“The South Coast Air Quality Management District board voted 7-6 to change rules regarding beach fire rings — a vote that mostly will affect Newport Beach’s 60 rings and will leave alone hundreds of others in Los Angeles and Orange counties, according to the Corona del Mar Today blog.
AQMD staff said the science was clear: standing around a fire pit is equivalent to breathing the air from 3 diesel trucks or 800 cigarettes, according to KPCC. Of course no one who stands next to a fire pit tries to breathe in the smoke – and the homeowners in Newport Beach/Corona del Mar who started this ruckus certainly aren’t standing next to the fire pits either.
So why did these NIMBY homeowners start this commotion? Gustavo Arellano, the editor of the OC Weekly, believes that race was involved, according to an article he posted last week. Arellano looked at the letters these homeowners sent to the Newport Beach Parks, Beaches, and Recreation Commission urging the removal of Corona del Mar’s fire pits. And while most of the requests claimed health, more than a few claimed in coded language that minorities were messing up their pristine beaches. Here are a sample of the letters sent, followed by Arellano’s commentary:
“…I understand that historically they have provided family fun and barbecues. However, now, they attract gangs, crime, drugs and most importantly are a health hazard to local and non-local residents…”
–Tom and Jill Schriber
We understand that the fire rings still provide family fun and barbecues. And Gangs, crime, and drugs has been attracted to everything since Cain met Abel.
“Unlike normal beaches, having fire rings allow these visitors to stay into the dark hours. I cannot say crime is increased, but it makes it easier when there is darkness to commit such acts. The correlation is that if we did not have fire rings, people would be far less likely to stay around the beach after sunset and therefore there is less possibility of crime.”
The correlation here is that if we banned nighttime, therefore there is less possibility of crime.
“Years ago the fire rings were populated by families roasting hotdogs and marshmallows. Today I see a minimal use by families and a surge of young adults trying to leap over the roaring bonfires as a passage of manhood.”
–Tod and Peggie Parrott
What they’re unwittingly describing is the fire-jumping part of Nowruz, the Persian New Year. After my initial story, many of my Persian friends said that the ban effort was directed at them, since they go down to Corona del Mar every year to partake in the fire-jumping. It’s progress: for once, the brown-skinned people that Newporters hate aren’t Mexicans!
“The fire rings attract individuals who are involved in gang activities and their sole purpose is to cause trouble including fights requiring police response.”
–Daniel J. Leonard
This comment is probably the most illuminating. Leonard wrote in his capacity as president of the Breakers Drive Homeowners Association, which means his thoughts represent the thoughts of nearly everyone on Breakers Drive (the neighborhood closest to the fire rings in CdM). Just like the Schribers, Leonard claims there’s now an uptick of gang members without offering any proof of increased crime, or that they somehow are keeping good families away. And last I checked, cholos have every right to toast S’mores on the beach like the rest of us.
I agree with Arellano. However as you can see in the videos above a few miscreants do show up at Newport Beach from time to time. That said, punishing everyone by messing with the fire pits is not right.
So what’s next? Newport Beach City Manager Dave Kiff had this to say about the AQMD ruling in a city press release: “This issue has been debated extensively in the community in recent weeks and months, and good people are on each side of the issue. I know that the Council will work closely with the community to determine the best way for Newport Beach to move forward. The next chapter is not yet written.”
Assemblyman Travis Allen (R-Huntington Beach) says he’s considering introducing legislation that would essentially undo the new restrictions, which prohibit bonfires within 700 feet of homes. “The legislature has the power to protect our beach bonfires and we’ll be looking to do that,” Allen told KPCC after the AQMD meeting. (Source: KPCC)