(File photo)
(File photo)

Proposed regulations on fitness instruction in Santa Monica parks are before the City Council on Tuesday night.

Most fitness training in our parks is “one-on-one” — a private trainer with a client. Some large, for-profit organizations have also been using Palisades Park and other public parks to hold exercise classes and boot camps for dozens of clients at a time. It’s a big business. Students often pay up to $275 for three weekly workouts over six weeks.

With all the exercising, the grass and landscaping takes a beating. Other park users are often asked to move away.

Aside from the standard business license, police review and other fees totaling around $284 (which are required of all independent fitness trainers working in the city), our parks are being exploited for free.

Two Mondays ago, I walked Palisades Park during the mid-morning between Wilshire and San Vicente boulevards. I observed six fitness trainers working with individual clients and no group training.

Because I’ve worked out in private and public gyms for well over 30 years, I know professional training when I see it. Trainers are very attentive. Their routines have continuity and are purposed to achieve specific client goals such as increased stamina, body contouring, added strength, etc. — all without injury. Equipment (weights, pulleys, cables, mats, balls and poles) also indicate other than “buddy” workouts

When a professional trainer uses a health club, they usually pay fees for each client session. Trainers are also often required to join the gym and buy memberships ranging from $50 to over $200 monthly. Training in public parks alleviates expensive gym fees or even carrying liability insurance.

Most trainers I know are notoriously frugal, even those who train Hollywood celebrities for hundreds of bucks an hour. It’s only fair that all self-employed trainers pay for using our parks as they would pay in a gym or health club.

City staff is asking the council to approve regulations requiring a $100 annual fee for trainers, a 15 percent kickback on gross receipts, proof of insurance and more. The amount and kinds of exercise equipment brought into parks would be regulated. Limits on class sizes or outright training prohibitions in smaller parks are also proposed.

This is a good start, however council should consider quarterly fees of $75 for private training and $125 for groups. Forget 15 percent of gross receipts because many trainers deal in cash and there’s no way to monitor revenue.

I’d limit classes to 10 or less in Palisades Park instead of two persons as staff suggests because the park is one of the training hot spots. Limiting equipment brought into the parks as well as times training is allowed would also be smart.


‘The end’ for movie theaters


By now, most of you are aware that the AMC Criterion 6 (formerly Mann Criterion 6) on the Third Street Promenade has closed and is being demolished.

The Criterion 6, built in 1983 and remodeled in 2001, featured big screens, digital projection and THX sound. It had stadium seating in three auditoriums — the only stadium-configured cinemas in town.

It’ll be replaced by a “high-end retail center” with 37,000 square feet of space (apparently already committed to a “mystery” retailer), 12,000 square feet of offices and 32 apartments. The man behind this project is well-connected insider and Downtown Santa Monica, Inc., Vice Chair John Warfel, president of Metropolitan Pacific Capital, Inc.

Warfel was partnered with AMC Entertainment, Inc., in redeveloping the current city-owned Parking Structure 3 on Fourth Street with a new “state-of-the-art” 12 screen multiplex. A flawed City Hall bidding process gave mediocre exhibitor AMC the right to co-develop the new multiplex in 2009. AMC withdrew from the project in December 2012 because it wasn’t financially feasible they said.

Warfel and City Hall are now desperately looking for another major exhibitor to co-develop the Fourth Street site. But, I’d bet the family Prius it’ll be a long time, if ever, before another exhibitor comes to their rescue and new cinemas are built.

It was back in mid-November 2011, when Warfel announced the redevelopment of the Criterion 6 property into the high-end, mixed-use project mentioned above. AMC discontinued operation of the multi-plex three weeks ago because, they claimed “it was underperforming.”

Think something strange is going on, huh?

AMC still operates both the dated AMC 7 and the depressing AMC Loews Broadway 4 on the Third Street Promenade. I’m still wondering how the third rate Broadway 4 could be a better “performer” than the far superior Criterion 6.

Then, we have Warfel, who saw an opportunity to redevelop and make a pile of money while AMC goes bust on two movie multi-cinemas and leaves us a pair of subpar multiplexes?

Santa Monica loses our best screens and 1,500 prime movie seats. And, the Third Street Promenade will most likely experience an accelerated erosion of its most coveted customers — the young, hip, movie-going shopping and dining crowd. What a disaster!

It’s too bad the lead actors who were supposed to resurrect Downtown Santa Monica as a premiere performing movie-going locale have delivered such bad performances. Our top movie theaters are history and a new cinema complex will probably not happen.

The good news is that AMC won’t be involved in the proposed 12-plex which, by the way, should really be across Fourth Street on city land at Fifth Street and Arizona Avenue.

But, in the meantime, there’s another Downtown mixed-use shopping/apartment complex in your future. Aren’t you thrilled?



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

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