Santa Monica City Hall (File photo)

Santa Monica City Hall (File photo)

Three items on the City Council meeting agenda tomorrow night caught my eye. I’ve written about all of them previously.

Item 7-A is the introduction and first reading of an ordinance amending the municipal code relating to commercial fitness training in city parks and on the beach. The ordinance includes suggestions for permit fees and use charges for coaches and instructors.

Staff’s report to council wisely notes that fitness instruction should also include group activities, camps and classes such as tai-chi, yoga, soccer, karate, boxing and other types of athletic activities plus fitness training and conditioning.

Staff recommends establishing activity zones in Palisades Park where various levels of commercial physical training would be conducted. “Classes” can include two to 15 participants.

Some parks and/or parts of parks would be “off limits” for training sessions.  Types and weight of equipment would be regulated and the number of training permits issued would be limited.

Ocean Avenue residents across from Palisades Park asked to prohibit training before 8 a.m. because of noise. But, trainers and their clients complained that outlawing instruction before 8 a.m. would make it difficult to train before going to work.

When it comes to conflict between residents and commerce, residents usually take it in the shorts. Staff recommends a 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily window when sessions could be held. It will be interesting to see which side — fitness trainers or residents — council will support.

An annual trainer permit fee of $100 and a 15 percent of gross revenue charge to be paid quarterly has also been recommended. As I’ve pointed out previously, fitness instruction is mostly a cash business.

Because virtually all coaches and fitness instructors under report earnings, city bureaucrats will not collect a true 15 percent of trainer earnings and shortchange themselves. I say better to raise the flat fee to $50 or $75 per month. It’s a bargain compared to the hundreds of dollars in monthly fees fitness coaches generally pay to access private gyms and athletic clubs.

Item 7-D is based on a joint request by Ted Winterer, Kevin McKeown and Terry O’Day (an executive with a firm that distributes electric vehicle charging networks and has a huge conflict of interest going here) to permanently exempt low- or no-emission vehicles from paying for parking at city meters.

This misguided and highly idealistic piece of legislation is designed to encourage the use of ultra-low emission, electrical, natural gas (CNG), liquid petroleum gas (LPG) and vehicles displaying state-issued clean-air decals.

Wait a minute. Aren’t we working at cross purposes here? Isn’t traffic and congestion (which in itself is a major source of air pollution) the number one complaint by residents and visitors alike?

Why are we rewarding people for driving personal vehicles after decades of encouraging the rest of us to give up driving? An electric car adds to traffic congestion the same as a gas-guzzling SUV.

So-called, low-emission vehicles are not pollution free or environmentally neutral. How about the oil and grease, rubber tires and huge, corrosive car batteries? Vehicle interiors are loaded with plastics and other toxic materials.

McKeown, O’Day and Winterer are apparently ignoring recent news reports where air district officials charge that emissions from Vernon battery recycler Exide Technologies is exposing more than 250,000 people living in eastern Los Angeles County communities to a “chronic hazard” from arsenic and other toxins.

And, how much revenue is being lost by giving free parking to a select class of motorists? City Hall’s Finance Department can’t (or won’t) say. I’ll bet the family Prius it’ll add up to tens of thousands of dollars annually. Since when is City Hall flush with cash and can afford to forego revenue?

This scheme will contribute to traffic congestion, impact city revenue and isn’t even environmentally friendly, so continuing or expanding any free parking privileges is utter nonsense and completely ill conceived.

Item 7-C asks council to introduce an ordinance for first reading for an amendment to a development agreement for a new, five-floor apartment building at 401 Broadway, Downtown.

The project’s original plans omitted on-site car parking. Future tenants in 401 with cars were expected to rent parking space in a nearby city parking structure. The developer and some city officials stated (when this was originally approved on Dec. 13, 2011) that Expo Light Rail and the numerous adjacent Big Blue Bus and Metro bus services negated the need for cars and parking. “This was the wave of the future,” the unicorn-chasers boasted.

Reality took over when the developer couldn’t find a bank that would make construction loans on a project without a garage. The amended development agreement will be for a building consisting of 56 residential units and 11,019 square feet of rentable commercial space on two levels, 706 square feet of outdoor dining area and 49 parking spots for resident parking, however no commercial parking is provided.

Unfortunately, parking will be unbundled from the residential units so parking is not included with market rate apartments. Want to park on-site? You’ll have to buy it unless living in a low-income unit.

This means some tenants will park on nearby neighborhood streets (where no permit is required) and walk or bicycle to their car when they want to use it. Net result: even more cars parking on the streets.

The moral of this story: social engineering makes problems worse because idealism always trumps common sense.

 

 

 

Bill can be reached at mr.bilbau@gmail.com.

 

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