By JULIET WILLIAMS
The state Assembly approved legislation Monday that would preserve the Southern California tradition of bonfires on the beach, despite concerns that they can contribute to air pollution.
The legislation, AB1102, arose after Newport Beach proposed removing 60 fire pits from city beaches and the South Coast Air Quality Management District adopted new rules that would prohibit fire rings within 700 feet of homes. The legislation would require the air quality district to work with local governments and other oversight agencies before removing fire rings in Orange and Los Angeles counties.
It was jointly authored by Assemblyman Travis Allen, R-Huntington Beach, and Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva, D-Fullerton.
Allen said he wanted to protect an “affordable, iconic activity” for those who cannot afford multimillion-dollar beach homes. The new rules have sparked a feud between residents who wanted to retain the tradition and those who said it polluted the air around their homes.
Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, called the effort to remove the fire-pit rings “one of the most egregious examples of government interfering in our lives.”
“The beaches, and all of our natural resources, belong to all Californians. And I think it’s time that we take a stand,” Donnelly said.
The Assembly approved the legislation on a 54-0 vote, sending it to the Senate. The new air-quality rules are set to take effect in March, and Air Quality Management District officials have noted that they would affect only about 100 of the more than 750 beach fire pits in Los Angeles and Orange counties.
Meanwhile, the city of Newport Beach is testing cleaner-burning bonfire rings fueled by natural gas that would be placed near parking lots rather than by the wood-burning pits on the beach and could be used to replace some of the existing fire rings.
Last year, the Assembly approved a nonbinding resolution supporting the fire rings as a time-honored and “important beach attraction.” Orange County supervisors delivered a similar resolution.