Council Warms Up to Boot Camp Regulations

Complaints from residents about the classes being noisy and intrusive prompt the proposal to ban fitness equipment at public parks.

This story was updated at 5 a.m. April 11 with new information out of the prior night's City Council meeting.

Sweat it out while you can.

The Santa Monica City Council voted Tuesday to consider a ban on large fitness equipment at public parks.

Regulations are proposed by the city's Community and Cultural Services Department, where staffers say they've fielded complaints that boot camps and fitness classes attaching exercise bands and damaging light poles, railings, picnic tables, park benches and trees and other public property.

There are also concerns that free weights, massage tables, yoga mats and other portable equipment are tearing up the turf, staffers said.

The proposal is to restrict equipment that is longer than 4 feet or weighs more than 25 pounds. It is aimed at for-profit groups.

Here's what the ordinance, as proposed, reads:

No person shall place any equipment, such as weight benches, massage tables, or weight lifting equipment, that is longer than four-feet or weighing more than twenty-five (25) pounds within any City park without prior authorization by the Director.

"If you are an individual showing up with a yoga mat, chances are you aren’t going to be cited," Community and Cultural Services Director Karen Ginsberg told the council.

But the council said it wants assurances that only for-profit fitness classes will be targeted, and asked staffers to write that into the code before they approve it.

"I hope whatever we pass will not prevent people from exercising in the park," said Councilman Bobby Shriver.

Restrictions on the use of exercise equipment are already in place on the Fourth Street median and parkways near the Adelaide Stairs. Those rules were adopted in the spring of 2010.

"Consequently, equipment users have moved their activities to nearby city parks where exercise equipment is not prohibited," staffers wrote in a memo to the council. "Exercise equipment is now regularly used in city parks, especially at the northern end of Palisades Park." 

In the memo, staffers said community members also regularly complain that the camps and classes are making a profit on public property without compensating the city. There's also complaints that trainers yell loudly at their clients, disturbing nearby residents, who also say they the camps take up too much space.

An ordinance regulating the fitness equipment are proposed along with a number of clean-up tweaks to park and beach codes. Two of the biggest changes are:

  • Rules pertaining to the destruction of foliage and facilities, regulating golf and keeping pathways clear at parks, also be extended to apply to Santa Monica beach; 
  • Require tennis instructors to obtain business licenses;
  • Implement penalties—ranging from misdemeanors to infractions to administrative citations—for violating the new park and beach codes.

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Carol Landsberg April 11, 2012 at 02:15 PM
I agree! These classes are out of control! The classes start at 6am in the park across from me and the noise starts about 5:45 when the class members begin to arrive. There are at least 2 to 3 classes going every hour all morning- rain or shine and I sure this takes it toll on the grass. There should be insurance required and perhaps a license for for-profit groups using the park for classes. Low overhead is great, but not at the property owners' inconvenience and irritation.
Barrett Meeker April 11, 2012 at 08:00 PM
While I understand complaining about for-profit groups running these classes in private spaces this is a very poorly written ordinance. Under this ordinance if you lay a picknick blanket you could be cited. If you bring a ice chest you could be cited. Run a for-profit fitness yoga class or boot camp and don't use mattes or weights (after all the grass is pretty soft) they will still be perfectly legal. I don't see a way to regulate this kind of activity with out ruining many functions of a park. A for-profit group could simply say they pay for some other service not held at the park, a free group could do the same things, no equipment is needed to work out. Any park activity is going to wear the grass out but that's what happens when you use a park. These are presumably citizens and have the right to use the park, unless you want to start charging hourly those who use the park more will always be wearing more than there share of the park. This ordinance does not address the complains and is too broad making unintended activities illegal. Pass or enforce noise ordinances for the 5:45 noise complaints.
Good Fitness Citizen April 12, 2012 at 07:46 PM
For all of the legally permitted camps, YES, we do pay a yearly permitting fee that is based on income—so, the city profits from these businesses. I keep my permits with me at all times, as per regulations. Many small/new camps try to avoid these rules, or are unaware of them. By limiting permits of new camps and checking existing permits, the city would get a handle on park usage.
Mike davis April 12, 2012 at 08:15 PM
Don't we already have enough stupid laws in this city? It's a park, let people use it.
jill April 17, 2012 at 05:49 PM
Why does my desire to get fit in the park rank lower in priority than another person's desire to not be made to "feel as though I'm intruding on peoples private classes as I walk through the park"? I am a resident of Santa Monica, it is a public park, and I want to exercise outside, in a group. I have as much right to the use of the park, the way I want to use it, as another person. What if i hate it when people walk their dogs near me while I am working out? Should I advocate that no dogs be allowed to walk in the park? The point is, there is space for everyone if everyone is willing to be tolerant. I actually live immediately adjacent to a different Santa Monica Park. There are regulations at that park, as there are at all parks, but there are still times when the use of the park is annoying for me. Should you be not able to use that park because i am annoyed? Just saying.


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