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City Council, Opinion, Letters To The Editor, Fitness, Palisades Park

Four Neighborhood Groups: Ban All Commercial Fitness Activity In Palisades Park

Posted Oct. 20, 2013, 6:00 am

Letter To The Editor

Editor's Note: This is an open letter to the members of the Santa Monica City Council regarding outdoor fitness class in Palisades Park. The four neighborhood groups who penned the letter are listed at the end.

Dear City Council,

We are writing to express our extreme disappointment with the City Council’s provisional vote last week to adopt an ordinance that would allow commercial fitness instruction, classes and camps in Palisades Park. We regard commercialization of Palisades Park as a betrayal of the public trust.

Please reconsider your decision.

Palisades Park is more than a municipal resource. It is a national treasure, America’s gateway to the Pacific, a cherished view corridor that daily welcomes thousands of people, both local residents and visitors from all over the world.

More than 120 years ago, Santa Monica founders Sen. John P. Jones and Arcadia Bandini de Baker donated the park for the public’s enjoyment. Ever since then, it has been a treasured and tranquil spot for walking, running, strolling, biking, picnicking, exercising, admiring the sunset and sitting in silent contemplation.

Sadly, Council’s action has soiled that vital legacy. We are now faced with the prospect of city-authorized private businesses using Palisades Park land for profit-making purposes that directly contradict the original intent of our founders. If the ordinance is enacted as currently written, private businesses will be free to use taxpayer-supported lands as their private fiefs, interfering with the public’s use and enjoyment of the historic lands that make up Palisades Park.

Under the measure that received provisional approval from the Santa Monica City Council last week, members of the public would be barred from the use of four newly designated “commercial group training zones” for up to 15 hours a day, 6 days a week, from 6 a.m. to 9 pm. And during that time, the quiet beach sounds of breezes and birds that have characterized this precious land from the time of the Tongva and before would be drowned out by loud rock music and the noise of trainers shouting instructions. “Tweet, tweet” would be replaced by “Hut, hut.” Tranquility and silent contemplation would be banished.

Is commercial activity an appropriate use for this precious strip of land? Let us put the question another way. Would it be acceptable to license commercial trainers to hold profit-making classes on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.? Should commercial trainers profit from holding fitness classes in front of the Washington Monument or the Lincoln Memorial? Clearly not. Nor should they be allowed to operate their businesses in Palisades Park.

The argument made before Council, that banning fitness classes in the park would be “elitist,” we think ignores the larger point. We would argue that it is “elitist” to offer prime park enjoyment to those who are fit enough, wealthy enough and athletic enough to participate in organized fitness classes, depriving everyone else of the means to enjoy the park as they desire.

Palisades Park is a landmark that belongs to everyone – not just those who enjoy commercial fitness classes, and those who would profit by using taxpayer-funded land to support their businesses.

Please reconsider your decision. Ban all commercial fitness activity from Palisades Park.


The Board of Directors, North of Montana Association (

The Board of Directors, Santa Monica Northeast Neighbors (

The Board of Directors, Wilshire Montana Neighborhood Coalition (

The Board of Directors, Santa Monica Mid City Neighbors (

Post a comment


Oct. 20, 2013, 7:48:55 am

Sue McHugh said...

Please listen to the residents

Oct. 20, 2013, 8:33:00 am

martin marteen said...

I fully agree with this article. Will the council make available to private citizens, of purchases of portions of the park designated for their own personal use at certain hours? If not, why not , if we match the dollars the commercial enterprises are contributing? I suspect the answer is absolutely not. Why not and how could you in fairness or under the law, deny that to private citizens?

Oct. 20, 2013, 9:38:40 am

John Murdock said...

I couldn't agree more with the thesis in this comment. The city council has an obligation to preserve the public parks, especially Palisades Park, for the peaceful enjoyment of all, old and young alike. Renting out the park to fitness entrepreneurs for a select segment of the populace is a breach of the public trust which cannot be justified in any way. The Council needs to reconsider this ill-advised ordinance and tell the fitness buffs if they want to take their noise and sweat outside the confines of the gym and enjoy the beautiful climate here, they need to buy or rent private property, like any other business.

Oct. 20, 2013, 9:58:48 am

Tony said...

I am going to set up a juice bar on palisades park. Maybe some muffins and coffee too. Pay me 10 dollars for a two minute private training class to teach you how to touch your toes and you get a smoothie or veggie juice. City is opening up a can of worms.... Go to Lincoln park...i

Oct. 20, 2013, 9:59:06 am

Truth said...

Follow the money! The Santa Monica city council always ALWAYS goes where the payday is. Doesn't matter if it's developing a huge high rise condo complex on the beach or bull dozing the airport so it can be turned into a Trump Casino, they will and always have gone with what puts money in their coffers. Yet you keep voting for these jokers and expecting a different result. For such a liberal city we have some great GOP style councilors. Big Business all the way.

Oct. 20, 2013, 10:08:08 am

Douglas said...

Lots of green space in front of the Santa Monica City Hall.

Oct. 20, 2013, 10:40:18 am

Dr. Ana Brightleaf said...

This is just another example of the Santa Monica City Council making it hard to enjoy Santa Monica. Add this to the extreme expense and difficulty of finding a parking place, the business license tax based on GROSS sales vs. NET sales, housing rents that hourly employees cannot afford resulting in long commutes. The average person is being driven from Santa Monica. This is a loss to the community.

Oct. 20, 2013, 12:59:59 pm

R Kay said...

I completely agree with the argument against allowing private use of the Palisades Park. As a daily user of PP, I can attest to the damage group training has done to the landscape and noise intrusion into one of the few (and most beautiful) green spaces we have for quiet. Shame on City Council!

Oct. 20, 2013, 1:31:56 pm

Robert (Bob) Smith said...

Over 120yrs the park has been for PUBLIC ENJOYMENT not for Commercial Business. Keep it that way.

Oct. 20, 2013, 4:46:55 pm

KH in SM said...

I completely disagree with these comments and the Boards of these four groups. The arguments are laughable in my opinion. These are not big time commercial businesses that are using Palisades Park. These are a few people trying to earn a small living by helping people stay fit. That these groups are so bent out of shape over it makes no sense to me. These are small and trivial businesses that are not spoiling the land or interfering with anyone's enjoyment of anything. Palisades Park has for years been filled with homeless people and drunken people as much as residents or tourists. It isnt exactly an untouched oasis of pristine beauty. Allowing some people to make a small living while others are getting fit with their help is a better use than most. It is not any different than a food truck operator parking there and selling some tacos. Who does that hurt? What is the big deal over it? All the criticism is just a few groups presuming to push their stilted views on others who prefer to let people enjoy the park in their own way, so long as they arent harming anyone else. The critics invent harms that do not exist to interfere with use and enjoyment that harm nothing.

Oct. 20, 2013, 5:58:06 pm

C W said...

I agree completely with the points made by the members of the boards of directors in this article, keep Palisades Park for public enjoyment, it is a sacred trust.

Oct. 22, 2013, 4:01:55 pm

Carol M said...

These are not just a few people in a class. I have counted as many as twenty one just in one class. Never mind the stress they are pounding into a cliff that will soon fall into PCH. I think I too will start selling some water bottles, towels and gym equipment while I suspend myself from a palm tree.

Oct. 23, 2013, 11:47:00 am

SH said...

I agree that all commercial ventures should be banned within Palisades Park. Asserting that allowing “for-profit fitness/athletic instruction, classes or camps in Palisades Park will actually benefit the “public” is misinformed, and misses the point. The heart of the issue concerns conceptualizing a “public city park” versus a “commercial city park”. The Santa Monica City Council allowed Palisades Park to be hijacked by for-profit ventures and sadly, it’s the public who loses out. Great public benefit already exists in Palisades Park – including the opportunity for citizens to run, bike, walk, push strollers, individually exercise or do yoga stretches, picnic with friends and family, play a game of chess or checkers, have birthday parties for our kids, enjoy a book on a park bench, appreciate the beauty of nature, and more. All of these activities are free – available for and enjoyed by everyone, not simply for those who can afford to pay. Yes, there are already permitted commercial activities allowed in Santa Monica parks (for example, tennis classes in Reed Park and surfing classes at the beach), but these activities are supported by both adequate space and existing facilities. Palisades Park is a relatively small park with thousands of visitors per week, and to take such a large amount of space (the four proposed commercial group fitness zones comprise most of the grassy area in the park from Wilshire Avenue to Marguerita Avenue) away from the general public – from 6:00am to 9:00pm, six days per week – and hand it over to for-profit enterprises contradicts the original intent of the park, as well as the spirit of public park usage. Why was Santa Monica City Staff’s original recommendation to permit only 1-on-1 or 1-on-2 training in Palisades Park quickly discarded in favor of class sizes of up to 15 paying clients? Eight classes per hour for up to 15 students with mats and exercise equipment (included permitted weights of up to 25 pounds) will cut a wide swath through the park’s “public” areas, and also seriously degrade turf and compact soil. Lets keep Palisades Park for the public, and ban all commercial enterprises within its limits.

Oct. 23, 2013, 8:58:31 pm

JJ said...

There are always haters.

Nov. 11, 2013, 2:14:18 pm

Joanna di paolo said...

I agree. One can spit and hit a pilates or yoga studio in SM. Let the Montana Moms further hone their skinny asses in the many shiny exercise facilities, and not encroach on the public's right to enjoyment of their public lands! To infer that it's elitist to ban the classes is ridiculous-- on the contrary, designating FREE public space areas JUST for commercial fitness use is the elitist measure, since one must have the $25/class to participate! The city council is a sellout!

Dec. 19, 2013, 10:41:36 pm

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