The City of San Diego has been trying to close or remove the fire pits at the beaches for years. This is the only conclusion I can reach after reviewing a 3 page memo that has crossed my desk that was given to the Peninsula Planning Board way back in May of 2003 – over 6 years ago.
The memo is from the San Diego Police Department Western Division and describes a power point presentation to be given to that planning organization that calls for the “Seasonal Removal of the Ocean Beach Fire Rings.” The proposal called for the removal of OB’s fire pits from October 1 to April 30th each year.
At the time, I was on the OB Planning Board and now I do recall a similar proposal circulating at our Board as well. I remember at the time that we felt the City and police were trying to remove the pits for good, despite their “seasonal” gameplan.
And it’s not about money, either. It wasn’t about money back in 2003. It was because the fire pits were perceived to be the source of pollution and crime in northwest OB.
A number of problems were identified in the memo due to the use of the pits:
- “Trash and garbage is being burned in the fire rings”
- “Vandalism to nearby Public Restrooms”
- “Thefts from nearby homes for things to burn in the fire rings”
- “Crime occurring in and around the fire rings”
The memo continued and “proved” these problems by citing police statistics from 5 to 6 specific blocks in NW OB, such as “5100 Saratoga” and “5100 Voltaire” and so forth. This was explained in the memo with the following:
Because this area [the area of the fire rings] is a beach with no addresses for any particular fire ring, we were only able to use commonly known locations to obtain our statistics.
In other words, the stats used to prove the problems were caused by the fire rings – or pits – crime numbers were grouped according to the block – not the fire pit itself.
So, for the locations, there were 70 arrests in 2002 and 387 citations issued. In that same period, there were reportedly 11 violent crimes and 31 property crimes. The memo also stated:
We are aware that some incidents begin at the fire rings but the actual crime is committed at a different location.
Attempted murder – a victim got into a fight with another male at a fire ring, the victim knocked the suspect down and walked away. The suspect came up behind the victim in the 5000 block of Newport and stabbed the victim in the back.
As noted, the memo called for the “seasonal removal” of the pits from October 1 to April 30th. As anyone who has been at the beach knows, it’s still “summer” at the beach in early October and it’s nice and warm usually by the end of April.
There’s no talk in the memo about how expensive maintaining the fire pits are. Of course, this was before the huge budget crisis of 2008-09.
The City – and the police – have been trying to close down these fire pits for awhile. And it’s not about the money. The money issue is a subterfuge.
Some of our readers and bloggers agree. Commenter fstued stated to a recent post:
Bottom line the city doesn’t want them [fire pits]. It has nothing to do with budget cuts. If they thought about [it] they could make money on the pits [and] require a permit that you get from the life guards $5 or $10 that would be nothing to most folks having a fire. I am sure they could sell plenty of permits. …
Our blogger Doug Porter wrote:
the firepits are being used as a symbol or metaphor to help persuade the populace that the City’s budget crisis is real, even as they proceed with big ticket items whose only long term benefit will be for the owners of the construction companies (et al), real estate speculators and the politicians that do their bidding.
We agree. Removing the fire pits has nothing to do about money. The City and police want to remove an icon of beach culture, the fire pit because the fire pit is viewed as a nuisance. First, no alcohol on the beach, no cigarettes on the beach, – now no fire pits on the beach.
Save the fire pits. Don’t let the City remove them. Adopt one instead.