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John Dickey runs along the Fourth Street median on Wednesday afternoon. (photo by Brandon Wise)

CITY HALL — Whether it’s restricting street parking or prohibiting commercial use on the Fourth Street medians, city officials are exploring ways to address a long-standing concern by a group of homeowners over what many see as an outdoor public gym taking place in front of their properties.

The City Council on Tuesday directed its staff to further examine a variety of measures that could alleviate a conflict involving residents in the area around Fourth Street and Adelaide Drive and the fitness buffs who work out in front of their homes.

Lee Swain, the director of public works, presented a list of suggested steps compiled following several neighborhood meetings in which a group of homeowners and frequent users of the median and the Fourth Street stairs voiced their opinion about the possible regulations.

They reached a consensus on seven possible measures, including restricting commercial or group use on the median; consolidating and updating signs to direct people to available public restrooms and parking; incorporating regular trash pick-up on the street; restricting access to the stairs during the evening hours; restricting parking; creating a good neighbor working group; and exploring grants that would pay for a feasibility study looking into building an additional set of stairs at Palisades Park.

Swain said that he will need to work with the city attorney and Santa Monica Police Department to explore the legality of restricting commercial use of the median.

The stairs, which some have pointed to as the source of the problem, could be closed from midnight to 4 a.m., possibly eliminating problems of illicit activity taking place.

“If someone is on the stairs at 3 a.m., they’re probably not exercising,” Elaine Culotti, a homeowner, said.

Swain said that all the details have not been worked out for some of the measures, such as what sort of parking restrictions would be put into place.

One suggestion that seemed to garner a lot of attention is the proposal to explore constructing a set of alternate stairs from Palisades Park down to the ocean, grasping an opportunity to connect the north of Montana community to the beach where the Annenberg Community Beach House is set to open this month.

“Fourth and Adelaide is not a park, Palisades is a park,” Terry Sanders, a resident, said.

Councilwoman Gleam Davis expressed concerns with building a new set of stairs, questioning whether it would just shift the problem from one area to another.

Davis said she drove Ocean Avenue just a few days ago and saw 12 trainers unloading equipment at Palisades Park between San Vicente and Wilshire boulevards.

Homeowners have long complained about the use of the median and stairs for recreational use, noting that fitness trainers often conduct classes right out in front of their homes, treating the grassy strip as a park. Fitness regulars have countered that the restrictions on Fourth and Adelaide should be reasonable since it involves public property.

Culotti said that residents have began signing a petition in support of the parking restrictions. The problem is that the California Coastal Commission has jurisdiction over the area and would need to approve any parking restrictions, which it is rarely known to do because of beach access issues.

She said the group fitness sessions continue, noting that there are times when up to 25 people are outside doing a bootcamp-type workout.

Some homeowners said they are concerned about safety, pointing out that many people end up working out on the street.

“What the owners agree and feel is it’s so vital that we get this restriction put in because the situation has gotten out of hand,” John Ketcham, a homeowner, said.

melodyh@smdp.com