Whether by negligence or malice, combustible fuels on the Pier — especially those stored in tanks and canisters — can pose a serious threat of fire. That’s why Santa Monica City Council voted unanimously on Tuesday to ban the possession of combustible materials on or near the historic Pier, including propane, butane, isobutane, propylene, butylene, any other liquefied petroleum gas, kerosene, sterno, charcoal and wood.
The move gained universal approval by the seven-member Council.
Interim City Attorney Joseph Lawrence said that when fuel tanks are mishandled, they may leak into confined spaces and cause explosions once flames are lit for cooking.
“And that’s if they’re handled negligently,” Lawrence said. “And then there are, as we know too well, perhaps, that there are instances when people attempt to use fuel tanks maliciously, to deliberately cause an explosion. So, this deals with that issue; namely, that there is really no safe way to have fuel tanks on the Pier, given the nature of the Pier.”
Council Member Christine Parra, who said she was in support of the ban, noted that improperly maintained or stored fuel tanks can leak into the enclosed area beneath gas burners, causing explosions when flames are introduced.
“If you don’t know how to handle — if you don’t know how to check for leaks, you know, with soap and water, or what have you, that’s also a detriment,” Parra said. “So, imagine that on the Pier.”
The ordinance update builds on a previous ordinance enacted in August 2021 that outlawed the use of combustible fuels on or in close proximity to the Pier without first obtaining a permit from the Fire Marshal — now, it is not only the use, but the possession of fuel that is banned.
Those with gas or liquid fuel in excess of 150 milliliters or with charcoal or firewood “for any purpose involving the fuel’s combustion, including, but not limited to, heating, lighting, or cooking,” will receive an administrative citation involving a $250 fine for violating the prohibition on a first violation, with the fine amount doubling to $500 for the second violation (within one calendar year) and a $1,000 fine for the third or subsequent violation within that year. Violators may also be charged with an infraction punishable by up to $500 or a misdemeanor, carrying a $500 fine and/or a County jail sentence of up to six months behind bars.
Zachary Gaidzik, the West/Metro LA Field Deputy for LA County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, called into the meeting to say that as an employee at a Pier restaurant, he used to regularly see fires start because of poor behavior on the Pier.
Gaidzik, who said he was also on the Ocean Park Association Board of Directors, described numerous fires he’s witnessed due to tossing lit cigarettes onto the Pier.
“Routinely, I would have to watch the fire department bring a firetruck down to the end of the Pier to extinguish these flames, and it’s extremely dangerous down there,” Gaidzik said. “I fully support this item to restrict the use of any and all combustibles on the pier to protect this historic resource for our city [and] for our community.”