SANTA ANA (CBSLA.com) — The Orange County Board of Supervisors Tuesday passed a symbolic resolution on a proposed ban against fire pits and asked the South Coast Air Quality Management District to allow municipal governments to regulate beach fires.
“Beaches are like the place that you grow up; they’re a rite of passage,” Supervisor Todd Spitzer said. “You want to take a fire pit out of my ability to grow up, be teenager, be a kid, and just hang out? It’s not going to happen on our watch here in Orange County.”
The vote passed 4-0, with Supervisor Shawn Nelson abstaining from the vote. Nelson is on the board of the AQMD.
Spitzer, who represents District Three, originally argued for a resolution opposing any attempted ban. Tuesday’s vote offered a compromise by allowing municipal governments to determine whether the pits stay or go.
KNX1070’s Mike Landa reports that supervisors want the issue to remain local and prevent a broader ban on the practice.
Newport Beach residents have complained about the impact of unhealthy smoke from beach fires in an ongoing debate that began four years ago. In March, the California Coastal Commission deferred a decision from Newport Beach officials, sending the request to the AQMD.
Newport resident Charles Griffin said that while the the fire rings should remain, “they should be turned into utilizational gas whether it’s hydrogen gas or propane or natural gas.”
Officials in Huntington Beach and San Clemente have publicly opposed the ban, which, if approved, would affect beaches throughout Orange County and in most coastal areas of Los Angeles County.
In March, Huntington Beach mayor Connie Boardman sent a letter to the AQMD arguing against the proposed ban. Officials from the Huntington Beach Chamber of Commerce say the ban on the city’s roughly 500 fire rings would result in a $1 million loss in parking income annually.
According to Mayor Boardman, more than 11 million visitors come to the city each year, and “a large majority” visit the beach areas solely for the fire pits. Huntington Beach has had fire pits for more than six decades and is home to the most pits in Orange and Los Angeles counties, according to Boardman.
The AQMD plans to hold a public hearing on the ban May 3, with a vote possible as early as June 7.