Coastal Commission staff met with a Newport Beach staff member earlier this month to discuss the city’s fire ring removal application, then followed up with a letter listing four points where the application needs clarification before the Commission will schedule a public hearing.
A copy of the Coastal Commission letter, dated Sept. 13, was posted to the city’s website, apparently on Sept. 20.
The major roadblock appears to be the lack of specific air quality studies, the letter indicates. Coastal Commission staff had requested additional information on air quality studies in a letter in June, but the city’s response in August said such a study was not feasible.
“In our last letter we asked you a series of questions regarding the alleged air quality impacts of the fire rings to which you didn’t fully respond,” the latest Coastal letter states. “Therefore, we request your response to the following questions: How has the city documented the air quality impacts of the fire rings? Have air samples been taken at the beach or neighboring homes? If so, please provide the results of that sampling. How does the city know definitively the source of smoke in adjacent neighborhoods? Are there regular air quality monitoring stations in Corona del Mar and the vicinity of the Balboa Pier?”
The Coastal letter also asks whether the city enforces restrictions on burning “inappropriate materials such as treated paper or plastic creating toxic smoke,” and what penalties exist for violators.
The Coastal Commission letter also asks for information on how many people use the fire rings, and when the rings are most in demand, as well as a history of the rings. The letter also asks for copies of letters between Newport Beach and the state Department of Parks and Recreation related to removal of the rings.
“City staff is compiling additional information to respond to the Coastal Commission’s September 2012 letter,” the city website states. “Once the application is deemed complete, a public hearing can be scheduled. With the desire to conduct the hearing locally, potential public hearing dates would be in either November 2012 or February 2013.”
Newport Beach began discussing whether to remove the city’s 60 beach fire rings from Big Corona State Beach and the Balboa Pier area in 2009, but later tabled the conversation because of concerns over growing budget constraints. In September 2011, Mayor Nancy Gardner asked that the issue be reexamined after a lawsuit filed against the city of Huntington Beach when a child was burned.
In February, the City’s Parks, Beaches & Recreation Commission voted 4-3 to recommend that the Council remove the rings, and the Council voted unanimously in March to remove them.
During the fire rings discussions, Parks Commissioner Tom Anderson predicted that studies would ultimately be required before the rings could be removed.
Read our earlier stories here, here, here and here.