Coastal Commission Postpones Vote on Newport Beach Fire Pits

By Vikki Vargas and Frava Burgess
|  Wednesday, Mar 6, 2013  |  Updated 10:19 PM PDT
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The California Coastal Commission postponed a vote Wednesday on whether to remove fire pits from their beaches. Some residents that live along Corona Del Mar's main beach complain that the smoke from the fire pits is not only an annoyance, but also a health issue. Others though say the fire pits are a beach-staple, that should remain where they always have. Vikki Vargas reports from Newport Beach for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on March 6, 2013.

Vikki Vargas

The California Coastal Commission postponed a vote Wednesday on whether to remove fire pits from their beaches. Some residents that live along Corona Del Mar's main beach complain that the smoke from the fire pits is not only an annoyance, but also a health issue. Others though say the fire pits are a beach-staple, that should remain where they always have. Vikki Vargas reports from Newport Beach for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on March 6, 2013.

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The California Coastal Commission postponed on Wednesday a decision on whether the city of Newport Beach can remove 60 fire pits on its beaches.

Commissioners decided to wait for a decision by the South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) before they vote on the matter.

Five years ago, AQMD banned all wood-burning fire sources, except beach bonfires. Now it may ban fire pits, too.

"It can get pretty bad to the point you don’t want to open your windows because there’s pure smoke," said Newport Beach resident Elizabeth Desota.

Newport Beach city officials say the outdoor pits pose a potential health risk.

"It became no longer a smell issue, but the start of asthma attacks and that sort of thing," said City Councilwoman Nancy Gardner.

Members of the Coastal Commission recommended keeping the fire rings, saying the pits have promoted free public recreation in Newport Beach since the late 1940s or early 1950s.

They argued that removing the fire pits would be inconsistent with the Coastal Act, which requires low-cost recreational facilities that draw a diverse group of people must be preserved.

A petition to save the pits is being circulated online, in hopes of keeping the fire rings in place.

The Ahmanson family lives along the ocean front and posted a banner outside their home. They said the sand belongs to everyone.

"It’s your beach," said Roberta Green Ahmanson, of SavethePits.com. "You come here to celebrate, to get away, to enjoy what California has to offer."

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