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Santa Monica Council to Tackle Private Trainers in Public Parks

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark
By Jason Islas
Staff Writer

April 17, 2013 -- The City Council will decide Tuesday whether to go forward with legislation that would ban groups from working out in Santa Monica's Palisades Park and would levy a fee against private trainers for use of public spaces.

Staff is recommending charging the 87 trainers currently registered with the City 15 percent of their gross income -- on top of business licensing fees -- to use public parks. It would also ban any workout groups of more than two people from the six blocks on the west side of Ocean Avenue north of the Santa Monica Pier.

The proposed restrictions would also prevent trainers from attaching any equipment to park amenities, such as benches and lampposts, and would ban weights of over 25 pounds from parks.

“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,” said City staff. “Most of the complaints about this activity refer to the intense use of the north end of Palisades Park.”

Recreation and Parks Commission Chair Phil Brock agrees. “Residents in Santa Monica feel like they are losing control of their city,” he said.

Last November, the Commission voted to recommend that the City impose restrictions to cut back on the number of trainers holding classes in Palisades Park and to charge trainers a fee for using public spaces.

But this ordinance isn't about trying to get rid of trainers, he said.

“We have 26 parks in Santa Monica,” he said, adding that the proposed restrictions would allow trainers to work out with groups in about half of the parks, including Clover Park on Ocean Park Boulevard and Reed Park at Lincoln Boulevard and Wilshire Boulevard.

Some trainers have balked at the idea of banning group classes from Palisades Park.

“It's actually the only workout space available” in that part of town, said Angela Parker, owner of Body Inspired Fitness which hosts morning workout classes in Palisades Park. “There's nowhere else to go.”

Parker's company hosts three workout classes at Palisades Park every morning with about 10 clients participating in each class.

She also hosts a “ladies-only” workout class in Clover Park in the afternoon. She believes that banning the groups from Palisades Park would cause an “unhealthy shift in the city of Santa Monica.”

Parker is one of eight small business owners who have joined to form the Santa Monica Outdoor Fitness Coalition.

“Palisades Park is the only City park on that side of the city that is big enough for group training,” said Erin Dick, a spokesperson for the Coalition.

The Coalition, which has been working with the City to propose alternate restrictions, believes that charging 15 percent of trainers' gross revenue every quarter is too costly.

“It'll put some of them out of business,” she said, adding that the Coalition recommends charging five percent.

Currently, these businesses pay $284.03 in fees, including $75 annually for businesses grossing more than $40,000 a year and a total of about $115 in one-time fees.

Council member Bob Holbrook believes there needs to be some limits on what trainers can do in public spaces, including limiting group classes to specific areas that may be less obtrusive.

Brock stands by the idea of banning groups from Palisades Park.

“It's the park people walk,” he said. “It's Santa Monica's front yard. We are trying to create an environment everyone can enjoy.”

Tuesday's decision will only be the start of a longer process. If the Council votes in favor of the restrictions, City staff will then draft an ordinance that would go before the Council in June.

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