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The Santa Monica City Council voted to introduce a one-year pilot program for commercial fitness operators who use the City’s parks to conduct their training sessions.
Courtesy Of The Friends Of Palisades Parks
The Santa Monica City Council voted to introduce a one-year pilot program for commercial fitness operators who use the City’s parks to conduct their training sessions.

News, City Council, Fitness, Santa Monica

Santa Monica Outdoor Fitness Programs To Be Costly, Restrictive

Posted Oct. 11, 2013, 8:06 am

Parimal M. Rohit / Staff Writer

Hoping to strike a compromise worthy of shaming the current governmental stalemate in Washington, D.C., the City Council finally agreed Tuesday night to regulate commercial fitness training activity at Palisades Park and other open spaces across Santa Monica.

Five of the six council members present supported an ordinance calling for a one-year pilot program establishing four fitness zones in Santa Monica and prohibiting commercial fitness training at Palisades Park every Sunday throughout 2014.

The new ordinance, which still has to pass a second reading, outlines fees for and regulations governing fitness instructors who want to use parks, beaches, and open space as a venue to conduct personal or group training sessions.

Trainers would have to pay City Hall a flat fee – as opposed to a percentage-based fee structure as originally proposed – in order to have the privilege to conduct exercise activities at various approve public locations across Santa Monica.

For example, trainers who conduct one-on-one courses would dole out $1,800 to City Hall at approved locations. Trainers who lead group fitness activities of three to 10 people must pay a $3,600 fee, while those training 11 or more people would be dinged $5,400.

If a trainer wants to conduct a training session at Palisades Park, the fees would increase 50 percent, respectively. Conversely, in an attempt to incentivize Reed Park as a venue for commercial fitness training, City Hall would only charge trainers half of the respective flat fee rates to train there.

Should council members approve the ordinance again during second reading, it would go into effect in January 2014 and remain in place for a full year. The council would revisit the ordinance again when it expires in 2015, although City staff would update the dais on the pilot program’s progress at the six-month mark.

The ordinance outlines four zones at Palisades Park where group training would be ideal: Palisades Avenue north of Alta Avenue; Montana Avenue north to Palisades Avenue; the area immediately north of Idaho Avenue; and, Wilshire Boulevard north to the public restroom. The fourth zone between Wilshire Boulevard and the first public restroom of Palisades Park just north of the thoroughfare is the only zone below the California Incline.

During public comment, a representative of the Friends of Palisades Park presented a petition to council members, with 72 people signing on to it in opposition to personal or group training activity above the bluffs or on the beach as an “unsustainable use.”

Landmarks Commission chair Ruth Shari was skeptical of the proposed pilot program. Speaking on behalf of the Landmarks Commission, Shari told council members to keep physical training activities away from Palisades Park.

“Staff’s recommendations appear to open up a host of complexities in terms of administration and implementation. Why introduce a trial program that promises to be an enforcement nightmare,” Shari asked. “The favored solution is to keep all organized commercial exercise activities from taking place in Palisades Park.”

Several trainers filled council chambers in support of reaching some amicable terms with City Hall. A few trainers expressed concern of time restrictions, while others seemed more willing to have a flat fee structure in place as opposed to a percentage skimmed off the top of what they earn.

Others said most trainers do everything they can to respect the area’s greenery and keep any noise to a minimum. One trainer told council members a few outliers did exist, but he believed they just needed to be educated of the City’s nuances to preserve the area’s environment.

Parks and Recreation chair Phil Brock, who claimed credit for bringing the private trainer issue to the forefront, spoke to council members about why he was not too happy with individual and group training taking place at places such as Palisades and Clover Parks.

A major concern for Brock: private enterprise profiting off an activity conducted on public land.

“They use the public land illegally,” Brock said of private trainers.

Still, Brock supported a one-year pilot program and suggested the council could revisit the results in 2015 and make a determination then whether more or less regulation were needed.

Council member Ted Winterer asked about hours of operation, code enforcement and policing of violations, and how people could file complaints or concerns.

Winterer also questioned whether the pilot program could be revisited at a council meeting within six months instead of waiting a full year for a status update.

Council member Kevin McKeown asked how City Hall would monitor fees collected by trainers in a primarily cash-based business.

City staff responded they would proactively audit fees collected by trainers. A flat fee could also be administered.

While some during public comment stated Palisades Park is a serene area where private trainers should not be allowed to conduct business, Council member Gleam Davis said the City’s most popular public space is for everyone to use, be it residents, strollers, tourists, or physical trainers.

Davis added she preferred a flat fee system instead of a percentage-based system.

However, likening Palisades Park to “Santa Monica’s front porch,” McKeown said every park has a different purpose and public training does not really have a place at the open space.

“Palisades Park is a very special place. It’s not that it’s elitist. It’s just the nature of that park. There are certain things, if you own a home, that you do in a yard and there’s certain things you do on your front porch,” McKeown said. “Palisades Park, to me, is Santa Monica’s front porch.”

To that effect, McKeown moved to add Palisades Park to the list of parks where instruction was not allowed. A divided council – three in favor and three against – kept McKeown’s motion from moving forward.

McKeown then suggested a one-year moratorium on training uses at Palisades Park. Davis and Winterer said a moratorium would not accomplish anything.

With the council still divided on compromise versus moratorium, City Manager Rod Gould suggested prohibiting training activities each Sunday for one year. The idea caught on, with Council member Tony Vazquez the sole “no” vote.

Mayor Pam O’Connor was not present at the Oct. 8 meeting; it was her second consecutive meeting she was not present.

Post a comment


Oct. 11, 2013, 10:35:44 am

Kevin McKeown said...

For the record, my motion was to add Palisades Park to the list of parks where commercial training is NOT allowed.

Oct. 11, 2013, 11:07:07 am

Kyle Thomas said...

Thank you councilors! It takes away from the beauty and tranquility of our beach side parks when you have all these classes going on. This is not a small problem. They are dominating the use of these areas to the detriment of everyone else.

Oct. 11, 2013, 3:11:19 pm

Belinda said...

Thank You Parks and Recreation Chair Phil Brock! "A major concern for Brock: private enterprise profiting off an activity conducted on public land. “They use the public land illegally,” Brock said of private trainers." This is a major sticking point for those of us who pay Santa Monica property and business income taxes. I run a business in my own home and bother no one, yet I have to pay city taxes on my income. Trainers are using public space to run their businesses—most of which are cash-based—and pay nothing for the property they use. Absolutely unfair and outrageous. Plus, these trainers and their clients are RUDE and act like they own the property they're using. A passer by has to go around them, as if they're a physical obstacle generating private, untaxed income in public space.

Oct. 11, 2013, 3:46:03 pm

Sauce said...

Question for both of you. How do you feel about the homeless issue? How do you feel about the homeless causing danger to the landmark? Are you ok with defication on the land, drug use? Would you feel safer knowing that the homeless will be back to cover the land? Do the trainers count as to being the general public? How about the clients? They are residents too. There is a lot of saying, "give the park back to the people." What do you feel about kicking off depressed mothers and elderly Thai chi classes out of the park? Do you feel that the land is more important than them? We have lost the way of equality in a once equality city. The amount was jumped up at the end when the people had no voice to object. Is that fair? If you still feel good about your thoughts, is there pride in that and maybe a loss of sensitivity to human nature. The works is falling apart and this this is the thing that concerns us? Unemployment, money is an issue, but you feel comfortable adding to the statistic? There is no love anymore. Everyone is for himself. You don't know the storied lives of the people who lives just got rocked and turned upside down for their families. Their kids. Again, truly think about how you feel and access the situation again before calling out these trainers or clients, because they too are your neighbors. They are humans. The main source of them actually cared for the city and it's neighbors. The business has changed and this looks very bad on a once promising city. A lot of "I" talk is destroying all of us. Have a great day.

Oct. 11, 2013, 4:04:13 pm

Susan Holcomb said...

I appreciate that, at long last, there will be some kind of regulation of commercial training in Palisades Park, However, asserting that allowing “for-profit fitness/athletic Instruction, classes or camps in Palisades Park will actually benefit the “public” is not only misinformed, it misses the point. The heart of the issue concerns conceptualizing a “public city park” versus a “commercial city park”. The Santa Monica City Council has allowed Palisades Park to be hijacked by for-profit ventures and sadly, it’s the public who loses out. Yes, there are already permitted commercial activities allowed in other Santa Monica parks (for example, tennis classes in Reed Park and surfing classes at the Beach), but these activities are supported by both adequate space and existing facilities. Palisades Park is relatively small with thousands of visitors per week. To take such a large amount of space (the four proposed commercial group fitness zones include most of the grassy areas from Wilshire Avenue to Marguerita Avenue) and hand it over to for-profit enterprises - thus removing it from use for the bikers, strollers, runners, picnickers, and folks that just want to enjoy our landmark park as public citizens - contradicts the original intent of the park, as well as the spirit of public park usage. Commercial trainers should not be allowed to conduct business in Palisades Park, period.

Oct. 11, 2013, 5:08:08 pm


When establishing the fees one might consider the average cost of space in buildings along Ocean Ave. Consider the building on the corner of Wilshire and Ocean Ave …. I am sure the square foot cost will be out of this world. The city council and trainers might look at double or triple the proposed fees. The council should also look at the additional insurance costs for and lawsuits by the trainees who were injured or any innocent passerby. The council should consider the following as they deliberate the use of parks for trainers... 1. Trainer must demonstrate they have insurance to cover injuries or any other liabilities of any kind. 2. The trainer must be licensed by the state of California to perform such activity. 3. The City may have to consider additional liability insurance if the training sessions are permitted on city property. What are the costs?? The above is a short list of considerations, hopefully the public will add to this list. Following up on some of my qualifications for trainers to use our parks … let me expand my thoughts to the following … perhaps the limiting of who does what on the park grounds might be set up like the 3rd Street Promenade for entertainers and vendors … establish controls on designated areas, designated times, and resolve conflicts with the same controls as that which is used on the 3rd Street Promenade for the entertainers and vendors. **********************************************************

Oct. 11, 2013, 9:26:58 pm

roxy said...

I see parks as places to wind down, relax, stroll, play, walk pets etc. not as commercial venues training should be prohibited.

Oct. 13, 2013, 6:42:29 pm

Jason said...

McKeown's position is the best available. For several years, I have lived in SM and walked/jogged in Palisades Park. Currently, it is a disaster due to gross misuse. For example, huge patches of mud constantly develop because of the pounding from heavy weights and other gym equipment being hauled into the park. In addition, on a personal note, my inlaws visiting from another state don't even feel comfortable walking with my baby daughter in the park because they were nearly trampled by a stampede of 20-25 people running wind-sprints with their training group. (Who needs Pamplona, Spain when you have Palisades Park?) In addition to eliminating commercial training, I would also like to see an ordinance outlawing the use of fitness equipment that people strap to trees. Just today, I saw a young woman using a fitness strap tied to a tree, which was mercilessly having its bark shredded. At a minimum, people using such equipment should be fined under current laws against vandalism.

Oct. 29, 2013, 7:10:01 pm

outdoor fitness equipment said...

the outdoor fitness equipment is good for people

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