Santa Monica City Council Tackles Clash over Fitness Classes

Passionate crowd voices concerns at City Council meeting about proposed regulations on fitness classes.

More than 40 fitness trainers and aficionados appealed to the Santa Monica City Council to not enforce proposed restrictions on their outdoor classes particularly at Palisades Park.

At issue is a proposed change to the Municipal Code and the enforcement of new rules which would include a use charge of 15 percent of revenue, a permit fee of $100, proof of insurance as well as other licenses, limiting the use of exercise equipment over 25 pounds and limiting class sizes for both private and group classes.

The majority of local residents spoke against the proposals with many voicing their opposition to the weight restrictions and stressing their respect for Palisades Park, including fitness trainer Jeff Jordan.

"We're professionals, and the last thing we want to do is ruin the area where we live and work," Jordan said.

Some fitness students and other trainers said that reducing the sizes of group classes would be detrimental to many who are unable to afford private or semi-private fitness instruction.

Others spoke of the merits of the exercise classes not only for their physical well-being but also for the sense of community they have gained with one person imploring, "Please don't kick us out of the park."

There were also complaints that the new fees would be difficult for many of the trainers to pay since they are small business owners.

Phil Brock, Chair of the Recreation and Parks Commission for the City of Santa Monica, said the commission spent 18 months studying the issue and is concerned about the impact of group training on Palisades Park in particular.

"Our commission wants to emphasize we're not opposed to people training in our parks, but it's a narrow strip of land," Brock said. "It's a special park in our city."

A minority of local residents spoke in favor of the new restrictions with some citing concerns about early morning noise in the neighborhood which was echoed by some on the City Council.

"I think nothing happening before sunrise or after sunset," City Councilman Robert Holbrook said. "Waking people up, that's not appropriate."

Mayor Pro Tempore Gleam Davis suggested a charge of 10 percent of revenue instead of 15 percent.

The council voted unanimously to ask the staff to return with an ordinance with options that would look at whether to allow fitness activity in Palisades Park, time and noise restrictions as well as including a charge of 10 percent of revenue, looking at "size parameters" for group activities, heavier equipment allowed in other area parks, no fitness allowed in Goose Egg Park or Ashland Park, information about a code of conduct for trainers.

Karen Ginsberg, Community and Cultural Services Director, said the staff would  bring the new ordinance back to City Council this summer.

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Danielle Charney April 24, 2013 at 01:18 PM
"why not 100% of Net? " there is a good formula- worked in the entertainment business for years
Ted J April 24, 2013 at 02:49 PM
Some fitness students and other trainers said that reducing the sizes of group classes would be detrimental to many who are unable to afford private or semi-private fitness instruction. Others spoke of the merits of the exercise classes not only for their physical well-being but also for the sense of community they have gained with one person imploring, "Please don't kick us out of the park." Oh please give me a break! At palisades park the groups take up most of the center of the park and you have to walk around them! Are these trainers getting paid???? Of course they are! Put these classes in a corner of the park and leave the rest of the park open to the citizens!!!!!
SAMO April 24, 2013 at 04:27 PM
Our parks belong to everyone. Palisades Park is the crown jewel of Santa Monica's city parks. It is heavily used by residents and visitors alike who respect and take very good care of the park. Personal trainers and those that conduct Boot Camps seem to generally lack that respect for the park. While I am not opposed to their particular usage of the park, a basic sense of community and old fashioned good manners would go a long way. I would really appreciate it if trainers would hold classes in wider areas of the park where there is more space. Additionally, using huge weights and other equipment is just unsightly and risky for runners and elderly people. A little common sense and better people skills would resolve the problems that trainers have created in our parks.
Lisa April 24, 2013 at 04:41 PM
As a small fitness business owner (State of the Heart Fitness), I understand the noise issues regarding early morning or evening activities for the people who live close by. I agree. I would be upset too if I lived by the park. Though my business is located at the Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel and we conduct the majority of our business there, we do occasionally take our clients (1-5 at a time) to the beach and the park for the stairs or just to be outside and enjoy the amazing atmosphere we live in. This is what living in Santa Monica is all about. I do not believe we need to be licensed or permitted (much less share our revenues with the city). However, I can understand if someone is using the park consistently and nearly every day as their "office space" while conducting larger classes (10 or more) with a lot of equipment, this may be appropriate. I know summer beach camps have to get permits (I don't know if they pay revenue to the city however), so maybe this is the same. I see both sides.
Diane April 24, 2013 at 07:47 PM
I still don't understand why anyone who does business in this city should be exempt from a business license requirement or from paying city taxes. Everyone else does, even if they conduct business from their home or have a mobile business. And any other business who wants to hold an event or anything like a summer camp in the parks or one the beach has to pay for a permit. What makes fitness classes and their trainers special?
Rebecca T April 24, 2013 at 09:31 PM
I would just like to point out that the trainers that spoke last night are already complying with the city requirements to pay for a license and carry insurance. It would seem that a few bad apples have spoiled it for those of us who ARE respectful of Palisades Park. Enforce the rules that are in place and make adjustments as needed to protect the park and its neighbors. I am a member of Stroller Strides the fitness group for moms with babies in tow and we move through the park, stopping at a location for about 10-15 minutes. We share the path, greet the passersby and are even on a first name basis with some of the elderly who are also in the park on a daily basis. Palisades is also my neighborhood park and I would like to continue attending Stroller Strides there. I walk to class and do errands in the neighborhood afterwards without having to use my car. All the compliant trainers have AGREED to stricter regulations and fees. So please stop categorizing this as "fitness groups are tearing up the park and don't even care about the other residents and are unwilling to work with the city on this" because it simply is not true. Get rid of the trainers/ groups who are not following the rules and it will be better for everyone.
Rebecca T April 24, 2013 at 09:43 PM
And, I would like to add a thank you to the council for listening to our concerns and their willingness to to work with us to hopefully reach an agreement that works for everyone. When you only have two minutes to speak at the meeting, you run out of time to say thank you.
Laplo April 24, 2013 at 10:03 PM
Palisades Park is narrow & long but it stretches for a few miles. Surely there is enough room for everyone to use the space how they want. Need solace? Head to the totem pole area, rose garden or pergola. Want to join a group workout? Use the chunk between Idaho & Marguerita. Plenty of space! And btw, I think there is a lot of exaggeration & misinformation by the opponents of this matter. The majority of the trainers are professional, responsible people who are passionate about what they do and are respectful to the City. Also, it's not just bootcamps that utilize the park....we're talking tai chi groups, yoga, and running groups like Stroller Strides (How can moms working out with their babies be objectionable!?!). Yup, enough room for everybody!
GSGETSIT April 24, 2013 at 10:56 PM
The council should consider the following as they deliberate... 1. Flat rate yearly License fee... maybe $1500 per year. 2. Limit the size of a training session. 3. Limit to the hour of the day that training sessions can occur. 4. Limit to specific locations for training sessions. 5. Trainer must demonstrate they have insurance to cover injuries or any other liabilities of any kind. 6. The trainer must be licensed by the state of California to perform such activity. 7. The City may have to consider additional liability insurance if the training sessions are permitted on city property. What are the costs?? The above is a short list of considerations, hopefully the public will add to this list.
Monica Bey April 25, 2013 at 08:47 AM
The way I've understood this, the permitting and confiscation of earnings is above and beyond any business license required of a small business / sole proprietor, which would be based upon where the business is based and what those city's requirements are. For instance, LA requires a license, but you're exempt from taxation if you make under $100,000.
Monica Bey April 25, 2013 at 08:57 AM
Ted - It seems to me the comments you referenced make very good sense. I took a series of classes in the park several years ago, and even though it was a group class, it still was expensive for me. Paying a personal trainer $75 to $100 an hour certainly isn't in the average person's budget. Beyond the price issue, I enjoyed working out in a group class. There's a group dynamic that's helpful (motivating), plus I don't want sole attention on me in a one-on-one. And exercising outdoors is nice! The park is for everyone, and that includes people exercising with some guidance, be it one-on-one or group. I've walked in the park on a regular basis for more than 20 years -- at all different times of the day and days of the week. The comments that have been made as to how much other park-goers are inconvenienced and "abused" I don't find credible; never once have I experienced anything like that. The individuals working with trainers or the group workouts always seem to keep to themselves; that's been my experience.
SP April 29, 2013 at 02:22 PM
$1,500 per year? That was more than I earned when I was a Stroller Strides instructor. I certainly wouldn't have been able to afford that. I had a S.M. business license and including that expense, each year I spent more than I earned (accounting for mileage, equipment, etc.). However, at least I didn't have to pay for childcare, since my kids came to work with me!


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