Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Private Fitness on Public Property in Santa Monica

Happy New Year, Land Users!  Since today is a day that a lot of folks begin their New Year's resolutions, this story about land use conflicts over fitness classes in public parks might be appropriate.  From the Daily Mail, Santa Monica residents complain about sea of fitness fanatics clogging up their parks.  The gist is that in Santa Monica, California, the trend towards conducting fitness classes in the public spaces near the beach has become so pronounced that other residents are asking for local government action.

In recent years, fitness classes have become as ubiquitous in Santa Monica's signature Palisades Park as dog walkers and senior citizens playing shuffleboard.

'It's starting to look like a 24-Hour Fitness gym out there,' complained Johnny Gray, an assistant track coach at UCLA and former Olympic runner who says he's often forced to navigate around weight machines, barbells and other exercise impediments as he runs

Karen Ginsberg, the city's director of community and cultural services, said other park users are complaining about fitness enthusiasts not only blocking pedestrian walkways but also making too much noise, killing the park's grass with their weights and damaging its trees and benches with all the exercise gadgets they connect to them. . . .

Naturally, one proposal is to clamp down with traditional land use regulatory tools.

So now the City Council is considering requiring that fitness trainers who conduct workouts in Santa Monica's parks and on its beaches pay an annual $100 fee and turn over 15 percent of their gross revenues to the city.

An interesting controversy that in one sense shouldn't be that surprising, but on the other it represents a clash of traditional and new imperatives--both in terms of personal preferences and in public policy: part of the whole argument for more public spaces, parks, etc., is to promote physical fitness and health, but in Santa Monica it seems as though the critical mass of space is one of the very things that made possible the explosion in use that is now controversial.  But of course "too much use" is one of the good kinds of problems to have. 

Matt Festa


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