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City Officials and Community Members Differ on Park Program’s Effectiveness

Phil Brock For Council 2014

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark

Michael Feinstein for Santa Monica City Council 2014Harding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
Harding, Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

Pacific Park, Santa Monica Pier

Santa Monica Convention and Visitors BureauWhen one lives in a city as breathtakingly beautiful and unique as Santa Monica, inevitably that city will be shared with visitors.

By Daniel Larios
Staff Writer

July 30, 2014 -- A 2013 Santa Monica ordinance regulating commercial fitness and athletic classes or camps is being viewed by City officials as a successful way to reduce impact on public space and creating a better balance of park and beach uses, according to a July 24 report to the City Council.

The Commercial Fitness or Athletic Instruction, Classes or Camps Permit Program requires city authorization, in the form of a permit, to teach fitness or athletic classes in local parks and beaches.

“The purpose of the [program] is to create a greater balance of park and beach uses, protect park and beach amenities, reduce impacts on neighbors and park and beach users, ensure commercial instructors have a business license and proper insurance, and to have instructors compensate the City for commercial use of public property,” wrote Senior Administrative analyst Wendy Pietrzak.

The program has reduced the number of complaints from community members regarding unregulated classes while also providing trainers with space, signage and proper identification cards for enforcement purposes.

Since the implementation of the permit program, 41 complaints were filed regarding violations of the ordinance, Pietrzak wrote. The number of complaints decreased each month, from 19 in January to none in June.

But feedback from neighborhood groups, commercial instructors and their clients, Santa Monica residents and other interested parties was not in agreement with the City’s assessment.

According to a survey conducted by the City, 46 percent of respondents were disappointed in the program and 40 percent were satisfied or rated it as excellent.
Staff will continue to monitor and assess the program and report back to the council at the end of the one-year pilot period, which started in January of this year. Changes will be proposed if they are needed.

The program was proposed after community members as well as local class and camp instructors complained about the increased number of unregulated fitness training classes and camps in local parks and beaches. The majority of complaints came from the north end of Palisades Park.

At its Oct. 8, meeting, the council introduced an ordinance to establish the program. The council adopted the ordinance two weeks later. City staff educated the public about the application process, permit requirements, rules and regulations as well as fees and use charges in December and January.

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