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Coalition Forms to Oppose Proposed Fee for Trainers Using Santa Monica Parks

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark

By Jason Islas
Staff Writer

Editor's note: The date for the Council hearing has been changed. Officials said that it will likely be heard sometime in March but that the hearing is no longer set for March 12.

February 5, 2013 -- Personal fitness trainers in Santa Monica have formed a coalition to oppose a proposal that would charge them to use public parks for classes.

The issue came to a boil last year when residents in the area adjacent to Palisades Park complained about early-morning “boot camps” creating too much noise and large groups of execisers blocking pathways.

Sometime in March, the Council is scheduled to discuss possible regulations that could prohibit more than two people at a time from working out in Palisades Park and could charge trainers 15 percent of their gross revenue for use of the Santa Monica's other two dozen public parks.

“I'm really grateful that the City is actually taking the time to enter into a discourse about this,” said Erin Dick, a spokesperson for the recently-formed Santa Monica Outdoor Fitness Coalition.

She said the eight-person Coalition, made up mostly of personal trainers, feels that charging a fee isn't a solution to the problem.

“We just feel like there are better alternatives,” Dick said. For example, she suggested that there be an in-lieu option for trainers who may wish to volunteer for fitness-based community service instead of paying the fee.

Phil Brock, who chairs Santa Monica's Recreation and Parks Commission said, “In theory, that's a good idea,” adding that the money wasn't an important part of the Commission's decision when it recommended the tax last year.

But, he said, “there's not really a way to enforce” the public service option.

Ahead of the Council's discussion on the question, City officials have been receiving a steady stream of public input, said Julie Silliman, senior administrative analyst for the City.

“There's consensus around the need for additional rules, the need for proof of insurance,” she said.

Both Brock and Dick agree that Santa Monica is committed to encouraging healthy and active lifestyles among its citizens.

And Brock reiterated that Santa Monica is not looking to ban trainers from using the city's parks altogether, like some municipalities in the region have.

The proposed regulations, he said, came as a result of residents' concerns that Palisades Park was “overrun with personal trainers and group classes.

Brock said the City wants to make sure that trainers don't just coalesce in one place but use all of Santa Monica's 26 parks.

Also, Brock said that charging trainers a fee for using public parks for their private businesses was about “trying to be fair to all of our citizens.”

Allowing trainers to use public parks for their businesses for free gives them “an unfair advantage,” he said.

The money, he said, would go to help stem the wear-and-tear in the parks caused by heavy usage.

Dick, a Culver City resident who works out three days a week in Cloverfield Park with a trainer, said that the Coalition is willing to work with the City.

“We want to form an Outdoor Health and Fitness Advisory committee,” she said. “We want to be able to help the Commission to come up with solutions that will solve the problems.”

Silliman said that the Council will not be passing any new legislation at the March meeting but will hear public input and staff recommendations for future actions. The Council will also direct staff on how to proceed on the matter.

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