PALISADES PARK — When Angela Parker shows up for her early morning fitness class at Palisades Park it’s quiet.
“We all stay together in a group,” said Parker, head of Body Inspired Fitness. “It’s dreamy and quiet, so much so that I’m a little nervous being out there alone at 6 in the morning.”
Last year, after hearing complaints from residents and all the neighborhood groups, City Council introduced an ordinance that regulates fitness training in all the city parks.
At Palisades Park, permit fees were increased to reflect the high demand and a 15-person cap was placed on the classes to reduce congestion.
Parker, a Santa Monica resident who spent the $8,100 to get the annual large group permit for Palisades Park, said the fees are way too high and the cap is too low. She can only hold so many classes, she said, and so despite a reduction in competition she has to pass some of the permit costs on to her customers. They dropped from 20 per class down to the 15 per class to honor the cap limits.
“There’s been a significant change in the number of people out in the park,” she said. “People don’t go off alone. They don’t do the stairs by themselves. The flip side is we have no problem finding parking.”
There are only nine training groups that purchased permits this year, according to City Hall’s website, and Parker said she’s the only one to a buy a large group permit.
When city officials were preparing a draft of the ordinance last year, they counted nearly 150 training groups in the park over the course of the week — it should be noted that this may include redundancies as trainers who led multiple groups would be counted each time.
Parker estimated that there’s been a 75 percent reduction in the number of people working out in the park with trainers this year.
Aside from the fees and the class cap, she said, the ordinance has been a solid compromise overall. Hoping to weed out the less serious trainers, she supported the idea of regulation from the beginning.
As the morning goes on, the park fills up and feels more safe, she said.
A downside is that homeless people who live in the bluffs stay in the park later into the day thanks to the lack of trainers and they feel more comfortable smoking cigarettes.
Recreation and Parks Chair Phil Brock claims that the idea that there’s been an increase in homeless in the area of Palisades Park is a myth. Brock said he walks in the park nearly every morning and that aside from a few characters, most of the homeless don’t hang out around the park.
“The ordinance has worked admirably well,” he said. “It’s reduced the amount of trainers in the park. The amount of complaints I’m getting from residents is reduced. Overall, I think it’s a success.”
There have been a few violations, Brock said, mostly involving trainers who claimed they didn’t know there was an ordinance. Brock expects there to be more of that over the summer, he said, when more people want to work out in the parks and the ordinance will be fully tested.
The ordinance is a one-year pilot program and will be revisited later this year.