LONG BEACH — The California Coastal Commission will support a state bill that aims to protect beach fire pits along the coast by giving commissioners authority over the South Coast Air Quality Management District on the issue.
Commissioners voted 10 to 1 on Wednesday to support the pending legislation, which would essentially negate an amended rule enacted by the South Coast Air Quality Management District in July.
AB 1102, authored by Assembly members Travis Allen (R-Huntington Beach) and Sharon Quirk-Silva (D-Fullerton), is in response to the AQMD's July decision that created restrictions on fire ring use.
Commissioner Carole Groom said she voted against the item because of health concerns and her belief that local governments should be able to decide what to do with their fire pits.
The AQMD amended Rule 444 by creating specific no-burn days, establishing a buffer zone between the devices and homes and giving cities or counties authority to remove the pits that are within their jurisdiction.
District spokesman Sam Atwood said the AQMD rules went into effect March 1, but are slowly being implemented and should be in full-swing around the end of the month.
But if Allen and Quirk-Silva's bill passes, the implementation would be suspended for two years, during which time a city or county would have to apply for a permit from the Coastal Commission to move or remove any fire pits. After that two-year period, no rings would be allowed to be removed, according to the bill.
During the application process, the local agency would have to show how it can abide by the AQMD's regulations without reducing the number of rings.
AB 1102, which is waiting to be heard by the state Senate, would also prevent agencies from declaring fire pits a nuisance to bypass a Coastal Act review, the report stated.
"It's incredibly important to preserve these types of resources for the public, especially in Southern California, where it's so important and almost a part of the fabric of Southern California lifestyle to have these types of fire rings," Commissioner Mark Vargas said. "I'm not saying that we shouldn't have air-quality issues come into concern, but they need to be balanced with the Coastal Act."
The Coastal Act helps define the Coastal Commission's authority over the land use and public access in the California coastal zone.
Unlike the Coastal Commission, the AQMD has voted to oppose the bill. Atwood said the district is confident that the Legislature will not pass it.
"In the end, the Legislature will decide that the right course is to allow local authorities, including AQMD and governments, to have control over fire rings," he said.
Cap on alcohol permits supported
In other action Wednesday, the Coastal Commission unanimously approved Huntington Beach's request to amend its Local Coastal Program to cap the number of so-called off-site liquor licenses in the downtown area.
The city's new law would bar new liquor, convenience and grocery stores from selling alcohol in sealed containers. Existing establishments would be grandfathered in.
"With Huntington Beach's epidemic of crime, including last summer's riot, and the entire city's epidemic of DUI fatalities and serious injuries, the amendment is one small step in trying to address these important problems for the residents of our downtown neighborhoods and our entire city," downtown resident Richardson Gray said to commissioners.