In the Pipeline: Assemblyman pushes back to protect fire rings

January 14, 2014|By Chris Epting
  • Left to right, Robert Naylor, Friends of the Fire Pits; Councilman Joe Carchio, Robyn Black from the Southern California Small Business Assn.; Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva and Assemblyman Travis Allen at Monday's meeting.
Left to right, Robert Naylor, Friends of the Fire Pits;… (Courtesy Travis…)

When I spoke to Assemblyman Travis Allen (R-Huntington Beach) a few days ago, he was cautiously optimistic that the bipartisan Assembly Bill 1102, which he co-authored with Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva (D-Fullerton), would clear its first hurdle this week.

It did. The bill was approved Monday by the Assembly Natural Resources Committee and will move on to the Assembly Appropriations Committee on Jan. 22.

As described by Allen, AB 1102 would "protect the Southern California tradition of beach bonfires by requiring the South Coast Air Quality Management District to work with local cities and other coastal oversight agencies to prove that there will be no loss of beach access or harm to local economies and that any environmental concerns are addressed before a city can remove the fire rings from the beaches in Orange and Los Angeles counties."

Since the AQMD announced its plans last year to ban fire rings in Southern California, Allen has been at the political forefront, battling an "impenetrable and unaccountable" organization.


That's why he says this bill is so important. Even though the AQMD appeared to back off in response to Huntington Beach's glorious opposition, it still managed to crack the door a bit with its new Rule 444, which would go into effect March 1, allowing the agency marginal control of where fire rings are placed in Los Angeles and Orange counties.

Allen, like many of us who became heavily involved in this battle, seems quite aware that the AQMD will probably come back when things quiet down to try to achieve its initial goals.

We know from board members' own words that the overarching goal is to essentially eliminate all wood-burning fire pits, with a master plan of implementing propane and natural gas lines at the beach.

"We can't let all this happen simply because a handful of wealthy Newport Beach property owners want these things gone, and so that's why we have to work so hard," Allen told me. "This is just pure politics. It's just about control.

"Here you have a massive state agency illustrating what it's like when the creep of big government begins to take over. That's why it's time to stand up. This is a very straightforward bill. It's a bipartisan bill and something that essentially the entire community seems to support."

And Allen, like many of us, does not buy AQMD's "science" argument. The air at our beaches has not been cleaner in any of our lifetimes, while the fire pits have never been more popular.

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