OB’s Fire Pits – Still a Burning Issue

by on April 16, 2010 · 18 comments

in Civil Rights, Culture, Economy, Labor, Ocean Beach, Organizing, San Diego


The Adopt-A-Fire-Pit Project Is Looking for a Few Good Local Volunteers

OB Fire Pits Before OB Town Council on April 28th

The eight remaining fire pits on OB beaches are fast becoming a burning issue.  As you probably know, the City of San Diego, under the pretense of not having sufficient funds, plans on removing all 185 fire pits that ring the City’s beaches – including Mission Bay.  And these include what’s left of the pits in our community.

The City’s plans of removal are said to begin at the start of the new fiscal year, July 1st, as the City does have the money for maintenance of the fire pits up through this June.

So, obviously, the fire pits are on the Mayor’s budget chopping block. (See back posts on the issue, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and especially here. – Okay, so we’ve blogged a lot about the fire pits.)

The OB Rag has been spearheading an “Adopt-a-Fire-Pit” Program whereby volunteers from the neighborhood, businesses, civic groups – whomever, step up and pledge to clean and maintain their fire pit for the year – at no cost – outside of gloves and some equipment.

This Adopt project has been fairly successful in that most of OB’s eight pits are accounted for.  But just recently, a couple of the pits are now available for adoption or sponsorship.  If you or your group are interested, please email us at obragblog@gmail.com and let us know, giving us names and contact info of those taking responsibility for the group. We do have waiting lists being developed, but we are looking for OB residents, businesses or civic organizations.

OB Fire Pit saviors are meeting with Councilmember Kevin Faulconer later this month. And the issue of saving them will before the OB Town Council at their monthly meeting on April 28th (Masonic Temple at 7pm).

There are other efforts by other citizens to save the fire pits as well, most focus on trying to raise the supposed $200,000 the City insists that it needs to cover their maintenance, insurance, etc.

For a number of reasons, the City has balked at allowing volunteers to clean fire pits, even though the City (and State) utilize volunteers to do other risky cleaning jobs.  There are issues of liability, bulk trash, toxic waste and accountability.

Large Trash/ Hazardous Waste

First, according to Drew Potocki, the City’s Urban Forester, when trash is dumped on public property anywhere in the City, such as a sofa or hazardous material, the San Diego Department of Park and Recreation does not handle the oversize trash themselves. Instead, Park and Recreation calls the City’s Environmental Division who will go and take the burnt sofa out of the fire pit and dispose of the Hazardous Trash as part of their normal city-wide duties.

The City says that the same procedures of calling the Environmental Division to pick up trash, could be used by Park and Recreation officials, but not by volunteers. Instead volunteers would be required not only to clean the fire pits with regular maintenance, but also deal with any large trash items and hazardous waste by themselves, with no help from the City’s Environmental Division.

Use of Volunteers / Liability Insurance / Accountability

Second, a number of City Departments utilize citizen volunteers without requiring them to be part of a non-profit and carry their own $1 million dollars of liability insurance. An example is  the Police Departments RSVP Program – they do not require the same restrictions that volunteers who clean fire pits are saddled with. The City insists that since the cleaning of the fire pit would involve maintenance and cleaning, the same type of liability insurance and requirements given to the RSVP Program volunteers, could not be given to regular ordinary Volunteers. (RSVP Information: Volunteer Manager, (619) 446-1012; Retired Senior Volunteer Patrol (R.S.V.P.), (619) 446-1012)

According to the Park and Recreation’s Volunteer page , there are already processes in place that should allow us, any citizen, or any citizen group to Volunteer their time without-liability insurance and non-profit status.

Examples of Adopt-A-Park include the following:

Grounds Maintenance Volunteers. Assist in cleaning and maintenance of coastal parks and beaches from Torrey Pines Beach to Sunset Cliffs Park.

Qualifications: Desire to help maintain quality of beaches and coastal parks. Groups must provide own supervision; Time Commitment: One-time basis, or “Adopt A Park” (clean every 3 months).

Habitat Restoration Volunteers. Work with park ranger staff in removal of non-native plants, transplanting natives, and fencing of sensitive areas.

Qualifications: 16 years or older; good physical condition; able to perform strenuous physical tasks; enjoys working as a team.

Time Commitment: 4 hours/day; mostly weekends, available to large groups.

Trail Crew. Work with park ranger staff in building and maintaining trails and installing fencing, signage, water bars, and steps.

Qualifications: 18 years or older; good physical condition; able to perform strenuous tasks; enjoys working in a team.

Time Commitment:, 1 day/month; 4 hours/day; mostly weekends.

Group Volunteer Opportunities include:

Special Projects/Special Event Group Volunteers. Assist with special projects and special events at recreation centers citywide. Volunteers can provide pre-event assistance as well as assistance on the day of the event and after the event. Group opportunities exist in a variety of areas from designing, painting, and building game booths and Haunted Houses, to timing races at a swim meet. Note: Groups must provide own supervision; groups of children must have adult supervision.

Time Commitment: Discretion of group

Grounds Maintenance Group Volunteers. Assist in cleaning and maintenance of parks, playgrounds and recreation centers citywide.

Qualifications: Desire to help maintain quality of public parks. Groups must provide own supervision; groups of children must have adult supervision.

Time Commitment: Discretion of group; may be on a one-time basis, or “Adopt A Park”.

The April 15, 2010 dead line for the Budget and decision on Management of the Public Fire Pits has just passed.  “Save San Diego Fire Pits” activists are still in the process of receiving the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) from Park and Recreation on how often they clean the fire pits in order to write a plan. The decision on the correct process and Standard Operating Procedures for Volunteer is the Mayor’s and City Council’s decision to make.

On obtaining the SOP, Activist Katheryn Rhoades says: “We are getting no where fast.”

So, the fire pits at our beach are hot – stayed tuned for more – but go ahead and commit to being a volunteer and adopt a pit, and attend the Town Council meeting on the 28th.

A big tip-of-the-hat to Point Loma activist Katheryn Rhoades

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Dave Sparling April 16, 2010 at 11:33 pm

To be honest when Kevin Faulkner joined Carie Nation and said I could no longer have a cold PBR as I set next to a roaring fire with friends and looked at the Pacific Ocean, I frankly could care less if the city wants to remove all the fire pits. After all we live in a very high security world now and arm banned drinking behind a fence is all we have left.


Goatskull April 17, 2010 at 12:37 am

That DOES suck, but more than anything else I blame the drunk idiots who acted like the idiots they are for the drinking ban. It’s always those few who ruin it for every one else. I still don’t understand what exactly the “costs” are for maintaining a hollow cement square. Being that we can’t legally drink on the beach anymore, I would think there are way less people even using the fire pits at all. Even before the ban, drinking was a no no after 8pm right around the time it starts getting dark in the summer.


Goatskull April 17, 2010 at 12:18 am

Sooooo, my uneducated question is: How much can it cost to maintain a cement square in the sand? What exactly is there to maintain? I know the city is broke and that’s not going to change anytime soon, but WTF?


Frank Gormlie April 17, 2010 at 11:07 am

Goatskull – go back over those past posts – the figures are in there somewhere. The figure has been moving around – first it was $200K for all 186 fire pits, now it’s down to about $120K. We’ve had lively discussions on these past posts regarding what’s done for that amount of mullah.


Goatskull April 17, 2010 at 1:14 pm

I’ll check it out. I just never realized there was anything to even maintain.


Goatskull April 18, 2010 at 10:16 am

Thanx for replying. I had no idea and learned something.


jim g April 17, 2010 at 9:45 am

I think once the figure was 300k to maintain all the pits….2 men a dozer, a end dump year round …wonder what that city crew was doing for 6 months out of the year when the pits were being used very very seldom….

if i remember the waste coming out of the pits has to be disposed of at a certain landfill or tested due to possible contamanation !!


Sunshine April 19, 2010 at 9:56 am

I am going down to the Fire Pits every night this week (sometime after dark and before midnight) with petitions to sign for anyone interested in letting those in public office know that we simply will not tolerate one more public amenity being removed.

Come on down to the Fire Pits this week in the evenings between Monday, April 19th – Wednesday, April 22 and sign a petition in support of keeping the Fire Pits where they are.

If I’m not mistaken, the website http://www.savethefirepits.com has a wealth of information as to what is already being done to stop this travesty.


Frank Gormlie April 19, 2010 at 10:23 am

Caution on directing people to that other site – thats not OB; direct them to the OB Rag sites – there have been many posts. That other site is trying to raise money to save them, and we want OBceans to join OUR effort.


Sunshine April 20, 2010 at 10:00 am

you are right, Frank. That website is mostly about raising donations to give to the City to keep the status quo. It did provide some interesting insight into the Costal Commissions involvement though and that’s what caught my interest.

I’d rather stick with the OBRag plan of Adopting the Fire Pits ourselves and keeping them community based amenities on our own terms.

Anyone open to sign the petition? Come on down to the Fire Pits any evening this week after dark and I’ll be there.


Frank Gormlie April 20, 2010 at 10:26 am

You’re awesome Sunshine.


Save The Fire Pits April 25, 2010 at 11:00 am

Hey guys. We are all working towards a common goal, to save the fire pits.

As you can see from the site, http://www.savethefirepits.com is not trying to raise any money. It is just an informational page. We have a link to to the city’s philanthropy page, as we do to OB Rag and dozens of other articles, groups and documents related to the fire pits. I have added an OB Rag link to the top page, to keep it from getting lost…but the OB effort is covered on several other pages on the site.

We have spent a lot of time digging through regulations, planning documents and budgets, attending council meetings, meeting with reporters, and working with organizations around the state to gather the info listed on the site and used by the many groups working to save the fire pits. I hope the information is useful to all of you.

OB’s adopt-a-fire-pit is a great program! Thanks Frank. I’ve sent quite a few reporters your way.


Frank Gormlie April 25, 2010 at 11:31 am

Thank you! And we have linked to your site and sent many your way as well, which is what it should be. Here in OB, we do need to deal with the immediate issue of the loss of our eight fire rings – OB used to have 16 in the summer – and even though the ultimate solution has to be one that includes all 185 rings from all the beaches, our focus is here.


liveinOB April 23, 2010 at 1:36 pm

maybe since the OBTC sponsors a little league team, GO CUBS ! they could step up and sponsor the fire pits that are actually in OB


LisanOB April 28, 2010 at 3:10 pm

Saw on Channel 6 news this morning that they intended to be at the meeting to report the results. Anyone planning to represent OB on this? Seems like this is an important issue being overshadowed by national events right now.


Frank Gormlie April 28, 2010 at 3:33 pm

Yes, anyone who wants to keep OB’s fire rings needs to be there.


psd April 28, 2010 at 6:32 pm

See y’all in a half hour or so…


Chuck Marlow May 26, 2010 at 5:13 pm

I remember great times at the beach with the folks, using the “round” fire rings to BBQ hot dogs. And the massive dried up christmas tree bonfires. :)
Would be a shame to see those things go. When in heck did the rings become squares?


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