An Assembly bill that aims to protect fire rings in Southern California has passed out of a legislative committee.
The Senate Committee on Natural Resources unanimously approved Assembly Bill 1102 on Tuesday. It will go to the Senate Appropriations Committee in late summer.
The bill initially set out to block the South Coast Air Quality Management District's Rule 444, which mandates that the rings in Southern California be at least 700 feet from homes and at least 100 feet apart.
As amended, AB 1102 would instead require a public agency, like a city, to obtain a coastal development permit from the California Coastal Commission if it chooses to remove or otherwise restrict access to the rings. The bill was co-authored by Assemblyman Travis Allen (R-Huntington Beach) and Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva (D-Fullerton).
The fire ring issue has caused a firestorm of debate in neighboring coastal cities Newport Beach and Huntington Beach, with some people arguing that the smoke from the bonfires is a health hazard and defenders pointing to the long-standing Southern California tradition of sitting around a fire at night on the sand.
The Senate committee proposed a few amendments to the bill, including one noting that Newport Beach is not prohibited from handing out charcoal free of charge for use in rings within 700 feet of residences.
Newport has enforced a charcoal-only rule since the end of March.
Newport City Councilman and 74th Assembly District candidate Keith Curry has voiced opposition to the bill, saying it would give more power to the Coastal Commission. He has said he would rather see individual cities determine the fate of their fire pits.
Huntington Beach Mayor Matthew Harper, who is also running for the 74th District seat, has supported keeping the rings, citing their appeal for residents and tourists.