With orange and red flames dancing across early morning and evening skies, friends and families have joined together to share stories, sing songs, fellowship, and make memories that last a lifetime.
While most Newport Beach residents are warm and welcoming, through the years, a handful of Newport Beach politicians and gadfly/activists have fought against the fire rings. This small group has tried nearly everything to keep “outsiders” away from the public state beaches in their posh million dollar neighborhoods. They have complained about “noise, traffic, trash, parking problems, vandalism, singing, …” and more!
All their previous attempts failed. So, in early 2012, they used their political connections. A lunch was arranged with one wealthy Newport Beach anti-fire ring leader, Mr. Jim Hamilton, and the South Coast Air Quality Management District Chairman William Burke at the Luxe Hotel in Los Angeles. (see public records disclosure form here).
By not using sound science, the AQMD created a rule (Rule 444) that effectively gerrymandered the air which effects fire rings within 700 feet of homes, and 100 feet of each other.
“Coincidentally,” out of the hundreds of beach fire rings along the Orange County and Los Angeles County coastline, this rule primarily effects Newport Beach public fire rings. Coming soon!… Google Earth pics of all the fire rings along the Orange County and Los Angeles Coast. Hundreds and hundreds of fire rings!
If Newport Beach’s 60 fire rings and wood smoke were truly a nuisance and a threat to public health, WHY didn’t the AQMD pass a rule then to ban fire rings at the nearby private beaches, or the fireplaces or fire rings in yards of homes along Southern California’s coast? The answer is clear – the AQMD is catering to the wishes of a few well-connected Newport Beach individuals. Now – only the wealthy will be able to enjoy wood-burning fire rings on their private beaches and front yards.
After the meeting with Mr. Hamilton, Chairman Burke declared he was “100% certain” the fire rings would be removed. (see story here).
Mr. Burke made this declaration after one lunch. He made this declaration before any California Coastal Commission hearings.
Mr. Burke made this before his fellow commissioners had heard about the issue.
He made this declaration before any scientific tests were conducted by the AQMD staff! (Stay tuned – we will find out what directives Mr. Burke gave to AQMD staff scientists).
This is the same Mr. Burke that was found guilty of money laundering while he was President of the LA Marathon.
By a one-vote margin – chairman Burke’s vote – Rule 444 was passed by the AQMD in 2013 that set off this firestorm.
Since then Friends of the Fire Rings has challenged the flawed science of Rule 444 and the obvious politics – arbitrary and capricious – behind what is going on. We filed a suit in Superior Court in November 2013, and have recently been assigned a judge in San Diego.
Is it not “coincidental” that the AQMD came up with a ruling that effected only fire rings within “700 feet’ of homes AND if they are within 100 feet of another fire ring? (hint: the only rings really effected ended up being the ones in Newport Beach).
Is it not coincidental that Mr. Burke created a rule that also only effect the public state beaches? That’s right. Fire rings within 700 feet and within 100 feet of other fire rings on the PRIVATE BEACHES are exempt! And so are the fireplaces and fire pits on the private residences (numbering in the tens of thousands).
It’s one of the most creative rules ever designed by a government agency – effectively “gerrymandering the air” to make a few politically connected people in Newport Beach achieve their goal.
Near the Fall of 2013, Assemblymembers Allen and Quirk Silva introduced a bill to help save the fire rings – Assembly Bill 1102. The bill successfully cleared the Assembly Floor with overwhelming support. It is currently making its way through State Senate committee hearings (please see home page on what you can do to help).
The California Coastal Commission has not allowed the city of Newport beach to remove the fire rings, and Assembly Bill 1102 is still making its way through the legislature, as our suit heads to Superior Court.
In the meantime, the City of Newport Beach has created its own “Charocal-Only” ordinance. It is doing this now out of “concerns” for smoke inhalation and “public health.” (see “quotes” link).
Their goal in the long-run: reduce the fire ring’s use by requiring charcoal. Their goal in the short run is to fool the State Legislators into believing that everyone loves charcoal. They are artificially propping up usage by distributing “FREE” charcoal give-a-ways. (see article link here). It’s all a charade
This ordinance HAS NOT BEEN APPROVED BY THE California Coastal Commission. That’s right – the City of Newport Beach’s “Charcoal Only” rule has not received a Coastal Development Permit first (please see letter from the CCC – click here).
In the meantime, visitors to the beach do not know the rule has not been approved by the Coastal Commission, and are forced to use charcoal … for bonfires. It’s not the same as wood, and people will go to other beaches.
Even though only Newport Beach rings are really targeted today, tomorrow it will be other beaches, as well as campfires in the mountains, fireplaces at homes, and barbeques in the backyards.
Join the fight against this injustice. Join the fight to save the fire rings (click here)