Santa Monica Looks To Find Middle Ground Regulating Outdoor Fitness Classes

Friday, 26 Apr 2013, 8:43:00 AM

Parimal M. Rohit

Santa Monica City Council members on Tuesday night directed City staff to put together an ordinance that would effectively serve as a middle ground for private fitness trainers to continue offering classes in certain public areas such as parks and the beach, but with some restrictions.
Courtesy Of The City Of Santa Monica
Santa Monica City Council members on Tuesday night directed City staff to put together an ordinance that would effectively serve as a middle ground for private fitness trainers to continue offering classes in certain public areas such as parks and the beach, but with some restrictions.

Private fitness trainers and City Hall are making headway

in coming to terms of how exercise instruction may take place at select public

parks and the beach in Santa Monica.

The City Council unanimously agreed

Tuesday night to look into loosening regulations for personal trainers who

offer classes at Palisades Park and other public areas.

Council members directed City staff to put together an

ordinance that would effectively serve as a middle ground.

Private fitness trainers would be allowed to continue

offering classes in certain public areas but with some restrictions.

The council direction comes a long way from the rift that

previously existed between City Hall and private trainers.

Both sides were at odds about how much the City could

collect from a trainer’s gross revenue, the size of classes offered, and the

use of heavy weights.

City Hall had considered possibly banning all fitness

classes larger than two people at Palisades Park and prohibiting the use of

heavy weights.

With the council’s recommendations Tuesday night, some

heavy equipment may now be allowed on-site.

Group classes may also be offered in addition to

individual instruction. An agreement may also be reached with respect to the

amount of money City Hall would collect from the private trainers.

A permit system may also be put into effect.

Prior to the council’s Tuesday meeting, City staff and

officials had met with community members and private trainers to get a better

grasp of the issue and discover possible compromises.

“After collecting feedback and suggestions from fitness

trainers and residents, staff developed a proposed regulatory structure that

largely achieves consensus,” City staff stated. “The changes include: the

need for a permit system; insurance; indemnification; compliance with existing

business license and police permit rules; identification of parks appropriate

for commercial fitness activity; and new rules addressing protection of park

amenities.”

At the April 23 council meeting, it was proposed that

private trainers pay City Hall 10 percent of their gross revenues. Previous

proposals pegged that rate at 15 percent. Also, weights of 25 pounds or more

may potentially be allowed at the beach and Clover Park.

The specific restrictions that would apply to private

fitness classes in public spaces would be clarified when an ordinance is

presented to the council. Yet, Council members said some restrictions would be

necessary.

There are nine parks where private fitness instruction

would not be allowed: Ashland Park, Euclid Park, Goose Egg Park, Joslyn Park,

Muscle Beach Park, Ozone Park, Pacific Street Park, Park Drive Park, and

Schader Park.

Private fitness classes on city-owned property came to

the council after City Hall reported of complaints by residents of group

training programs and boot camps at Palisades Park and other locations. 

“For several years, community members have regularly complained

to staff about the proliferation of unregulated fitness training and boot camps

in City parks and at the beach. Most of the complaints about this activity

refer to the intense use of the north end of Palisades Park,” City staff

stated.

Other recreational activities conducted at public parks

and area beaches, such as tennis and surf instructions, are already regulated

by City Hall.

“For years, the City has required tennis instructors to

obtain permits and pay fees for court use. Surf instruction permits have

been awarded since 2008 to a select number of instructors, all of whom have

business licenses, pay permit fees, provide proof of insurance, and share a

percentage of their revenues,” City staff stated. “The City also contracts with

instructors to conduct classes inside park facilities, outdoors, and at the

beach with shared revenue and other requirements.”

Private fitness classes, irrespective of size, at public

parks and beaches have been prohibited or heavily regulated in other cities.

For example, all private trainers in Redondo Beach are

required to contract with the city and offer their services through

city-sponsored classes.

In Manhattan Beach, private trainers are screened and are

limited as to when and where they may conduct their classes.

Los Angeles and Culver City assess hourly rates or charge

private trainers “a percentage of gross receipts for commercial fitness

activity and camps.”

City staff expects to return to the council during the

summer with a proposed ordinance.

The Santa Monica Outdoor Fitness Coalition issued a

statement following Tuesday’s meeting.

The statement said the coalition was grateful for the

“courage the Santa Monica City Council exhibited” to ensure that “balance is

struck.”

“We look forward to working with the City to protect and

preserve these priceless spaces,” the statement read. “It’s clear from the

enormous amount of public comments in support of fitness training in our public

parks, and the support of the majority of City Council members, that there is a

balance that can be struck to ensure fair and equitable use of these unique

spaces for group fitness, contemplation, family picnics, mental and physical

health and so much more.”

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