Newport withdraws request to pull fire rings

California Coastal Commission now isn't likely to discuss the issue at next week's meeting.

July 02, 2013|By Jill Cowan

This article has been corrected. See note below.

In another U-turn in the long and bumpy ride that has been the fight over Southern California's beach bonfires, Newport Beach officials on Tuesday withdrew an application to remove the city's fire rings that was set to be heard by the California Coastal Commission next week.

Newport City Manager Dave Kiff wrote in a letter to commission Deputy Director Sherilyn Sarb that, "While the most sensible thing to do is simply delay the commission's consideration of our application, we understand this is not possible."


So, rather than submit "substantive amendments" to the existing request — amendments that commission staff wouldn't have enough time to thoroughly study before the commission meeting July 11 — the city opted to take back its application.

The commission, which now is not likely to discuss the issue at its upcoming meeting, postponed a decision on the application in March to allow time for regional air quality regulators to consider a ban on wood-burning fire rings affecting all beaches in Orange and Los Angeles counties.

But the panel's vote next week would have come a day before the South Coast Air Quality Management District is set to consider a proposal that an AQMD official said would give Newport — or any city or county — the authority to get rid of its fire rings.

So, if both agencies had acted according to staff recommendations, their clashing decisions would have left Newport Beach officials tiptoeing through hazy legal territory.

In a report released last week, California Coastal Commission staff again recommended keeping Newport Beach's fire rings burning, echoing reasoning from a staff report released earlier this year.

Last year, the City Council voted unanimously to remove fire rings from Newport beaches — though since then, Councilwoman Leslie Daigle has changed course, joining a fire ring support movement spearheaded by Huntington Beach residents and officials.

Removing the 60 rings from Corona del Mar State Beach and Balboa Beach would eliminate a low-cost form of public recreation, according to the commission staff report.

The AQMD's initial proposal, a broader ban than the one going before the board July 12, sparked an outcry from many Southern California residents who cherish bonfires as a decades-old tradition steeped in nostalgia.

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