People climb the Fourth Street stairs on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. A stepped up park ranger presence in the vicinity of Fourth Street and Adelaide Drive seems to have cut down on the number of early morning fitness classes that take place in the neighborhood. (photo by Brandon Wise)

CITY HALL — A stepped up park ranger presence in the vicinity of Fourth Street and Adelaide Drive may have halted early morning fitness classes from taking place in the neighborhood.

But even with the increased vigilance, some residents say more needs to be done to keep the neighborhood, which has long been a popular workout site because of two steep public staircases nearby, from being overrun with joggers.

“I’m happy enough for now,” Adelaide Drive resident Terry Sanders said of the more frequent patrols. “It’s reduced the amount of cars and it’s reduced the amount of congestion.”

Still, he said he’d like to see City Hall build an alternate staircase in Palisades Park or create additional parking restrictions in the area to limit use.

In April, the City Council directed staff to look into both of those ideas and to consider closing the stairs at night, among other proposals aimed at reducing impacts on the neighborhood. So far none of the items have been brought back to the council for consideration.

Curbing crowds of exercisers in the area became an issue for City Hall last year after long-standing complaints about noisy workouts held on a Fourth Street median — some of them organized by professional trainers involving extensive fitness equipment — prompted two well-attended neighborhood meetings.

To Santa Monica Police Sgt. Jay Trisler, the improvement in the neighborhood has been the result of better public outreach combined with cracking down on people who were conducting fitness classes in the area.

“We’re out there trying to educate people to be neighborly and if they’re running a [fitness] business without a permit then they have the ability to be cited,” Trisler said.

Statistics on the number of citations issued in the vicinity were not available at presstime.

“From my point of view it’s mission accomplished,” said City Councilman Bobby Shriver, who lives in the area. “They’re not conducting those classes at 5:30 in the morning outside peoples’ windows anymore.”

But heavy use of the stairs leading up to Adelaide Drive, Shriver acknowledged, continues to be an issue for some residents who would like to see City Hall take further action.

Lee Swain, Santa Monica’s director of public works, said proposals like creating new parking restrictions or barring use of the stairs at nighttime are complex policy decisions that require detailed legal analysis.

Closing the stairs at night, for example, would involve cooperation with the city of Los Angeles because the stairs span Santa Monica’s border.

“We know it’s an ongoing concern and we’re trying to do what we can to address areas of concern where we can,” Swain said. “But many of them are complex issues that are going to take some time to formulate [responses to].”

Swain said he expects the City Attorney’s Office to begin work on several of the proposed measures within the next two weeks. He declined to say when staff would update the City Council on the proposed solutions.

“Staff is working hard to handle a lot of different things and these are also issues that we want to deal with as quickly as possible,” he said.

As for building stairs in Palisades Park, Swain said finding funding has been an issue.

“The city is always looking at grant opportunities,” he said. “The problem is because of the financial health of the nation there’s really not a lot of grant opportunities out there.”

For his part, Shriver said he’s content to wait for city staff to update the council on its findings.

Meanwhile, many joggers who frequent the Adelaide stairs said they haven’t been affected by City Hall’s efforts to deter people from working out in the median. On a recent Wednesday afternoon as a park ranger surveyed the intersection of Fourth Street and Adelaide, a steady stream of people made their way up and down the steps or stretched in the grass areas next to sidewalks.

A Fourth Street resident who gave his name only as Bob said the number of exercisers and personal trainers who use the area is sharply down from a year ago, but people still crowd onto the median when an officer isn’t around.

“They kind of survey the situation and see what they can get away with,” he said.

Drew Gordon, of Hollywood Hills, waved off the signs designating Fourth Street’s grass median “for walking and jogging only” as he snuck in his pre-workout stretching routine while the park ranger was out of sight.

“If you come here on a Saturday everybody’s stretching on the grass,” he said.

Lisa Clifton, of Venice, comes to work out at the steps every other day and said any new regulations should leave easy access to the public staircases.

“It’s lean times. I can’t afford a gym membership right now, so this is my gym,” she said.

During a typical afternoon workout she said she usually sees about 50 people using the steps for fitness.

“For the number of people that are here when I’m here, everybody’s very orderly and quiet,” she said.

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