Santa Monica Personal Trainers Create Coalition To Protest Fees, Regulations

Friday, 8 Feb 2013, 8:53:00 AM

Parimal M. Rohit

Personal trainers may soon have to pay a fee to use Santa

Monica’s public parks as a location for their fitness classes. In response,

those trainers have banded together and created a coalition in hopes of

preventing City Hall from enforcing fees or other regulations against them as

they conduct training activities at local beaches and parks.

Known as the Santa Monica Outdoor Fitness Coalition

(SMOFC), the group formed after the Recreation and Parks Commission

contemplated a new policy requiring personal trainers be assessed a tax on

their revenues as much as 15 percent in exchange for use of places such as

Palisades Park or Santa Monica Beach.

The SMOFC comprises of seven personal trainers who

operate for-profit fitness courses and represent about 450 clients.

Recreation and Parks Commission Chair Phil Brock told The Mirror the City panel reached a

compromise on a proposal that would go to Council members as next month.

The commission-approved proposal would ban group classes

at Palisades Park. However, fitness classes with one or two members would be

acceptable.

Personal trainers would also be required to pay a $100

license fee, prove his or her personal training certification is current,

demonstrate proof of insurance, and pay as much as 15 percent of the gross fee

collected.

Commissioners, who were earlier split at that November

meeting and public hearing, approved the proposal unanimously. Some

commissioners wanted a full ban on private training at public parks.

“We want people active. But there’s a fairness issue,”

Brock said. “We still encourage people to use our park.”

A key issue for City Hall is the stretch of Palisades

Park between San Vicente and Idaho. In that six-block stretch, the Recreation

and Parks Commission was worried too many group fitness classes held there

would adversely affect others who wanted to use the park for other purposes,

such as personal time.

When the issue was in front of the Recreation and Parks

Commission in November, the personal trainers there expressed concern about the

proposed 15 percent fee. However, Brock said as a practical matter such a fee

may turn out to be less than $10 per session.

By comparison, Brock pointed out Los Angeles charges $60

for any private person who wants to conduct fitness training in a public park.

Meanwhile, other beach cities have banned all trainers from conducting workout

sessions in public parks.

Brock said a possible fee for trainers who regularly use

high traffic public areas such as Palisades Park is not unreasonable since many

of those same trainers would have to pay to operate in traditional brick-and-mortar

facilities such as 24 Hour Fitness, Equinox, Gold’s Gym, or L.A. Fitness.

“All of them have become brick-and-mortar on public land.

All these trainers would be at Equinox or somewhere at a gym but instead they

are saving money on public land,” he said.

Other concerns included noise, safety and the possibility

of Santa Monica residents effectively subsidizing outside trainers to use

tax-funded parks for a private venture.

An injury recently took place at the Idaho overpass in

connection to the outdoor classes at and near Palisades Park.

Brock said the aim of regulating and taxing personal

trainers is not aimed at banning them from Santa Monica’s beaches and parks.

Instead, the potential policy would control activity at Palisade Park and alter

where they would be able to within the city they may operate.

There are 26 parks within the city plus the beach where

personal trainers can operate, Brock pointed out.

Speaking on behalf of the coalition, Erin Dick said any

proposed fees are inequitable. She also wanted to explore the possibility of

creating an “outdoor fitness advisory committee” at City Hall.

“We agree with the fact that there needs to be

regulation,” Dick told The Mirror,

adding there are indeed some trainers who do not play by the rules. However,

she advocates for the advisory committee with “subject matter experts” that

would consult City Hall to come up with what they think are relevant

regulations.

She added if City Hall ultimately adopts a policy

regulating personal trainer activity at public venues, the economic harm would

be significant, as trainers purchase gas and shop in the city. In assessing a

15 percent fee, Dick believes many trainers would stop shopping, eating, or

getting gas within Santa Monica.

Even more, the proposed fees would not address the

commissions concerns of noise, park overuse, or safety.

“What we want to do is partner with the city to partner

to find solutions that address the concerns the commission has. The solutions

that they are proposing are not going to fix the real problems,” Dick said.

Dick contended there is a misconception that personal

trainers are using parks for free, as they are already paying taxes, license

fees, permit fees, and purchase insurance policies worth as much as $1 million.

Instead of an assessed 15 percent fee on gross revenues,

Dick suggested personal trainers could offer health and fitness related

community service. For example, trainers could offer free courses in lieu of

the fee. If a trainer is unable to demonstrate they have provided community

service, perhaps then the proposed 15 percent fee could be assessed.

Copyright © 2011 by Santa Monica Mirror. All rights reserved.