California Coastal Commission to discuss Newport's fire rings

The California Coastal Commission is poised to discuss Newport Beach's 60 fire rings at its meeting in Ventura on July 10 and 11.

This is the second time since March that the item has been on the Coastal Commission agenda, and could lead to a verdict one day shy of the South Coast Air Quality Management District's July 12 vote on bonfire rules.

In early 2012, the Newport Beach City Council voted in favor of removing the beach rings and approached the Commission with a coastal permit application. Deemed incomplete, the application was first dismissed and then acknowledged in November.

Beach rings are at the center of a debate in which one side considers them a trademark of California culture, while others criticize their perceived health hazards.

The AQMD, under Rule 444, originally considered a ban on all beach rings in Los Angeles and Orange counties, but changed course in the face of public outrage and air quality testing. On June 6, it revealed requisites including the construction of bonfires at a 700-foot distance from residences — which would lead to the elimination of all rings in Newport Beach — and 100 feet between each other — a number reduced to 50 in cities with 15 or fewer open-air fires.

Regulatory ideas that have been suggested include propane- or gas-fueled beach fires, constructing buffers between fire rings and homes, and ensuring increased local oversight.

The upcoming Coastal Commission meeting will be held in the Council Chambers at Ventura City Hall, 501 Poli Street.

— Rhea Mahbubani

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