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Santa Monica City Council Approves Limited Use of Palisades Park by Personal Trainers

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark


Harding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
Harding, Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

By Jason Islas
Staff Writer

October 10, 2013 -- Santa Monica's City Council hammered out a compromise Tuesday night that would allow personal trainers limited use of Palisades Park for private fitness classes, ending a year-long controversy over whether the City should ban them outright in the shoreline park.

The new ordinance, which passed by a 5-to-1 vote, establishes a 12-month pilot program through which the City can issue as many as 20 permits to trainers, allowing them to hold classes of up to 15 people at a time in four designated sections of the park.

However, the compromise did not come without caveats. Permits to hold classes in Palisades Park will be 50 percent more expensive -- a flat fee based on group size -- than those for other parks in Santa Monica and trainers won't be able to hold classes there on Sundays.

“I think we have to start with the understanding that the parks are for everyone,” said Councilmember Gleam Davis. “The question is how do we balance all these needs.”

Mayor Pro Tem Terry O'Day and Councilmember Ted Winterer agreed.

Winterer called City staff's plan to limit workout classes to certain sections of the park and to charge trainers more to use the premium location was a “reasonable compromise.”

Councilmembers Tony Vazquez, Bob Holbrook and Kevin McKeown stood opposed to the original proposed ordinance.

McKeown proposed a counter motion to move ahead with an ordinance that would have allowed trainers to use most of the city's other parks for classes while explicitly excluding Palisades Park.

The Council was divided 3-to-3 on McKeown's motion.

Lacking the support necessary to pass his motion, McKeown suggested allowing trainers to use Palisades Park to hold classes every day except Sunday.

Trainers will have to pay $1,800 to $5,400 a year, depending on the size of their classes, for a permit to hold classes at the city's other parks.

However, trainers hoping to hold classes in Palisades Park can expect to pay between $2,700 and $8,100 a year for their permits.

The Council also incorporated a suggestion from Recreation and Parks Commission Chair Phil Brock.

Trainers who opt to work out only in Reed Park will get a discount on their permit fees, which will cost between $900 and $1,800 a year.

“We need the activity there,” said Brock, referring to the park at Lincoln and Wilshire Boulevards.

Erin Dick, who represents a group of personal trainers called the Santa Monica Outdoor Fitness Coalition, applauded the ordinance, which she said “represents what's possible when communities work together.”

While generally the Santa Monica Outdoor Fitness Coalition liked the ordinance, Dick said they were uncomfortable with the City's plans to cap the number of permits available to trainers for Palisades Park at 20.

Brian Burke, who represents the organization Friends of Palisades Park, wasn't too happy with the ordinance.

His organization has called for a complete moratorium on the exercise groups in what Burke called a “unique and irreplaceable urban forest.” Burke claims that the exercise groups cause significant damage to the lawn and trees in the area.

Davis gave voice to the prevailing sentiment when she said, “let's give this a try,” reiterating that the ordinance can be reviewed again in a year.

Only Vazquez voted against the final compromise. Mayor Pam O'Connor was not present.

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