

I am a resident of CDM and was very sad to hear that the fire pits are going away! What a shock!! BUT on reading the comments above - the one person (Jamie) who suggested moving the rings to the State Beach at Crystal Cove is brilliant!!!! That beach is virtually empty - has parking across the street - has a restaurant nearby and I am sure can generate revenue... and there are no houses close enough to be bothered!! I agree that fire pits are part of the Beach Culture (heck, I moved here expecting them to be everywhere!!) - so rather than remove them all together - just MOVE them somewhere more appropriate... Nice suggestion Jamie - let's hope some people who can make some decisions take the time to consider options!


Leave a comment