The Fire Pits have been temporarily saved by an anonymous donor!

An anonymous donor has contributed enough money to the city to save the fire pits until June 2010.  Within days, the city was looking for more donations. 

Why are the fire pits being removed?

Mayor Sanders presented an emergency mid-year budget change to the City Council in November 2008 to try to close a $48 million deficit.  The revision recommended closing several libraries and community centers and cut some city jobs.  It also eliminated funding for maintaining the fire pits.  The city council rejected closing the libraries and reinstated some jobs but left in the elimination of the fire rings.


Where are the fire pits?

We have 186 fire pits on various beaches, primarily in Mission Bay.  Here is the list of locations: 

La Jolla: 7
Mission Beach 16
Ocean Beach: 9 (reportedly there are now only 8, due to one being damaged)
Mission Bay: 154 (including 37 on Fiesta Island)

How much could it cost to clean fire pits?

Good question!  According to the city, it costs $173,000 per year to maintain 186 fire rings.  That is almost $1,000 per fire ring per year. Follow-up question: How can I get that job?! I don’t really know, but several people have posted offering to move to San Diego and do the work for half the price!

Seriously, why does it cost so much?

Well, it’s the way that they are cleaned.  Here is the process…The pit is lifted by a front loader (like a bulldozer) and moved out of the way.  The sand from under the pit is then scooped up by the loader and put into a dump truck.  A sand sweeping machine then sweeps the area that was scooped.  The loader then puts back the fire ring.  The two-man crew then goes to the next ring.  This job supposedly takes 30 minutes per fire pit.  When the dump truck is full, it takes the sand away to be cleaned.

This job is repeated weekly.

Holy cow! Wouldn’t a shovel and a garbage can do the trick? What do other cities do?

You’d think.  I don’t know what other cities do.  If you can find out, either by asking or by taking pictures, please let us know!  We’ll give you credit if you’d like.

What else?

The $173,000 also funds the replacement of broken pits.  Yes, these pits are made out of 2,000 pounds of reinforced concrete.  Maybe cleaning them with bulldozers could be hazardous to their health.


How much money are we talking about?

$173,000 is about 0.015% of the $1.2 Billion general fund and 0.005% (5 one-hundred-thousandths) of the $3.1 Billion total city budget.

This really wouldn’t be the first thing I’d cut to try to save $48 million…how was this chosen?

According to the Union Tribune, “Mayoral spokesman Darren Pudgil said the proposal to close the fire pits was included for ‘no other rationale beyond having to spread these cuts across the city.’”
So I guess no cost benefit study was done?  Doesn’t look like it.

Could you give me some me some more numbers?

I thought you’d never ask…

Mission Bay Park alone attracts 15 million visitors per year.  So fire ring cleanup costs about 1 penny per visitor to Mission Bay to clean all fire rings in the city.

Visitors spend over $7 billion per year in San Diego.

These are desperate times.  Don’t we have to cut things we’ve never cut?

Maybe, except the city general fund budget has increased 55% in 5 years.  Do you get 55% more services from the city?  The 2009 budget increased $86 million just from 2008.  Where did this money go?  In 1991, San Diego had over 400 fire rings but only a small fraction of today’s income.

But don’t we need the money for our fire and police departments?

San Diego’s combined fire and police budget is about $600 million (half of the general fund). Up 50% in 5 years. 

Proposition C (Mission Bay Funding)

Didn’t we just vote to spend more money on the beaches?

Yes…and it passed with over 66% of the vote.  It is for improvements only, not for maintenance.

Isn’t that ironic?

It is.  It’s like bulldozing the sidewalks because we can’t afford to sweep them.  Or using actual examples of what Prop C money can be used for…replacing the sidewalks while removing the toilet paper from the restrooms.

Supporting the cause

Can we volunteer to clean the pits with our community group?

The city says that due to liability and toxic substances, volunteers will not be accepted.  It also doesn’t help that volunteers would be taking the jobs of two paid city workers. Also the see the adopt-a-pit item below.

But volunteers clean the fire pits in San Francisco, state parks and national forests all the time?  Good point, but that won’t help you.

Can my neighborhood group pay to adopt our local pits?

The city is resisting this, but several groups are working on sponsoring or adopting fire pits.

Ocean Beach Adopt the Fire Pit program: www.obrag.org 

La Jolla Community Foundation fire pit sponsorship, as reported by the La Jolla Light

How much would need to be donated?

In an apparent attempt to make people mad, the city told the Union Tribune that someone would need to come up with $259,000 to make the city stop picking up the fire rings.  (18 months worth of maintenance money)
The city now has told people verbally that $173,000 would buy back our fire pits for a year.

Doesn’t this sound a bit like extortion…give us your money or we take your fire rings? (this is an actual comment from the web) No comment.

What can I do?

Please email us at info@savethefirepits.com

Also, phone the Mayor and the city council and complain.  This is actually quite easy and they will be nice to you if you are polite.  You just call one of the numbers and tell the person your name, the neighborhood you live in, and that you are calling about the fire pits.  They will connect you to someone you can talk to.  If you get a voice mail, they will probably call you back.  Tell them your stories about the fire pits.

Also see the adopt a pit listing above.

Can I donate money?

Yes.  Please contact the City of San Diego's Fire Pit Program.  Let us know if you do.  Note, savethefirepits.com does not collect any money.


Can my business sponsor the fire pits?

Yes.  Please email us and contact the Mayor’s office.