On April 23, the Santa Monica City Council will debate a proposal to charge outdoor fitness trainers up to 15 percent of their annual revenues for use of public parks as well as a proposal to ban group fitness training in Palisades Park.

The city argues these outdoor fitness classes are noisy, do damage and prevent other people from using the parks. But charging these very small, independent businesses 15 percent of their annual revenues and banning group training in Palisades Park will not solve these problems. The extra revenue will be deposited into the city’s General Fund and won’t be applied specifically to maintaining or improving city parks.

Additionally, charging these small businesses heavy fees and banning training in Palisades Park will not encourage trainers who are already disrespectful to be more respectful. New regulations should not be arbitrary; they should seek to actually address the specific problems the city has identified.

The Santa Monica Outdoor Fitness Coalition has mobilized to ensure the voices of these small business owners and the hundreds of clients who depend on our services to maintain a healthy/active lifestyle are heard in the public debate surrounding the use of public parks for fitness activities.

The Santa Monica Community and Cultural Services Department has forwarded a set of recommendations to the City Council including changes to the municipal code, a new permit requirement and specific regulations on use of park facilities. These are positive recommendations that clearly address the challenges, and the coalition is supportive of these changes.

Since the coalition formed, we’ve worked very hard to understand all sides of this issue. We’ve met with the Santa Monica Community and Cultural Services Department who have welcomed our coalition’s inputs and recommendations. It’s clear they wish to partner with us to ensure fair and equitable use of our public parks. We’ve met with the Recreations and Parks Commission, as well as other public park users to ensure we understand all angles of the debate. As a result of this research, our coalition has forwarded a set of proposals to the city that we believe address all the challenges, respect all voices in the debate, and offer actionable solutions that can be easily enforced.

It is our hope that our proposals will be considered positively by the City Council. The coalition’s proposals include imposing a balanced use fee structure of 5 percent of gross receipts paid annually upon permit renewal by all registered personal fitness trainers. We understand tennis, soccer, volleyball, and surf instructors are required to pay slightly more in use fees, but they are using specific park services/facilities such as lifeguard oversight, tennis and volleyball courts and ball fields. This prevents other members of the community from using those facilities while they’re training. This exclusivity should require a higher use fee. Personal trainers are simply using available park space that is not currently occupied by other park users.

Additionally, group fitness training in Palisades Park should continue to be permitted, but with significant restrictions on equipment allowed. As city representatives themselves have observed, one-on-one and one-on-two trainers are some of the worst offenders with respect to using equipment inappropriately, and in ways that damage park structures and foliage. Banning group training will not solve this problem, which is why the proposal to ban group training in Palisades makes no sense. Our coalition’s recommendation of significantly restricting permitted equipment will solve the problem.

Outdoor fitness classes generate revenue for our city and provide security and presence in our parks. An active park is a safer park. Outdoor fitness training in our public parks also encourages and facilitates the healthy lifestyle so important to Santa Monica residents. Santa Monica rightfully prides itself on progressively encouraging an active, healthy lifestyle for all residents and visitors to the city. There’s a city project called “Active Santa Monica,” established to “Enhance the well-being of our community through fitness, recreation and healthy lifestyle.” Outdoor fitness trainers help facilitate this lifestyle, making instruction and coaching accessible and affordable for everyone.

There is much that can be done to partner with the city of Santa Monica, the community and small businesses to facilitate equitable use and preservation of public park spaces ensuring accessibility and enjoyment for all. That’s the goal new regulations should seek to achieve, and we hope that’s the goal the Santa Monica City Council will work toward when they meet on April 23.

 

 

Santa Monica Outdoor Fitness Coalition is comprised of fitness trainers with clients in Santa Monica. It can be reached at santamonicaofc@gmail.com. The coalition has a petition as well, which can be viewed at signon.org/sign/santa-monica-keep-group/?source=search