Coastal Commissioner resigns over "carpet bombing" comment

William Burke

A state coastal commissioner and vocal opponent of bonfires on Southern California beaches has stepped down amid pressure from state legislators after he compared smoke from the fire pits to “carpet bombing” in Vietnam, according to the Los Angeles Times

William Burke served on both the Coastal Commission as well as the South Coast Air Quality Management District . The two agencies disagree over whether the tradition of beach bonfires should be banned from San Clemente to Malibu, the Times reported. 

The City of Newport Beach has submitted a proposal to rip out 60 fire pits on its beaches. Coastal Commission staff has recommended denial of the proposal, while the air quality board is said to be considering a regional band on wood-burning fire pits for health reasons. 

After Burke’s comments, state Assemblyman Allan Mansoor (R-Costa Mesa) and Sen. Mimi Walters (R-Irvine) attempted to have Burke removed from the AQMD. The pair sent a letter to Attorney Gen. Kamala Harris questioning whether Burke’s comments represented a conflict of interest. 

Burke has served on the Coastal Commission since 2002 and the AQMD since 1993. He also founded the Los Angeles Marathon. 

They argued Burke should resign from the AQMD due to California Government Code 1099, which they said mandates he keep his most recent appointment.

Instead, Burke resigned from the Coastal Commission in an April 12 letter to Assembly leader John A. Perez. 

“Unfortunately, I can no longer serve and therefore tender my resignation effective immediately,” Burke wrote.