Fire Pits Showdown in HB Friday at 5!

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So! Today at 5, THIS happens.  Found in our inbox, this comes from Huntington Beach Visitors Bureau’s snazzy new consultants, Cerell Associates:

Save the Bonfire Rings.Com

Community Treasures Under Attack!

The South Coast Air Quality Management District will have a meeting on the future of our bonfire rings at our beaches:

  • 5pm, Friday, May 17
  • Huntington Beach City Hall, 2000 Main St, Huntington Beach

For more than 60 years, cities along the Orange County and Los Angeles County Coasts have allowed locals and tourists alike to enjoy the fire pits without any complaints.  While the fire pits are a low-cost activity for the residents and visitors of ALL SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA, they also provide critically needed revenue for the state and coastal cities.

Losing the fire pits would result in devastating revenue losses for our state parks too.  These parks stand to lose 50% of the RV camping revenue should the fire pits be removed.  The loss of the fire pits would cost the City of Huntington Beach more than a million dollars every year.

So, I’ll be there, hope you will too!  Even though from what I hear, tonight won’t really be the AQMD itself let alone the two members who are most stubbornly dedicated to take our fire pits – Chairman Bill Burke and Vice Chair Dennis Yates.  Coupla busybody buffoons who don’t have the stones to show themselves in Surf City.  In this latest Register article, they’re now claiming to “have the science” behind them showing that “the impact is there for residents living close to the beach both in Newport Beach and Huntington Beach” … whatever they mean by “impact” and whatever they mean by “close.”  But HB Mayor Connie Boardman – who actually IS a scientist and whom they treat with thinly veiled sexist contempt, retorts:

“This report still doesn’t differentiate between dust, smoke coming from the barbecues and smoke from the fire pits.  We need to know those facts before we decide to ban all fire pits.”

What this afternoon WILL be is Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido, one of our County’s two representatives on the AQMD, listening and talking to us.  Still I hear that the “Small Dark Lord” is on our side here, and he is a good, clever, well-connected and persuasive guy to have on our side.  Plus he’s a Democrat, which might help when convincing some of his Los Angeles colleagues on the Board.


What’s really behind this is illustrated in an anecdote I will now share:  After my own Bonfire Concert I dropped by Assemblyman Travis Allen’s Bonfire Bash, which was crawling with local politicians and their aides, mostly but not all Republican.  One aide who’s been around working for different local Republicans for at least a decade – NO MORE CLUES! – remembered me from when we used to fight over single-payer healthcare in California.  “It’s nice to be on the same side of an issue, Vern!”  “Yes it is,” I agreed.

Then he told me HIS story of the issue – apparently these same spoiled Newporters have been trying to make fire pits illegal for 15 years or so, and my friend pulled the short straw and had to meet with them.  He did a little research on the health and environmental aspects, and when they showed up to make that case for the first half hour, he found it very weak. 

Then after about thirty minutes “They let their guard down and made it clear what this was really about – they couldn’t stand all the ‘riff-raff’ coming to the beach – which they thought of as their yard – every night and weekend.  And I listened to them, and nodded, and quietly thought ‘Fuck you people – that was ME twenty years ago when I was a surfer living in the Inland Empire.  In fact, that was probably ME parking in front of your house! ‘  THIS IS PURE CLASSISM, bro.”

Anyways …

  • In other news, the final hearing on the fate of our bonfires will NOT be decided at the long-awaited June 7 hearing, due to some scheduling conflicts.  Possibly Shawn Nelson, who I had heard couldn’t be there, so that’s good, we need him up there fighting for us.  I suppose it’s good to have more time, as long as we keep the EMBERS OF DISSENT BURNING!
  • Travis Allen, Assemblyman for northern Huntington Beach, has passed a Resolution, ACR 52, “honoring California’s beach lifestyle, supporting access to California’s beaches and the enjoyment of beach bonfires” through the Committee on Natural Resources and is headed for a vote before the full Assembly.  Committee on Natural Resources – nice!  More on that resolution here.
  • When the 13-member Board finally votes on this, we’re sure Burke and Yates are gonna fight us to the bitter end, and we’re sure our two OC reps, Shawn Nelson and Pulido, will stand with us.  It seems to me we’ve gotta start lobbying the nine other members.  I’ll be putting up a post making it easy for us to do that, soon.
  • And my buddy Chris Epting has a new piece up at the HB Independent, as he does every Thursday.  Let me quote liberally from the latest:

 In the Pipeline: Tired of AQMD’s non-responsive behavior

(by Chris Epting)

People keep asking me whether I think the South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) will vote June 7 to ban beach bonfires in much of Southern California.

I’ve been invited to speak before several groups in the last few weeks, and the question persists.   I get daily emails from all kinds of people — young adults to a 92-year-old man.

I even heard from an AQMD employee who was just as fed up because of the very real perception that some board decisions appear to be made for political rather than scientific reasons.  (Vern emphasis)

Remember, this all started with a couple of intolerant Newport Beach residents who were able to wangle a one-to-one meeting with AQMD head William Burke.

The AQMD employee, after venting (poignantly and intelligently) several times to me, frustrated, asked, “What do you think will happen?”   And I answered, as I do to everyone that asks me, “I just don’t know.   But I don’t like the signs.”

That said, I do have a new respect for many AQMD employees.   I realized after getting to know this person, that there are those inside who are frustrated too.   They do not like appointed officials who don’t always follow science — or even basic reason.

I contacted AQMD to ask about that.   I’m still waiting for a response.

I don’t like that AQMD has stopped answering questions that I pose, both to their spokesman, Sam Atwood, and to individual board members. I don’t even get non-responses anymore.   I’m just flat-out ignored.

And I, like you, pay their salaries.

I don’t like hearing from people who have been in meetings, who tell me that several AQMD board members have taken a severe dislike to me personally and state so aloud.


Evidently because I have quoted them, described their behavior and pointed out odd little facts like how they never notified our city about this or how the decision was made absent of specific scientific data regarding Huntington Beach.



I don’t like how AQMD board Chairman William Burke and Chino Mayor Dennis Yates compared Newport Beach bonfires to Vietnam War carpet bombing, then became unhinged when I told them I found it offensive.

These men are in charge of science?

I don’t like how some factions of the AQMD seem, in this case, to use science to suit their beliefs, rather than pursuing truth at its highest level.  Or how Burke dismisses people like Huntington Beach Mayor Connie Boardman, who actually is a scientist.

I really don’t like how some of them brush away economic concerns about the proposed ban, acting as if that’s nothing but a troublesome speed bump.



I didn’t like how when Burke resigned recently from the California Coastal Commission, he did so in the midst of what has been described as the potential for conflict of interest with his role on the AQMD board.

I wrote asking why he resigned so abruptly.

No answer.

For 20 years, Burke has been head of the AQMD board. I do not like how focused he seems, by his own words and actions, in banning fire rings. He is strangely committed to making this happen.

Which is why, from the beginning, I have felt like the fix has been in on this issue.   It was Burke, after all, who publicly announced months ago that this ban was 100% guaranteed.

When I asked him about that, face-to-face, he denied it.   Brushed me away as if I was an annoyance.   I dared hold him accountable for his words.

Burke and his cronies do not scare me.   Nor should they scare you.   Remember, we pay them.   And as unelected and unchecked as they may be, we can still make a difference.

In fact, we’ve already made a difference.

Think they counted on this being delayed and fought over? No.

This was to have been pushed through quickly and quietly.   Then they learned this wasn’t Newport Beach with whom they were dealing. It’s Huntington, and we handle our business a little differently.

I don’t know what will happen.   But I do know what we can do… (read the rest at the Independent)

About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist/composer in Orange County, and official troubador of both Anaheim and Huntington Beach (the two ends of the Santa Ana Aquifer.) Performs regularly both solo, and with his savage-jazz quintet The Vern Nelson Problem. Reach at, or 714-235-VERN.