La Jolla Parks & Beaches debates changes for signs at Marine Street Beach as effort to curb ‘illegal’ fires

Remnants from a fire at Marine Street Beach in La Jolla are scattered in the sand.

The La Jolla Parks & Beaches board debated how to tackle the ongoing issue of fires at Marine Street Beach during its Sept. 27 meeting online.

Nearby resident Dorie DeFranco, who has been leading a charge against wood and charcoal beach fires in that area, asked that existing signs outlining the rules be lowered to make them easier to see and that new signs be added.

She said debris “from illegal fires is spoiling the beach for others. … We’re still finding burnt pallets with nails in them on the beach.”

Beach bonfires are allowed in city-provided fire rings, but Marine Street Beach does not have them.

The San Diego municipal code states that fires also may be in a “portable barbecue or similar device.” City spokesman Tim Graham previously told the La Jolla Light that “the distinction is that smaller barbecue devices used to cook food are allowed on the beach, provided they are self-contained, are above the sand and people remove any hot coals. Bonfires for the purpose of keeping people warm or providing light at night must be in a city-provided fire ring.”

Despite questions about their legality, a local company is continuing to offer bonfire parties at La Jolla’s Marine Street Beach, saying San Diego city employees have allowed it.

The code states that “coals from any portable barbecue or similar device shall either be removed from the beach area or be deposited in a city-provided fire container or designated hot-coal container provided on the beach for such purposes.” There are no hot-coal containers on Marine Street Beach.

DeFranco said she hopes new signs would indicate that no fires are allowed.

She said the new and lowered signage would increase compliance because “several residents have spoken to those that had fires on the beach and their question is ‘What sign?’” she said.

Dorie DeFranco presents her proposal for Marine Street Beach signage to the La Jolla Parks & Beaches board Sept. 27 online.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

However, some LJP&B trustees were not on board.

Melinda Merryweather agreed that signs could be lowered but argued that portable devices for bonfires are allowed, and she recommended that a container be placed on the beach for any fire remains.

Ken Hunrichs said city representatives are wrong in their interpretation of the code.

LJP&B President Claudia Baranowski suggested DeFranco draft a letter for the board to sign and submit to the city. It will be presented at a future meeting.

In 2020, LJP&B lent its support to the Barber Tract Neighborhood Association in its quest for a ban on wood and charcoal fires on beaches in its area. LJP&B voted Dec. 7 to write a letter to the city asking that only propane-fueled fires be permitted at Barber Tract beaches, including Marine Street Beach.

However, DeFranco said “no action has been taken” to reduce the fires.

The La Jolla Shores Association is seeking a similar ban on wood and charcoal fires at its area beaches and recently decided to send a letter to the city supporting the efforts of its beach fires task force.

Other Parks & Beaches news

Picnic grove problem: The planned renovation of a picnic area in Scripps Park has run up against what organizers call a “major, major issue” by costing nearly twice what was originally projected.

The project would make a picnic area in the park compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, upgrade the tables and benches and replace a dying tree.

While there is $25,000 in the bank — the original expected cost — LJP&B member Ann Dynes said the city indicated that crews working on the renovation would have to be paid prevailing wage, which almost doubled the cost.

Trustee Alexandra Corsi said “construction estimates are around $40,000 and professional services are around $5,000, so we need additional funds. … I believe this project can be done, but it is a bit more complex than we anticipated.”

Full support for Half Marathon: LJP&B voted unanimously to lend its support to the La Jolla Half Marathon scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 11.

The 40th annual event, organized by the Kiwanis Club of La Jolla, will start at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. About the final three miles of the race, overlapping with the run’s concurrent 5K, are in La Jolla.

Thousands of runners are expected. Event chairman Bart Calame said it will be “fully compliant with the city’s COVID-19 requirements” and that the course has changed little from previous years.

Next meeting: La Jolla Parks & Beaches next meets at 4 p.m. Monday, Oct. 25. It is not yet known whether the meeting will be in person, online or a hybrid. Learn more at ◆