The Newport Beach City Council, which in March 2012 began what would be a long slog aimed at removing wood-burning fire rings from city beaches (and, as it would turn out, many places in the state), on Tuesday approved a plan that would again allow burning wood in city fire rings.
Yes, the Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Pyre burning city issues, which was responding more than two years ago to residents fed up with the smoke coming from fire pits ignited mostly by visitors to the beach, voted 5-2 to essentially do an about face.
After hearing from speakers who were pretty evenly split on the issue, the council approved an interim plan that would allow burning wood in 15 to 30 fire rings at Corona del Mar State Beach and the Balboa Pier–on the way to a permanent plan to burn wood in all 60 city fire rings again.
That charcoal-only rule established by the council in March 2014?
Up in smoke.
Instead, the council majority wants to space fire rings far enough apart and away from beachside residences to stay in compliance with South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) regulations that were enacted as a result of the Newport Beach City Council trying to ban beach bonfires in the first place.
The reason the AQMD got involved was because the California Coastal Commission swooped in with fears that Newport Beach's original ban violated recreational access aspects of the state Coastal Act. Commission discussion led one member, who also sat on the AQMD board, to push for an opinion from air-quality regulators. That led to the regulations that called for the removal or relocation of hundreds and hundreds of fire rings up and down the California coast.
A permanent plan that would once again legitimize burning wood in Newport Beach fire rings will require a new permit from the Coastal Commission–so don't stock up on that fire wood just yet as we've seen how these things can go.