(File photo)

(File photo)

CITY HALL — The City Council will get a crack at regulating group fitness instruction in public parks next week, a practice which officials say is destroying public property and forcing residents out of parks.

The proposed requirements would include a $100 annual permit fee and 15 percent of gross receipts and mandate that trainers have insurance.

They also limit the kinds of activities that can take place in the parks, with groups of three or more students banned from some smaller or high-profile parks.

Some areas, like Euclid Park in Mid-City or Joslyn Park near Santa Monica High School, would not allow trainers at all.

Equipment over 25 pounds would not be allowed in any park.

One of the most controversial changes in the policy involves kicking trainers with groups of three or more clients out of the landmarked Palisades Park. The park is a popular destination for group classes, often armed with equipment that city officials say cause damage to the parks.

A survey conducted between Oct. 24 and 30 from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. found 73 group classes and 74 classes with one or two participants in Palisades Park. Between 90 and 95 percent of those included some kind of equipment like yoga mats, hand weights, bench presses or kettlebells, amongst others.

The proposed regulations have a group of trainers up in arms.

The Santa Monica Outdoor Fitness Coalition, a group of trainers who serve hundreds of clients, is arguing for a reduced fee of 5 percent of gross receipts and that training continue in Palisades Park, but with restrictions on the kinds of 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,” the group wrote in an open letter.

If that’s the case, banning group classes in Palisades Park will not prevent damage done to the parks, the coalition argues.

They also worry about the impact of the fees and charges on small businesses.

Fitness instructors already can pay up to $284.03 to cover their business license, police permit, fingerprinting, zoning review fee and a $1 annual state-mandated fee. If they make less than $40,000 per year, the $75 minimum business license tax is waived, and their total goes down.

If their revenues exceed $60,000, the price goes up from $1 per $1,000 in gross receipts to $3.

The business license office showed that of the 87 trainers with a business license this fiscal year, 52 grossed $40,000 or less and seven fell within the $40,000 to $60,000 range.

Sixteen businesses made over $100,000. These numbers included trainers that work outdoors as well as those who work in an indoor fitness center or other facility.

Other groups that use public facilities — like tennis instructors or surf camps — pay between 14 and 40 percent of their gross revenues to City Hall, depending on the kind of business and deal struck with City Hall, according to a report.

 

ashley@smdp.com