Santa Monica Lookout
|Santa Monica City Council Continues Struggle with Exercise Groups in Palisades Park||
By Jason Islas
October 28, 2013 -- In an unusual turn of events Tuesday, a controversial ordinance that would allow a limited number of private trainers to work out in Palisades Park failed on its second reading in a 3-to-3 vote.
But citing concerns that without the ordinance, there would be no protections for Palisades Park, Councilmember Kevin McKeown, who was originally one of the three who voted against the ordinance, called for a new vote on the failed ordinance.
“Given the choices, I decided it was time that we pull on our big boy pants and do the right thing,” he told the Council about a half hour after the first vote that killed the ordinance.
“We held to our consciences about this,” McKeown said. “I've been up here long enough to lose a bit of my innocence and become more practical.”
The Council voted 5-to-1 at its October 8 meeting to approve an ordinance that would allow a 12-month pilot program, through which personal trainers could pay a permit fee to use most parks in the city to hold classes. (“Santa Monica City Council Approves Limited Use of Palisades Park by Personal Trainers,” October 10)
But the ordinance established Palisades Park, where the presence of trainers has been an ongoing controversy, as a special zone. Trainers hoping to work out there would have to pay a fee that was 50 percent higher than at the other parks in the city.
The ordinance also restricted the number of permits that would be available for the park and would require trainers to stick to the southern end of the park in order to prevent them from disturbing neighborhoods.
Mayor Pro Tem Terry O'Day along with Councilmembers Ted Winterer, Gleam Davis, Bob Holbrook and Kevin McKeown all supported the ordinance at the October 8 meeting after a caveat was added that would prohibit trainers from working out on Sundays.
Only Councilmember Tony Vazquez voted against it and Mayor Pam O'Connor was absent.
However, with O'Day absent from the October 22 meeting, the Council once again found itself divided. Holbrook changed his yes vote after, he had gotten his “rear end chewed out” by community members and commissioners.
McKeown voted against the ordinance on October 22 because he didn't think there should be commercial training in the park and Vazquez hadn't changed his mind.
O'Connor, Davis and Winterer, however, supported the pilot program, noting that if it doesn't work, the Council will have an opportunity to cancel it in a year.
McKeown's change of heart Tuesday night came after he realized that, unless the ordinance passed, there would be nothing on the books regulating commercial exercise groups in any of Santa Monica's parks.
And any substitute motion banning commercial use in Palisades Park would fail because four Councilmembers had already shown that they support giving trainers limited use of the park.
“What we're passing here isn't a permanent ordinance. It's a pilot program,” Davis reminded the Council. “I really feel like we're beating this dead horse.”
McKeown pointed out that since he had changed his vote to be on the prevailing side, he has the right to bring the item back before the Council, a tactic he would gladly use if there were a change of heart among his colleagues.
“The balance here is only one vote,” he wrote in an email to residents following the meeting. “If you or others can convince Pam, Terry, Gleam, or Ted to change their positions and vote to ban commercial trainers in Palisades Park, I'd bring this matter back again in an instant.”
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