As published in Corona Del Mar Today
In a letter with nearly two dozen questions and other demands for more information, the California Coastal Commission staff has informed the City of Newport Beach that its permit application for a pilot program to require charcoal only in beach fire rings is incomplete.
The City submitted its 50-page application on July 17. In an Aug. 15 letter, the Coastal Commission staff said the application was incomplete and requested information ranging from the dates of the proposed pilot program to details about charcoal availability and more.
City spokeswoman Tara Finnigan said in an email that the Coastal Commission staff had requested “a significant amount of additional information.”
“Community Development staff is in the process of reviewing the request and deciding how best to respond,” she wrote. It is unclear when the application will be resubmitted, she said.
The Coastal Commission’s three-page letter listed six areas of concerns, including information on charcoal availability “as funds permit” during the pilot program. The City website was updated last week to include the letter.
“How much money has been allocated to providing free charcoal?” the letter asks. “What is the estimated quantity (number of bags) that will be made available? Over what time period? How many free bags of charcoal would be given out at each location per night? Where are the free charcoal locations, how are they staffed, and how is the public informed of the availability and location of free charcoal? During what hours is free charcoal available? Is there a limit to the number of bags given out per ring or per person? What type of charcoal has been and will be given away (lump or briquettes)? To expand the City’s ability to provide free charcoal, have you considered approaching charcoal companies about donating charcoal for purposes of this pilot program? Will the City make charcoal available for purchase at Corona del Mar State Beach and in the Balboa Pier area? If the City does make charcoal available for purchase on-site, will there be a limit on the price charged?”
The letter also asks that the City provide information about current compliance with charcoal-only rules, and if any surveys of users are available, as well as if information is available about whether fire rings’ users’ experiences with charcoal are comparable to wood fires.
Health effects of charcoal also were raised as a missing piece of data.
“Did the City assess the potential air quality and health impacts associated with use of charcoal (both lump and briquettes) and starter products, including lighter fluid, compared to use of wood?” the letter states. “If so, please provide copies of any scientific studies reviewed or staff presentations prepared on this topic.”
The letter also includes an eight-step monitoring program, which includes possible assessing the duration of use of charcoal-only fire rings and at a control site where wood burning is allowed; documenting use of lighter fluid at charcoal-only fire rings to understand whether lighter fluid is only used to start charcoal or is being used to maintain flames to approximate a wood fire; documenting the average number of bags of charcoal used at fire rings and the average duration of use; counting the number of people leaving the beach areas after learning about the charcoal-only rule; and more.
“Please do not limit your submittal to the above mentioned items,” the letter states. “You may submit any information which you feel may help Commission staff gain a clear understanding of the scope of your project. Upon receipt of the requested materials we will proceed with determining the completeness of your application.”
The City implemented the charcoal-only rule in March in order to comply with South Coast Air Quality Management District rule amendments on beach fire rings. Opponents of wood in beach fire rings have said they think the rule has resulted in cleaner air, but wood fire supporters have said the beach bonfire experience is diminished with charcoal-only rules.