CITY HALL — Boot camps may be getting the boot out of public parks and beaches.
City officials will explore options to regulate commercial exercise groups on public property citing a steady stream of resident complaints and the toll such groups and their equipment take on the parks.
The groups crowd the northern end of Palisades Park and the beaches, setting up with dumbbells, yoga mats and even tethers attached to light poles.
They compete for space amongst one another — some even call Santa Monica’s City Hall to complain about other groups to get them moved from a spot, officials said — but the real loser ends up being the casual park user who can’t sit on a bench for fear of being ousted by a sweaty person working to achieve their ultimate beach bod before summer.
“They’re profiting off of using our city land for non-city sponsored classes. There’s no evidence of insurance, they block the pathways dominating areas using park amenities,” Karen Ginsberg, director of Community and Cultural Services, told the City Council Tuesday night.
Those running the classes must have business licenses to operate in the park, but there’s no other regulation on the practice at present, Ginsberg said.
They could be prohibited from using the park amenities under anti-vending laws, but only if they actually accepted money from their clients at the site.
“As long as they’re not exchanging money in front of us, there’s no way to enforce the vending ordinance,” Ginsberg said. “They do that exchange elsewhere.”
The matter came before the Recreation and Parks Commission earlier this year. It concerned commissioners that trainers were treating the parks like their personal offices, said Chair Phil Brock.
“If it’s one-on-one training, do I honestly care? No,” Brock said. “It’s the boot camps, the Mommy & Me classes, the trainer that’s there eight hours a day every day. At some point, what can we do as a city to regulate that? As a city we regulate other businesses.”
City Hall has not shied away from restricting group commercial uses on public property in the past.
In 2008, a proliferation of surf instruction on public beaches swamped out other uses. City Hall stepped in and imposed a permit system that limited the number of surfers and instructors in the water. One-on-one instruction is exempt.
It also created a category for a single company to operate surf camps for City Hall.
Those groups pay City Hall for the privilege to use the beach commercially, something that the trainers should also be asked to do, Brock said.
“The city should get some (of the proceeds) to pay for the upkeep of the park, especially when he’s using us as his office,” Brock said.
City officials are now tasked with the responsibility of creating some kind of proposal to rein in the groups.
Some of the requirements have already been presented to council, like a ban on exercise equipment over 4 feet long or 25 pounds in weight from the parks.
The provision targets exercise groups that use objects like tires and heavy dumbbells in their routines because they can cause damage to the turf, Ginsberg told the council as she flicked through slides showing bald spots on the grass where yellow pieces of equipment shaped like unspent staples dug into the ground.
“We’ll probably try to convene some focus groups with boot camp operators and other operators about what works for them and what doesn’t work for us,” Ginsberg said Wednesday. “That way, we can get a better understanding of what their needs are.”
The concept of regulation is new to the trainer community, although there have been rumors, said Adrien Jordan.
Jordan operates Jordan Physique, which holds classes three days a week in Palisades Park.
“Trainers in the area do know that changes might happen, and people are nervous about what those might be,” Jordan said.
He was not opposed to restrictions on heavy weights, equipment Jordan avoids because it hurts the grass.
Though city staff is just getting started on its research, whatever ordinance comes out of the process will preserve residents’ right to jog or workout in the parks or on the beaches, Ginsberg said.
“General use of the park for your own physical fitness, barbecues, picnicking and all of those things that people do to enjoy the park is fine,” she said.