INTENSE HOLIDAY CROWDS AT NEWPORT FIRE RINGS

Posted July 6, 2014 By Barbara Peters
Wall to wall pop-ups

Fire Pit City: Wall to wall pop-ups with a lot more cooking

Density? Check. Intensity? Check.

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It’s how the Coastal Commission measures access.

It’s the peak of the summer scene and for months now, people have been burning charcoal instead of wood in the 27 fire rings here at Big Corona.

Apart from the ever-growing density and intensity of traffic, there’s no less beach access.

Charcoal turns out to be a much cleaner fuel, up to 90% lower particulate matter emissions than seasoned wood. If one wood burning beach fire is equivalent to the secondhand smoke of 800 cigarettes, that must mean charcoal is only as bad as 80.

So why does Coastal continue to endorse wood burning?

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Turns out they think cleaner fuels might reduce the density and intensity of use of beach fire rings. At recent Senate Hearings, Coastal even suggested Newport Beach should spread out the fire rings on the beach to allow maximum wood burning under Rule 444.

So you be the judge — do you see any lack of density? How about intensity? How do they measure that? These folks all seem to be having an intensely good time.

How about spreading fire rings out? Who should have to move their blankets or umbrellas to make room for wood burning? And where could they move them? Parking revenues are up and the parking lot is full.

Seems to me that clean air is one of the best “low-cost visitor-serving opportunities” we could offer.

Density and intensity seem to be taking care of themselves.

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Some say charcoal-only burning deters beachgoers — not this weekend!

A super beach day!

Who’s more vulnerable to wood smoke? Kids

 

   

FIREWORK’S IMPACT

Posted July 5, 2014 By Frank Peters
The day after the fireworks shows

July 5th — Unhealthy readings the day after the fireworks shows

It wasn’t advertised, because I was looking — how close to home were any fireworks shows gonna be?

Too close it turned out and although we had a great view of the colorful glow, to see the huge clouds of smoke sent a chill. Now today the whole westside is suffering — we call it July 4th, but it’s the aftermath on the 5th when air quality in the basin is often the worst of the year.

……

I just got back from a bike ride through Crystal Cove State Park; now I see how unhealthy the air is, the air I was gulping.

This afternoon instead of a lot of outdoor exercising I’ll be catching up on my favorite TV shows…

When you live under the dome you better think twice about what you burn...

When you live under the dome you better think twice about what you burn…
But we all live under a dome

 

   

CATCHING MY BREATH: FOLLOWING THE LOCAL PRESS

Posted June 28, 2014 By Frank Peters

news

Did they spell my name right?

That’s often what I look for first — are we named in the article?

If so, we’ll likely be reviled somewhere in the comments. This news cycle has been a little more aggressive; Facebook comments aren’t discouraging people from saying some pretty nasty stuff. What do people mean when they say,

It would be easier to get rid of the Peters…

The Daily Pilot called the Fire Rings the 2013 Issue of the Year and the Top Story to Watch in 2014, so you can count on them chiming in with an update on the Senate’s latest action this week.

This week’s Orange County Register story is well balanced, but attracts more vitriol. Probably because everyone in Newport Beach is a little tired of the subject, the Daily Pilot got one nutty comment, a few more in Corona del Mar Today, where the focus has been more on the outrageous costs of protecting fellow residents by providing charcoal to beachgoers who didn’t know that wood burning is on hold — apparently the City spending $2,000 per month is too much for some.

Meanwhile, life at the beach is great. The summer crowds have arrived in force. Volleyballers grunt and cheer, babies cry, girls shout — it’s an all-day soundtrack of fun at the beach. Best of all, the nighttime fire pits burn as brightly as ever, without poisoning the nearby residents. It’s a win-win solution, not without some glitches, so it’s gonna get harder to keep writing about how charcoal ruins the experience — eventually everyone’s gonna get used to it…

 

   

AMENDED INTO IRRELEVANCE

Posted June 24, 2014 By Frank Peters

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Another trip to Sacramento, another Committee hearing, another vote against clean air.

Today’s good news is that, although Travis Allen’s AB 1102 Fire Rings bill moves forward, it’s been amended so extensively, there’s no comparison to where it started. Newport Beach continues to require charcoal-only at the fire pits. Allen gets nothing but bragging rights — he’s saved the fire rings as his press release will claim, but Huntington Beach’s 550 pits were never in jeopardy.

   

COMPELLING HANDOUTS: TOXIC BOUNDARIES

Posted June 14, 2014 By Frank Peters
Click for PDF

On the balboa peninsula

Trying to introduce the topic of toxic fire pits to someone for the first time?

This photo works well.

It shows the 700′ boundary — the first-in-the-nation fire pits regulation as set by the South Coast AQMD. You don’t want to live inside the red toxic boundary, but as you see, many people do.

See all those residences? Count about 6 people per, as they’re all duplexes or triplexes, that’s a lot of people at risk.

The red circle on the right is centered on 18 fire pits. Notice the Junior Lifeguards Headquarters and the playground close by — no one argues: it’s not good to expose children to wood smoke. The circle on the left is centered on 15 fire pits.

So all those residents, do you think they knew when they moved here? Of course, many of these nearby residents don’t know now, unless they dispute the scientific evidence, as is so popular with Orange County Republicans these days. But as long-term followers of this site know, their health is being adversely affected every night.

This photo has proven to be the most popular of my Legislative handouts. One staffer told me she preferred it because it conveyed so much information. Another staffer said she like to see exactly what everyone’s talking about.

When you take a closer look you can see — there’s no place to spread the fire pits out such that they won’t poison some unsuspecting residents and visitors. The beach is just too shallow – at its deepest, it’s only 400′ from residences to shoreline. That’s too toxic, especially now that we know the harmful emissions per minute from one pit equal the second-hand smoke of 800 cigarettes. The only way save the pits without poisoning more people is to use cleaner fuels. And imagine if you tried to spread wood-burning pits out — news of such a plan would fill the Council Chambers with angry residents. That’s why the City Manager told me he won’t do it, because moving the pits means affecting more people.

The same is true in Corona del Mar. Only the number of fire pits is different.

Click for PDF

Too many, too close and nowhere to spread them out

If you spread the fire pits out along the beach at Big Corona then you poison every beachgoer, plus more nearby residents. Fortunately, the beach is too shallow to try.

That leaves only one workable alternative: leave all the fire pits as charcoal-only.

Maybe someday there will be even cleaner natural gas alternatives, but until then, the only option to minimize the toxic impact is to use charcoal.

AB 1102 doesn’t protect beachgoers or residents. The next City Council could reneg on charcoal and spread wood-burning fire pits up and down the beach. It’s a public health scenario no one will be happy with.

 

   

WHEN WAS YOUR FIRST TIME?

Posted June 12, 2014 By Frank Peters

I’ve been making the rounds in the Capitol, talking to staffers on the State Senate’s Natural Resources Committee, the next stop for the Fire Rings Bill, AB 1102.

It’s fun meeting new people and making your pitch in 5 minutes or less. I think I’m good at it.

Sometimes you’re making your case while they listen and other times you’re dealing with objections. It can give you a hint as to who they’ve been talking to and where they’re coming from.

Today I kept hearing the same old question,

How long have you lived near these fire rings?

You want to be a good listener, but at the same time you’ve got to be quick with your rebuttals. Nine times out of ten this question is just the setup for,

So you knew when you moved in that the fire rings were there?

You can read many things into this argument, but sensitivity for the suffering of your fellow man is not one of them. Like so much of politics today, it’s a heartless perspective.

I like to think I’ve got good counter arguments, like “Most of the science of the adverse health effects of wood burning is less than 10 years old,” but as they say in bicycle advocacy, “When you’re explaining you’re losing.”

So instead I’m working on new rebuttals. My first one goes like this,

When did you first learn of the dangers of breathing wood smoke?

For most of us it’s been quite recent. And of course, many do not yet know, so it’s a process of learning, of public education.

I’ve been thinking of the milestones in my discovery. One timeline that comes to mind, I know I knew when Sam Harris published The Fireplace Delusion in February 2012, because I jumped for joy when I imagined how his arguments might affect our initiative.

I know I didn’t know about the adverse health effects from breathing asbestos, back when I was a pup and my dad would take me out to the Johns-Manville open-air asbestos dump. We just didn’t know.

Home (cough!) sweet home!

Home (cough!) sweet home!

Barbara and I dream of moving to a neighborhood with cleaner air someday, but I can tell that most realtors still don’t know of the adverse effects because too many of the Homes-For-Sale websites show pictures of the interiors of your new dream home, prominently featuring — you guessed it — wood burning fireplaces! Most people still have no idea what we’re talking about when it comes to wood smoke.

Of course, it really doesn’t matter when you learned, only that you do know now and as a Senator, what you’re going to do about it.

So when was my first time?

It was sometime early on in this process, when my wife Barbara started soliciting letters from prominent health scientists — to read their letters was startling — there were no two ways about it: the toxins and particulates emitted by the fire rings were worse than I ever imagined.

As my City Manager is famous for saying, “You can’t un-ring that bell.” Once you know, there’s no deluding yourself any further.

Wood smoke from the beach fire rings is terrible for public health, both for the downwind beach-goers and the nearby residents.

When was your first time?

 

   

HEARING HIGHLIGHTS

Posted June 6, 2014 By Frank Peters


Watch the final 30 minutes of the Senate’s Environmental Quality Committee hearing on the Fire Rings Bill.

Don’t have 100 minutes to watch the entire hearing?

Wanna watch the best parts?

I started out wanting to edit this down so I could capture the Coastal Commission’s mouthful,

The fire rings are a low-cost, visitor-serving, recreational opportunity…

But once I located that sound bite, everything started to sound interesting. This shorter version featuring the final 30 minutes captures the highlights.

 

   

SENATE COMMITTEE HOSTS ROBUST DISCUSSION

Posted June 5, 2014 By Frank Peters

State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson started interrupting almost immediately.

Bill author Travis Allen must have known he’d be in for tough sledding; he was only 2 sentences into his prepared remarks before the critiques started coming. It would get testy as moments later Jackson continued her critique, “I hate this bill.”

We agree.

Barbara and I traveled to Sacramento earlier this week to testify before the Senate’s Environmental Quality Committee, hoping to stop AB 1102, The Beach Fire Rings Bill.

Allen’s bill has gone through many revisions and is about to go through several more as all of the proposed amendments in the thoughtfully reviewed staff report will be included.

We had great support from the SCAQMD; all their top brass was in attendance to speak about the public health impact of wood smoke. The Sierra Club, the Lung Association, Coalition for Clean Air, Breathe California and California Air Pollution Control Officers Association each shared their opposition to the bill as well.

Senator Fran Pavley had many pointed questions for the Coastal Commission:

I am not interested in undermining the authority of either agency… Why are we drawing this line in the sand where people can’t seem to work together? We just shouldn’t be up here, in this role, picking between between different agencies…

We were encouraged when Committee Chair Jerry Hill made a powerful speech as to why he could not support the bill. Supporters of clean air will rejoice as you hear him call out the Coastal Commission for its “petty” remarks, but the votes weren’t there to stop the bill.

The bill moves next to the Natural Resources Committee on June 24th when the concerns about the bill will be critically reviewed again.

 

   

CA SENATE OFFERS THEIR ANALYSIS

Posted June 3, 2014 By Frank Peters

There’s a bill moving through the CA legislature, AB 1102, which would basically make any air quality regulations on beach bonfires subject to the Coastal Commission.

Yes, it’s a battle of the titans: the South Coast Air Quality Management District, the oldest, most prestigious air quality regulatory agency in the nation versus recreational burning as supported by the California Coastal Commission.

Is it appropriate to override an air pollution control measure, designed to protect public health, and issued from a local air district with sole responsibility for comprehensive air pollution control within the basin, until the Coastal Commission, with no jurisdiction, authority or expertise over air quality or public health, reviews and issues a coastal development permit?

Read the full report.

The bill will be heard by the Senate’s Environmental Quality Committee at 9:30am Wednesday June 4th.

Keep your fingers crossed — let’s hope this Committee will kill AB 1102.

 

   

PUBLIC EDUCATION: NEWPORT BEACH HANDOUT

Posted May 23, 2014 By Frank Peters

Fire-Rings-Regulations

While the battle over the fire pits continues, there’s a new educational piece, a handout for beachgoers that the City has printed.

The Air Quality Management District dictates that the fire pits must be thinned out; they could be declared a public nuisance and be done with it, but there’s that pesky issue of getting a Coastal Commission permit before anything moves on the sand.

Meanwhile there’s legislation moving through the Statehouse that could muddy the waters, so what does Newport Beach do? It’s time for interim decisions and that’s led to a new Charcoal-only policy for the 60 beach fire pits.

As a nearby resident I can attest — the air is much less smoky, but now you have an enforcement challenge and people want to know why. Tada! We have a new handout for the curious, and hopefully compliant, beachgoer. Check out the handout.

It’s the first of its kind. There’s never been a printed word about what can or cannot be torched. Wood pallets did attract scrutiny, but there was never anything posted or printed alerting the errant bonfire enthusiast from proceeding.

Now there is and although there’s a lot of room for improvement, the word that wood smoke is bad for public health is continuing to spread.