Number 9 – OB’s missing fire pit has been “found.”
Actually, the City knew all along where it was. It was destroyed when all of OB’s fire pits were moved to safer ground behind the berm late last year. OB had nine fire pits at the end of the summer and now we’re down to only eight.
So, according to Park and Recreation Department Director Stacey LoMedico, OB will not receive another one. We’ve got all we’re gonna get. And we may lose them as well.
Back in the late twentieth century, San Diego had 450 fire rings or pits – but by Fall of 2009, the City only had 186, scattered about the beach communities and around Mission Bay. Most remain in District 2, Councilmember Kevin Faulconer’s district – which includes OB, of course.
All of the remaining fire pits are threatened with removal, according to the City, in order to save $121,000 spent annually to maintain all of them.
The OB Rag, in response, embarked on a campaign to save OB’s rings, initiating an “Adopt-a-Fire-Pit Program”. Plenty of OBceans, individuals, an apartment complex, a few businesses, stepped forward and volunteered to adopt each of them.
Meanwhile, the California Coastal Commission has stepped into the controversy and has announced that the City needs to obtain permits in order to remove the fire pits.
If volunteers want to clean the fire pits, according to the City, there’s a number of hoops they must jump through. The volunteers have to form a non-profit, they have to obtain a million dollars in insurance and deal with risk management, they must get a right of entry permit, they must meet and confer with City employee unions …
Yet, we feel these hoops are road-blocks thrown in the path of well-meaning volunteers and community activists who want to save a chuck of beach and San Diego culture. The City is using the budget issue as a means to get rid of what is perceived as “nuisances.”
The OB Adopt program is loosely tied into a coalition of local groups that are trying to keep the fire rings from being removed. Katheryn Rhoads, of that coalition, met recently with Deborah Lee, staff member to the local office of the Coastal Commission.
According to Rhoads, Deborah Lee thinks the loss or closure of San Diego’s fire rings is a horrible idea. Lee supports volunteer efforts to keep them open. The City of San Diego still needs those permits, Lee says, and as of this date, has not filed the paperwork or application to get the issue before the Coastal Commission. It certainly is not on the March agenda. For Lee, it’s an issue of public access. The Commission’s goal is to increase public access to the coast and its amenities, like fire pits.
The issue of the fire rings, as all other budgetary issues, goes before the full City Council in May. There’s funding to maintain the pits through June, but according to LoMedico, the City will begin removing them July 1st.
The City’s attitude is that volunteer groups better get busy and raise the necessary funds. There’s a deadline of mid-April to get all the ducks lined up, as the Council goes into budget slashing mode in May.
Thyme Curtis of Kevin Faulconer’s office is the point person on this issue. Although she is sympathetic to OB’s plight, she directs inquiries back to Stacey LoMedico, who is caught in her own bureaucratic redoubt and has her own marching orders.
There is one report that states even Jay Goldsmith, the City Attorney, has stepped into this controversy, and was heard to say that LoMedico is incorrect, that the issue has to go directly to the Mayor, not to one of his departments.
We’ll keep this issue alive and will offer periodic updates.