Fitness trainers who take their classes and exercise equipment to parks and beaches in Santa Monica could soon have to set up shop elsewhere.
The Santa Monica City Council directed staff April 10 to explore options for possibly regulating non-city sponsored fitness classes and “boot camps” in parks and the beach.
Staff have received complaints from community members that exercise groups working out in popular places such as Palisades Park and the beach have been impacting their use of the area with large equipment and by blocking walkways and other spaces.
Some park users have argued that the classes attach exercise bands to light poles, picnic tables and trees, prevent them from being able to use seating areas and trainers yell loudly to motivate their athletes.
“There’s a whole range of things people have consistently called and asked us to do something about,” said Julie Silliman, spokeswoman with the Community and Cultural Services Department.
In some cases, other commercial classes have complained that fitness groups are using city land for their business without compensation to the city.
“We’ve been receiving lots of complaints where instructors and companies have been profiting using city land for non-city sponsored classes,” Community and Cultural Services Department Director Karen Ginsberg told the council.
The City Council approved an ordinance consolidating and improving outdated sections of the municipal code regarding use of city parks and the beach.
In an effort to allay the concerns, staff were asked to return with options for addressing the proliferation of fitness classes and boot camps in parks and beaches.
Many workout groups have moved to the northern part of Palisades Park and the beach in recent years after the city banned the use of exercise equipment on the Fourth Street median near another highly popular spot, the stairs by Adelaide Drive.
Ginsberg told the council about concerns with the use of large equipment such as massage tables, big tires and weights causing damage to park facilities, particularly grass. Staff recommended that equipment that is longer than four feet and weighing more than 25 pounds be banned from parks and beaches, but the council requested further study on the issue.
Currently, the only law in place that could regulate commercial fitness classes’ use of park and beach facilities is a prohibition on vending.
City Councilman Bobby Shriver said the city needs to be careful about regulating people’s use of the beach and he wants to ensure that individuals are not inhibited from exercising with small weights and yoga mats.
“I hope that whatever we pass finally will not prevent people from exercising in the park,” Shriver cautioned. “I want to make sure we don’t overreach on this.”
Silliman said her department is not looking for ways to prevent people from using the parks for workouts but they hope to establish a system that formalizes how the classes are conducted and works for everyone. Many of the fitness groups have been open to such improvements, she added.
“The goal is not to stop people from exercising; people should be using the parks for that. We want to develop a reasonable system that makes everyone happy,” she said.