CITY HALL — Recreation and Parks commissioners voted Thursday to recommend that City Hall ban group exercise classes in Palisades Park and restrict such businesses throughout the city.
The decision targets trainers who use public parks as workout studios for their for-profit classes, which officials say causes damage to the lawns, benches and even light poles that become impromptu exercise equipment.
Commissioners decided to support an outright ban on the practice in the historic Palisades Park, and force trainers that wanted to continue in other parks to pay a $100 per year registration fee and 15 percent of their profits, said Chair Phil Brock.
They would also need to be licensed, taxed and carry insurance to protect against injury, he said.
The move would help compensate City Hall for damage done to public facilities by private business owners who are using the free space to make money.
“We’ve become a public, unleased space for a private enterprise. This has become a big business now in Palisades Park,” Brock said.
It was a contentious debate. Dozens of trainers attended to protest the change, which would add a large amount of overhead to their relatively low-cost businesses, Brock said.
Commissioners were also conflicted in their desire to maintain and preserve public resources while at the same time encouraging exercise and getting outdoors, Brock said.
The City Council first considered the matter in April 2012 alongside some changes to activities allowed on Santa Monica’s beaches.
City officials provided photographs of people laying out on massage tables in the middle of the park, hoisting large dumbbells over their heads and driving stakes into the ground.
“There have been community complaints about non-city sponsored fitness classes,” Karen Ginsberg, director of Community and Cultural Services, told council members in April. “There’s no evidence of insurance, they’re blocking pathways, dominating areas, using park amenities and attaching bands to light poles.”
Staff suggested banning heavy weights and other equipment which causes damage to the parks.
Council members grappled with many of the same issues as the Recreation and Parks commissioners, and ultimately asked staff to come back with a clarified ordinance.
The matter will go back before the City Council in early January.
City Hall has intervened in group classes in the past, most notably with surf camps that used to proliferate on Santa Monica beaches. In 2008, City Hall moved to rein those in, imposing a permit system that limited the number of surfers and instructors in the water.