Coast Commission Staff letter
Look who’s chiming in at the last minute!
Just hours before the Newport Beach City Council meets to determine how to address the March 1, 2014 AQMD Ruling regarding the spacing of the beach fire pits, the Coastal Commission staff jumps in to assert their point of view.
This is great political theater and certainly adds drama to tonight’s Council meeting. It also points out just where the 50′ ruling that the City was trying to sell us was coming from. Anyone who thought this was dreamt up by some clever clerk at City Hall knows better now.
Two weeks ago when the Coastal Commission met for 3 days at the Newport Beach Civic Center, City Manager Dave Kiff described the proximity as great for staff interactions. Wood smoke advocates might disagree, because before the Coastal Commissioners and staff had even packed their bags, the City was convening a meeting with local clean air advocates to let us down, citing the political realities — that being the new concoction of “randomness” relating to “definitions of contiguous spacing” as stated in the City’s staff report which means the denser, more toxic 50′ spacings between fire pits must be applied.
AQMD Puts Council on Notice
Now we know this was a threat from the Coastal Commission staff.
How else to explain the City’s complete turn around from a unanimous vote to remove all the fire pits to an Orwellian interpretation that would keep half. All the while thinking that the Coastal Commission staff could speak for the Commissioners themselves.
But this advance notice gave us an advantage. Explaining the Newport Beach staff report and it’s 50′ interpretations to the AQMD led to a letter of clarification from Executive Director Barry Wallerstein. In the letter he unambiguously states that all of the Newport fire pits must be 100′ apart.
One big jurisdiction challenge the CCC faces is that they willingly handed off this issue to the AQMD. Now they don’t like the outcome.
Will public health trump public access?
Will it come to a showdown?
Some think the Coastal Commission would love to see the City cave in to their staff’s demands, that way the state agency won’t have to go to court against a regional air quality agency. It’s a battle I’d love to see and the Coastal Commission is a good poker player — they’re bluffing loudly because they know they have the weaker hand. They won’t push too much further I’m guessing, because in a head-to-head fight they have too much to lose.