SCAQMD Board Passes New Fire Pit Rules
A CURIOUS OUTCOME
Those who follow this issue already know the outcome of the raucous meeting held at the headquarters of the South Coast Air Quality Management District headquarters in Diamond Bar. It was covered extensively in both print, online and electronic media last night. Here's my summary of events based on the coverage provided by our local media friends.
BURKE THE SWING VOTE
The facts of the event are pretty constant among the various reports. The short version of the outcome is that the SCAQMD Board, led by Chairman William Burke, who voted with the majority for a thin 7-6 margin to modify their rule 444 and place new restrictions on nearly 800 fire pits throughout the southland. It establishes a 700-foot buffer zone between beach fires and residences.
WILL NEWPORT REMOVE THE FIRE RINGS NOW?
According to Jill Cowan's report in the Daily Pilot, HERE, based on the new rules the City of Newport Beach can get rid of 60 fire pits near the Balboa Pier and at Corona del Mar State Beach. Whether they do remains to be seen based on her quote from City Manager Dave Kiff. See more below.
JUST A LITTLE OUT OF TOUCH!
Cowan provides us with a very interesting quote from Burke. He said, "I understand everybody out there doesn't want this rule. I'm just amazed very few people are here in support of the rule today." This, during a packed-house meeting at which more than four dozen people addressed the directors on this issue.
RIGHEIMER BLASTS NEWPORT COUNCIL
These beaches are regional. If you're up and down the 55 you don't go to Huntington Beach." Since the beginning of this issue I've found it fascinating that Righeimer decided to spit directly in the eye of the Newport Beach city council. According to Amy Senk, publisher of the outstanding local blog, Corona del Mar Today, HERE, only councilwoman Leslie Daigle attended the meeting and spoke. It's curious that others from the Newport Beach council, including Mayor Keith Curry, chose not to attend since it was their petition to the Coastal Commission that started this whole controversy in the first place.
According to Senk, of the 49 speakers today, only 7 supported the changes that were eventually approved. The remainder, including 17 public officials or their spokespersons, were in favor of keeping the bonfires without changes in the rules. She quotes Orange County Supervisor Shawn Nelson, a member of the Board, as indicating that the "fire rings didn't pose enough of a health risk to warrant the AQMD's attention." He went on to say that Newport Beach, has, "one of the cleanest environments our basin has to offer."
HOW THE VOTE WENT
Senk tells us that "the board members supporting the rule changes were Burke, Clark Parker, Judith Mitchell, Dennis Yates, Michael Cacciotti, Gonzales and Joseph Lyou. The board members who voted no were John Benoit, Ben Benoit, Pulido, Jan Perry, Michael Antonovich and Nelson."
MORE FROM RIGHEIMER
Former Daily Pilot reporter, Deep Bharath, now writing for the Orange County Register in an article tucked firmly behind their pay wall, HERE, quoted Righeimer stating, "They started this mess and they're not even here," he said of the other Newport Beach council members. "They get what they want. This is about multi-millionaires who don't want others there. They know that if you can make it about health, you can shut it down." Obviously, Righeimer doesn't much care what the heavily-Republican electorate and leadership of Newport Beach thinks on this issue.
BEFORE THE GLOATING BEGINS...
But, before the few people who theoretically "won" yesterday get too cocky, Kiff and Mayor Pro Tem Rush Hill posted an entry on the City website late this afternoon, HERE, that implies much work still needs to be done in that city before this issue is resolved. Kiff's final paragraph says it best - "This issue has been debated extensively in the community in recent weeks and months, and good people are on each side of the issue. I know that the Council will work closely with the community to determine the best way for Newport Beach to move forward. The next chapter is not yet written."
***MORE FROM CORONA DEL MAR TODAY
Amy Senk posted a followup entry to this issue today, Saturday, HERE.
Thanks to Cowan, Bharath and Senk for their excellent coverage of this important issue. Now we watch...