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 (www.smnoma.org)
The Board of Directors, Santa Monica Northeast Neighbors (www.neneighbors.org)
The Board of Directors, Wilshire Montana Neighborhood Coalition (www.wilmont.org)
The Board of Directors, Santa Monica Mid City Neighbors (www.midcityneighbors.org)