In the news Archive

San Clemente’s Brenda Miller

Posted May 23, 2013 By Frank

Brenda Miller

in the Register today

Bike advocate extraordinaire, Brenda Miller, leads off “South County cycles towards safety” in the Orange County Register, San Clemente edition.


AQMD Staff Report Proposes Beach Burning Ban

Posted April 3, 2013 By Frank

Read the Staff report

Read the Staff report

The much anticipated AQMD Staff report has been released. In it are new definitions of Rule 444 and 445:

A new definition is added for “beach burning” which is prohibited beginning January 1, 2015 under this amendment. However, using charcoal and liquid/gaseous fuels for cooking at beaches is still permitted. Other types of recreational, ceremonial, or open burning remain exempt, such as those at regional parks and camp grounds not covered by the new definition… Under PAR 444 a city or county could, through formal action, make the prohibition sooner than January 1, 2015.

Background: Last year the Newport Beach City Council voted unanimously to remove its 60 fire rings. The next step was to seek Coastal Commission permission, but the issue was derailed at the recent March meeting as 4 commissioners sit on their respective air quality boards, including Dr. Burke who Chairs the South Coast Air Quality Management District which is responsible for what we breathe in the 4 counties of LA, Orange, San Bernardino and Riverside, 41% of the population of the State of California. The Coastal Commission deferred this issue to their ‘sister agency’ and will reconsider Newport Beach’s application again in June.

Today’s AQMD Staff report is queued up for Board review May 3rd.

Under the proposed revisions to Rule 444, Newport Beach already qualifies for immediate removal of its fire rings — 27 at Big Corona and 33 on the Balboa peninsula.

Fire Rings Fruit Cake Bingo!

Posted April 2, 2013 By Frank

Some of you are wondering… has this site been taken over by a bunch of anti-fire rings fanatics?

I’m still checking my web logs, but in the meantime, let me fire one last shot across the bow!

Soon I’ll be back on my meds and riding my bike, then these other advocacy issues will blow away like a puff of smoke.

Along those lines, I’m pulling back from the limelight. It’s kinda intoxicating to be seen on TV and quoted in the Press. As a 7-year blogger on a variety of topics, that’s what I suppose I’ve always wished for – being discovered.

But as I get started with the 12-Step Fire Rings Advocacy Rehabilitation Program, today I turned down a TV appearance. Can you imagine my withdrawal symptoms? I mean, prior to all this fire ring frenzy, it’s been since the day Michael Jackson’s medical doctor was convicted that I’ve enjoyed seeing my mug on TV!

I have to admit, this latest TV invite was in the form of a debate with a fire rings advocate in Huntington Beach and I knew I would lose. One thing I’ve learned about myself: in realtime I seldom get the last word or win many arguments – that’s why I write. Here I can craft my arguments and edit them for hours sometimes. I knew I’d be blown out of the water if I attempted to debate the fire rings controversy.

As you know, I’m against the fire rings. I’ve lived with them for 15 years and I’m beginning to understand the health impact on myself, my family, my neighbors and the region. But how would that play against the red-meat arguments of a fire rings proponent?

Then I got an idea! Instead of arguing with an almost lunatic proponent, which would be no fun at all – turn it into a game!

I would sneak my Fire Rings Fruit Cake Bingo card into the TV studio and secretly check off the nutty arguments he’d use, the same nutty things everyone in Huntington Beach seems to be saying, then near the end of the interview, as my opponent would be licking his lips, knowing he mopped the floor with me, I’d jump up out of my chair, dislodging my microphone probably, and shout BINGO!

Next time you’re in a discussion about the health effects of the fire rings, play along.


Smart enough to know the fire rings are poisoning the entire region, but not smart enough to stop arguing with those who love them anyway? Make it fun, play BINGO!

Horse Trading Public Health

Posted April 1, 2013 By Frank

Mayor Curry

Read Mayor Curry’s letter

The story heated up today when Newport Beach Mayor Keith Curry released a letter he wrote to his counterpart in Huntington Beach.

The topic is fire rings. The Newport Beach City Council voted unanimously to remove 60 local fire rings. The next step was a trip to the California Coastal Commission to acquire the necessary permit. That’s when things got interesting because 4 members of the CCC also sit on their local air quality boards including Dr. Burke, Board Chairman of the South Coast Air Quality Management District. The AQMD has authority for 4 counties: LA, Riverside, San Bernandino and Orange; this region includes 41% of the population of California. Potentially, the AQMD could ban up to 836 fire rings along the coast.

Things were going well, as the AQMD issued a draft proposal that would revise their Rule 444 to ban all beach burning. That’s when Huntington Beach woke up and jumped into the fray. Mayor Connie Boardman wrote a strongly worded letter of protest and then last week at a public hearing at AQMD headquarters, several HB residents and employees of the HB Visitors Bureau attended to speak their mind.
Continue reading “Horse Trading Public Health” »

On the roof and on the go - the AQMD installed air monitors on the roof of the lifeguard building and had 3 vehicles they could position for wind direction

On the roof and on the go – this weekend the AQMD installed roof-top air monitoring equipment on the lifeguard building and had 3 vehicles they could position based on wind direction

Welcome to Part III of my advice to HB. They want to keep their 465 polluting fire rings, while I’m an advocate for their removal.

Just tuning in? Catch up with my helpful commentary in Part I: Strategic Advice and Part II: Understanding Our Arguments for Removal.

There are 27 fire rings at Big Corona

There are 27 fire rings at Big Corona

As you remember, at the AQMD Public Hearing last week there was a large contingent from the HB Visitors Bureau. Maybe because I was the first to speak, I had the most time to listen to their arguments. Like any public hearing, some arguments are more effective or more persuasive than others. In my opinion, they need to step up their game if they are to prevail.

Here’s my take on the effectiveness of their arguments:

  1. The s’more’s-economy thing.
    It’s a good sound bite, but it’s like empty calories; I’m left hungry for a more compelling argument.
  2. “We’ll lose parking revenue!”
    Congratulations, you can measure parking revenue after 3pm! Theoretically, this quantifies beach bonfire traffic, but you make this argument at the risk of looking cynical and insensitive. Does that measly $800 grand mean more to you than public health?
  3. “This is all happening so fast!”
    You sound like you’ve had your head in the sand – there’s been a lot of press already about Newport Beach’s appeal to the Coastal Commission and the jurisdictional transfer to the AQMD. Where have you been? If you’re smart you won’t count on a rescue from the Coastal Commission. They’re not coming to save you or your rings. They’ve passed this hot potato.
  4. “You should come experience one of our fire rings.”
    You didn’t notice the looks on their faces when you mentioned this the first time, so you kept on inviting them. For the AQMD scientists, this is like inviting them to your next colonoscopy! They’d rather do almost anything than sit by an open fire. You’re not going to change their mind on this issue. Drop it.
  5. “The Constitution!” “Nanny state!”
    All your favorite Tea Party rallying cries add up to zilch. You’re dealing with intelligent professionals on this subject. You get placed in the capital “K” kook category when you rail against regulation.
  6. You can’t get away with saying you don’t know the science.
    It’s not that hard to understand: PM2.5 goes through your lungs directly into your blood stream which has a direct correlation with brain cancer. This is way worse than lung cancer. Causes birth defects, too. So when you get hit with questions about this you better quickly change the subject back to lost parking revenue.
  7. “This is nothing compared to… (fill in the blank).” 
    Whether it’s “cars on the 405” or “diesel boat exhaust in Huntington Harbor”, when you make these comparisons the AQMD is silently muttering,

    Yeah, we’re goin’ after all these other pollution sources eventually, too.

  8. “Let Newport Beach get rid of theirs, but we want to make our own decision.”
    This sounds very democratic, but the AQMD knows that you’ll elect any bozo so long as he promises to keep the fire rings. That’s why we have an independent regional agency, because we can’t trust some elected officials to do anything besides what’s popular. This is no way to improve public health when special interests try to derail healthy initiatives.

Come back tomorrow for Part IV: The 10 Steps HB Must Take To Keep Their Toxic Fire Rings.


Welcome to Part II where I offer advice to my neighbors in Huntington Beach who wish to keep their beloved fire rings, even though I’m an advocate for their immediate removal.

As you remember, the Newport Beach City Council voted unanimously to remove 60 fire rings here. Meanwhile HB, including Bolsa Chica, is polluting the region with its 465 fire rings. If they are to prevail and keep their bonfires they have some work to do to focus their arguments.

For starters HB should understand our arguments:

  • The smoke is bad for public health. This is based on scientific evidence; you should read some of it. According to the EPA,

    Smoke may smell good, but it’s not good for you.

    This issue really touches a nerve with the decision makers.

  • Stanford's Dr. Jacobson

    Stanford’s Dr. Jacobson

  • There’s no low-threshold exposure; according to Mark Z. Jacobson, Director of the Atmosphere/Energy Program at Stanford University:

    One rule of thumb based on epidemiological data is that there is no low threshold level to the health effects (including mortality) of small air pollution particles (generally referred to as PM2.5)

    Ask yourself, what does this mean for those living near the fire rings for more than a year or two?

  • The Coastal Commission calls the fire rings a “low-cost amenity”, but there’s a fallacy here. The long-term cost is borne by the nearby residents in the form of cancer, lost wages due to illness, and death.
  • The case for keeping the fire rings is unethical. How can you weigh your night of fun against our health arguments?
  • “Premature death.” You’ve heard the AQMD use the phrase, and so do we. You heard them say,

    We lose 5 to 6,000 people a year from premature death due to particulate matter.

    I don’t know how you offset that against lost revenue of bundled wood.

  • If the AQMD bans the fire rings, no one loses their job and there’s no cost. The AQMD has seldom seen such a compelling case. All they have to do is deal with public opinion.
  • Enforcement won’t work. You can’t expect a lifeguard to patrol the fire rings. And at the end of the evening, people throw all their plastic into the fire; basically everything they don’t want to take home goes up in toxic smoke.
  • American Lung Assoc.

    American Lung Assoc.

  • The local residents are suffering “involuntary exposure”. Yeah, the fire rings are a blast for you. Maybe you enjoy the rings 2 or 3 times a year, but for us nearby, we’re suffering 300+ nights per year. The American Lung Association agrees, no one should be placed in harm’s way involuntarily.
  • Propane or natural gas? If I were you, I’d harmonize with the AQMD proposals. You risk losing all your fire rings; it’s a bad bet. Let the AQMD fiddle with clean alternatives. Of course, we’ll be asking for an immediate injunction while we work out the details (for public health reasons).
  • Witness to History. We’re shooting for the stars; we’re on the verge of shutting down 836 fire rings. This could be a grand-slam for public health. How do you compete with that?


Tune in tomorrow for Part III where I critique Huntington Beach’s arguments for keeping their toxic, wood burning fire rings.


Unsolicited Advice for Huntington Beach, Part I

Posted March 30, 2013 By Frank
Last night was a good night to monitor air quality. Here you can see, like it does during many winter nights, the smoke settles adding to the health hazard

Last night was a good night to monitor air quality.
Without a breeze the smoke settles, adding to the health hazard.

There’s a battle raging here in Southern California over wood burning in beach fire rings. Newport Beach decided to remove their 60 fire rings for health reasons. Huntington Beach was recently caught napping; do they think that now that a regional agency is proposing to ban all beach burning that they can show up late, with a cute slogan, and win the day? I’m in favor of removing the fire rings and I recently spoke at the AQMD Public Hearing where I got to hear HB’s arguments for keeping the fire rings. Here I offer a little unsolicited advice.

So, Huntington Beach, you want to keep your fire rings?

You’re gonna need better arguments than you’ve made so far.

May I offer some strategic advice? You need it. Let me point out how you’ll need to frame your arguments:

First, you’re goin’ nowhere by attacking the AQMD. You look like kooks when you rant about loss of freedom, or FREEDOM, as you would put it. So, to win this contest you must treat the AQMD with respect. Their whole mission is to protect public health. To many this is a ‘motherhood’ issue; no one can make an effective case against public health. Don’t look like boobs; harmonize with their authority, not to mention their science.

Learn our counter-arguments: if you know what we’re gonna argue and anticipate your rebuttals, you’re bound to come off a lot better, not to mention, look good in front of the TV cameras.

For starters, drop these trite come-backs. These pathetic zingers don’t help to make your case:

  • If you don’t like the smoke, sell your house.
  • You knew they were there, the rings have been here for 60 years…
  • Isn’t this like someone who moves near the airport then complains about the noise?

Likewise, lose the petty critiques. You need more sophisticated arguments; none of these references move the needle in your favor:

  • Those Newport Beach people are a bunch of rich snobs.
  • Class warfare, private beaches, ulterior motives
  • Hints of racial xenophobia

Ok, as we wrap up this discussion of your nutty commentary, let’s get past:

  • Your petition. Add up all the petitions and it’s still a small number.
    The opposition didn’t do a petition because we knew the numbers would be low. You’re waking up to realizing that it doesn’t carry the clout you thought it would. Petitions are about popularity; this decision will be based on scientific evidence. Forget this.
  • Letters from your elected officials. Ditto.
    Their equally uninformed comments do nothing to address the District’s concerns about public health, nor move your chance of success much higher. Everyone knows the fire rings are popular; don’t rely so heavily on this argument. You’re challenging their authority which, for many of these professionals, is how they see their life’s work.
  • “Next they’re gonna ban my wood burning fireplace!”
    They already have. You can’t build a new house or remodel an old one and install a wood burning fireplace – indoors or out. Now you know.

Next up, Part II: Understanding Our Arguments.


Big Data at Big Corona

Posted March 29, 2013 By Frank

As you already know, I’m on a clean air kick of late, so you can imagine my excitement when the AQMD arrives and starts installing some pretty fancy looking air quality monitoring devices here at the beach.

The District’s got till May 3rd to gather data and make their decision. The board meeting was set before the issue of the fire rings even came up. They want to change Rule 444 to ban beach fires. The public backlash, especially in Huntington Beach, is causing them to gather more data.

Of the 836 fire rings in Los Angeles and Orange Counties, 465 are in Huntington Beach and Bolsa Chica, yet ironically they say,

We don’t have a single citizen complaint.

That’s because they’re all calling my house to complain.

The AQMD spent all day installing air quality monitoring devices

The AQMD spent all day installing air quality monitoring devices here at Big Corona

Yeah, sure. This is the lifeguard building, but it's unsettling to see the Lifeguards involved in the installation of the air monitring equipment when the head of the Lifeguards is such an advocate for maintaining the status quo. Is this fair?

Yeah, sure, this is the lifeguard building, but it’s unsettling to see the Lifeguards involved in the installation of the air monitoring equipment when the head of the Lifeguards is such a blatant advocate for maintaining the status quo. Is this fair? Did the Lifeguards already sabotage this effort by convincing the AQMD that this side of the roof, the side blocked from half the fire rings, was the only safe place for installing the equipment? Is this equipment on the wrong side of the roof?

Who's truck is this? And why is it parked between the AQMD installation trucks?

Who’s truck is this? And why is it parked between the AQMD installation trucks?

Must just be a coincidence, eh? What's PITFAN1 doing here?

Must just be a coincidence, eh? What’s PITFAN1 doing here?

How about some wood to go with those nails

How about some wood to go with those nails?
And it’s especially nice to see the painted wood that’s about to go up in smoke…

Whatever's left over is gonna get thrown into the fire ring later

Some nights you just gotta keep squirting the lighter fluid to keep the fire going.
Whatever’s left over is gonna get thrown into the fire ring later.
It’s a nice toxic combo – smoke from the fires and fumes from the lighter fluid.

At the AQMD

Posted March 28, 2013 By Frank

Barbara Peters speaks in favor of removing the beach fire rings.

It was a thrill to be the first speaker called to the podium at the AQMD’s hearing this morning as they consider banning beach fire pits along the Los Angeles and Orange County coastlines.

There’s a large crowd attending, many from the Huntington Beach Visitors Bureau, who will be speaking against their removal.

Back at Bristol Farms

Find of the Year

Posted December 26, 2012 By Frank
Fashion Island's got bike racks. Some of them underground, where bike thieves prefer...

Fashion Island has two bike racks, one underground

I always knew there were two.

But where was it?

I heard it was underground, near Nordstrom’s. Huh?

But they were right.

Here it is.

Who said The Irvine Company doesn’t accommodate cyclists?