PALISADES PARK —No need for a lottery for fitness training licenses in Palisades Park.
The lottery deadline expired this week and only six trainers applied for group licenses, well below the maximum limit of 20.
Permits for holding fitness classes at all parks will be required starting Jan. 1 but only 10 have been purchased thus far, said Karen Ginsberg, director of Community and Cultural Services.
With the permit requirements just two weeks away, the 10 applicants is a far cry from what city officials observed earlier this year.
A week-long study by City Hall found that there were 73 groups with more than two participants and 74 groups with one or two participants out in Palisades Park, Ginsberg said.
Some of those numbers could reflect one trainer teaching multiple classes.
In October, City Council passed an ordinance requiring fitness trainers to pay fees to work out in public parks after some complained about the trainers and their clients taking over Palisades, ruining grass while disturbing the peace.
Group trainers at Palisades Park are required to pay $8,100, which Santa Monica Outdoor Fitness Coalition head Eric Dick says is too high, as evidence of the low turnout for permits.
“From the very moment they made that … decision to change the fee structure from what they had proposed, we knew immediately that that was going to price most of the trainers out,” she said.
City officials had recommended a percentage-base permit fee, one that would be increased for Palisades Park to reflect its high demand as a workout space. Council, instead, adopted a fee-based permit suggested by a local trainer, Jeff Jordan, during the public comment portion of the meeting. He’d heard about the rates from another trainer based outside of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Dick called this “sloppy governance.”
“Nobody bothered to do the math,” she said. “It’s absolutely prohibitive to ask people to pay what amounts to almost 25 percent of their revenues to train in the park.”
City officials had estimated that the average annual salary of a fitness trainer is $40,000.
“They don’t do this to get rich,” Dick said. “They’re not doing this so they can go buy a house at the north end of Montana.”
Fitness training at Palisades Park was nearly outlawed completely, with three council members and seven neighborhood groups favoring a ban. Advocates of a ban have pointed to the fact that grass at the parks are worn out by trainers. These classes overcrowd the parks, ban advocates say, with trainers sometimes bringing in free-weights or loud boom-boxes.
“The people who wanted to ban training in Palisades Park, they essentially got exactly what they wanted,” Dick said.
The ordinance is a pilot and will last for only a year.
Even outside of Palisades Park, trainers are saying that the fees are problematic.
Last week, about a dozen people spoke during the public comment portion of the council meeting, asking for fees to be reduced for Brad Keimach, who runs Beach Yoga with Brad. Council didn’t bite.
Keimach has been teaching yoga for five and half years on the beach and class sizes run from three to 50 members. He charges $10 per person.
Keimach said the $6,000 fee —required of group trainers working out anywhere but Palisades Park and Clover Park— is too high.
He’s turned to the Internet, asking for donations on Indiegogo, a crowd-funding website. In four days he’s raised $2,939. If he can’t get to $6,000, he’ll buy permits for the first half of the year and then hang up the yoga mats.
“The problems they were trying to address don’t exist on the beach,” he said. “You can’t wear out the sand. No one has ever asked us to move. There are not problems with crowding. So it’s just a shame that they thought one size fits all.”