City Council Meeting: April 23, 2013

Agenda Item: 8-A  

To:                   Mayor and City Council 

From:              Karen Ginsberg, Community and Cultural Services Director

Subject:          Options for Addressing Use of City Parks and the Beach for Commercial Fitness Instruction, Classes or Camps



Recommended Action

Staff recommends that the City Council:

  1. Review and comment on  a proposed regulatory system to address the use of City parks and the beach for commercial fitness instruction, classes or camps, and
  2. Direct staff to prepare an amendment to Chapter 4.55 of the Municipal Code to create a new regulatory structure, permit system and use charges for all commercial fitness instruction, classes or camps in City parks and the beach.

Executive Summary

In response to Council direction, staff has developed a proposed regulatory system for non-City sponsored commercial fitness instruction, classes or camps offered in parks and the beach.  The new regulatory structure would include a change to the Municipal Code, new rules, and a permit system with permit and use charges.


After collecting feedback and suggestions from fitness trainers and residents, staff developed a proposed regulatory structure that largely achieves consensus.  The changes include: the need for a permit system; insurance; indemnification; compliance with existing business license and police permit rules; identification of parks appropriate for commercial fitness activity; and new rules addressing protection of park amenities. The areas where consensus was not achieved include:  the amount of use charges to be paid by trainers and instructors; and the extent of the restrictions in Palisades Park.




For several years, community members have regularly complained to staff about the proliferation of unregulated fitness training and boot camps in City parks and at the beach.  Most of the complaints about this activity refer to the intense use of the north end of Palisades Park. 


Staff has also received complaints from City sponsored class and camp instructors that commercial youth class and camps are setting up operation in open areas of the parks and at the beach without having to meet permit requirements and/or pay a use fee and thus are unfairly competing with City sponsored classes and camps.


During its January 19, 2012 meeting, the Recreation and Parks Commission reviewed this list of concerns.  The Commission recommended that Council direct staff to develop a regulatory system and suggested that staff research legal precedents, how other cities handle the issue, consider a lottery system and time and site limits for various activities. 


On April 10, 2012, staff brought these community concerns to the Council, and asked for direction. Council directed staff to return with options for addressing community concerns related to commercial fitness classes and large equipment in the parks and at the beach.



In preparation for developing options for a regulatory system, staff:

·         reviewed existing City use charges, especially charges imposed on instruction for compensation,

·         reviewed relevant codes and official park and beach rules,

·         developed an understanding of what private fitness instructors using City parks and the beach currently pay the City,

·         evaluated regulatory models and approaches used by other cities and the Los Angeles County Department of Beaches and Harbors,

·         surveyed existing classes and training activities in Palisades Park over a one week period,

·         conducted two public meetings; one focused on instructors and another for residents, and

·         at the request of the North of Montana Association (NOMA), made a presentation at a monthly meeting, and attended a subsequent meeting where the issue was discussed..


In addition, a staff presentation and public hearing was held at the November 15, 2012 meeting of the Recreation and Parks Commission.

Existing City Practices

The City currently has several regulatory processes in place that authorize instruction for compensation in City parks, park facilities and the beach.  For years, the City has required tennis instructors to obtain permits and pay fees for court use.  Surf instruction permits have been awarded since 2008 to a select number of instructors, all of whom have business licenses, pay permit fees, provide proof of insurance, and share a percentage of their revenues.  The City also contracts with instructors to conduct classes inside park facilities, outdoors, and at the beach with shared revenue and other requirements.  A summary of existing City practices can be found in Attachment A.  Most instructors pay at least 15% of gross revenues or an equivalent hourly rate for use of park facilities and specific park or beach areas (fields, courts, surf, etc.) and many pay a larger percentage.


Business License and Police Permits

As is true for all businesses operating in the City, commercial fitness instructors must obtain a City business license. In addition, police permits and finger printing are required for certain classifications of businesses, such as fitness instructors.  Below is a chart that shows the fees that are required of fitness trainers:


Business License Tax (annual)*


Fingerprinting fee (1 time fee)


Police Permit Fee (annual)


Zoning Review Fee (1 time per location)


State Mandated Fee (annual)





*Fitness trainers are required to pay the minimum business license tax of $75.00 for gross receipts of $0 to $60,000.  Applicants that generate less than $40,000 annually can claim the small business exemption which waives the minimum license tax of $75.00.  The gross receipts tax is based on $1000 of sales.  The tax rate for gross receipts over $60,000 is $3.00 per $1,000.


Information obtained from the Business License office showed that in FY 2012-2013 a total of 87 trainers’ accounts were established.  Of the 87 accounts, 52 were businesses grossing $40,000 or less; 7 businesses grossing $40,000 - $60,000; 12 businesses grossing $60,000 - $100,000; and 16 businesses grossing $100,000 or more. These business licenses were issued to trainers that work outdoors in a park or at the beach as well as those who work at an indoor fitness center or other facility.


The average total fee paid in FY 2012-2013 for a trainer with a business grossing $40,000 or less was $255.18.  This average included business license tax, the police permit fee, a one-time finger printing fee, a one-time zoning review fee and a State mandated fee.  


Other Cities/County Practices

Many nearby municipalities, including a number of beach cities, heavily regulate or prohibit commercial activity in parks and at the beach.  Redondo Beach requires all instructors/trainers to contract with the City through City-sponsored classes.  Los Angeles and Culver City, and Los Angeles County Department of Beaches and Harbors charge hourly use charges ($36 - $200 per hour) and/or a percentage of gross receipts for commercial fitness activity and camps.  Manhattan Beach screens trainers and limits permits by date, time and location (Attachment B). 


Palisades Park Use Survey

To understand the intensity of commercial fitness activity in Palisades Park, staff observed and recorded class locations, size and equipment for a one week period in late October.  Staff recorded 73 group classes and 74 private/semi-private classes (one to two participants) with the highest concentration of instruction taking place from 7:00am to 1:00pm between the blocks of San Vicente Blvd. and Idaho Avenue. Over 90% of the classes used some type of equipment which at times was attached to park


amenities including light poles, benches, historical structures as well as trees. (Attachment C)


Community Meetings

Two well-attended public meetings were held.  In June, staff gathered 35 trainers together to discuss neighbor concerns and develop initial options to address the concerns.  In early November, Palisades Park-adjacent residents were invited to join trainers and their clients (25 total participants) and provide feedback on a draft outline of a proposed regulatory system.  


Recreation and Parks Commission Recommendation

At the November 15, 2012 Recreation and Parks Commission meeting, staff presented options for a regulatory approach to commercial fitness instruction based on input from the community meetings, listened to extensive public testimony and adopted the following recommendations for Council consideration:

·         establish a permit system for commercial fitness instruction, classes, or camps held in a City park or at the beach with changes to municipal codes, as required;

·         implement a $100 annual fee to cover the cost of issuing an Instructor Permit;

·         implement a use charge of 15% of gross receipts;

·         impose no restrictions for equipment, or time of day;

·         impose no limit on the total number of permits issued; and

·         implement permit locations – parks for group classes, semi-private classes only (1-on-1 or -on-2), or no instruction.

For Palisades Park, the Commission recommended that:

·         commercial fitness classes and/or training be limited to private and semi-private classes only (1-on-1 or -on-2).  No group classes  would be allowed.

·         staff develop  a list of exercise equipment that would be prohibited in Palisades Park.

Following the Commission meeting, staff continued to correspond and meet with residents and trainers and their representatives to address the remaining areas of disagreement
related to limitations on group classes in Palisades Park, and the appropriate percentage of gross receipts to be charged.   Regrettably a resolution has not been fully achieved as trainers continue to feel strongly that Palisades Park should remain available to commercial group fitness instruction, classes and camps while residents continue to communicate displeasure with the intensity of use in Palisades Park, concerns about hours, equipment and damage to the park.  Trainers also say that the 15% of gross revenue use charge is too high.



Based on extensive research, analysis and public and Commission input, staff developed the following proposed permit and regulatory system for Council consideration:


Amend the Municipal Code to require City authorization of commercial fitness instruction, classes, or camps in City parks and the beach, and clarify terms such as “compensation” through definitions as needed.


Instructor Permit (Group/Camp and Private/Semi-Private):  

·         Annual permit fee of $100, ($150 for camps responding to an RFP). 

·         Use charge of 15% of gross receipts payable within 15 days of the end of each quarter. 

·         Application form, City business license, police permit, release of liability, and proof of insurance naming City as an additional insured.

·         Private/Semi-Private Permits are for instruction of classes of no more than 2 participants. 

·         Group/Camp Permits are for instruction of more than 2 participants and include commercial youth instruction, classes and camps in parks and on the beach. 

·         Class size, including instructors, cannot exceed 150 or an event permit would be required.

New Rules:

Park amenities may not be used for exercise activity except on existing City installed exercise equipment located on the par course at Clover Park. These include light poles, pergolas, picnic tables, benches, railings, chain link fencing, freestanding signs, bike racks, and barbeque grills (Attaching any wire, rope, swing or any object to any public tree is already prohibited in the Municipal Code [Chapter 7.40]).  Adults may not exercise on playground equipment.  Exercise equipment weighing over (25) pounds, is prohibited in all parks as it is deemed unsafe for use in the public setting. Permit holders may not request other park users or permittees to move to another location.

Permit Locations: 



(more than 2)


(1-1 and 1-2)


Airport Park




Barnard Linear Way




Beach Green




Beach Park #1




Clover Park




Crescent Bay Park




Douglas Park




Euclid  Park




Goose Egg Park




Hotchkiss Park




Joslyn Park




Marine Park




Memorial Park




Muscle Beach Park




Ocean View Park




Ozone Park




Pacific Street Park




Palisades Park




Park Drive Park




Reed Park




Schader Park




South Beach Park




Stewart Street Park




Tongva Park




Virginia Avenue Park





Palisades Park

Palisades Park is the City’s only park that is a designated City Landmark. In addition to having many historic structures and amenities in it, it has the heaviest concentration of fitness classes, is heavily used by the public, is quite narrow, and very close to residences.  Due to the reasons listed above, staff recommends:

Class Size:  allow  private and semi-private (1-on-1 and 1-on-2) commercial fitness instruction only

Equipment:  prohibit all exercise equipment weighing over 25 lbs.



As an alternative to staff recommendations above, City Council could consider the following:

Class Size: 

·         prohibit all commercial fitness instruction, classes or camps in Palisades Park, or

·         allow group commercial fitness instruction, classes or camps in Palisades Park with limitations on frequency and locations available, or

·         allow group commercial fitness instruction, classes or camps in Palisades Park but limit group size to no more than 10 participants with limitations on frequency and locations



·         prohibit use of all exercise equipment in Palisades Park, or

·         prohibit use of all exercise equipment in Palisades Park and other parks listed above as only for private/semi-private training (i.e., Goose Egg, Barnard Linear Way, Crescent Bay and Memorial Park),

·         place no restrictions on use of exercise equipment in any park, including Palisades Park.


Use Charge

·         establish a fixed use charge to be paid quarterly

·         adopt a use charge reflecting a lower percentage of gross receipts



Next Steps

Following direction from Council, staff will return to Council with an Ordinance in June revising Chapter 4.55 of the Municipal Code and will under the Director of Community and Cultural Services’ authority pursuant to section 4.55.420 of the Municipal Code add the above new rules to the City’s official park and beach rules.


Financial Impacts & Budget Actions

Establishment of a regulatory system for fitness instruction, classes or camps with a proposed permit fee and percentage of gross receipts will create a new General Fund revenue source to the City which staff will estimate following Council direction.  Should Council approve the regulatory system and use charges, staff will include the associated revenue in the FY 2013-15 proposed budget.



Prepared by: Wendy Pietrzak, Acting Community Use Administrator

                         Julie Silliman, Senior Administrative Analyst





Forwarded to Council:







Karen Ginsberg

Director, Community & Cultural Services


Rod Gould

City Manager




A.   Existing Santa Monica Practices

B.   Other City/County Practices

C.   Palisades Park Use Survey


Attachment A
Existing Santa Monica Practices



City-Contracted Classes:
Instructors or companies are contracted by the City though a Request for Proposal (RFP) process for community classes and camps. Contractors offer a range of activities and camps with registration and some marketing conducted by the City. The City retains a percentage of gross revenue ranging from 14% - 40% of registration fees.


Surf Instruction Permits:

Permittees are selected through a RFP process, pay a $150 annual permit fee, plus a percentage of gross receipts ranging from 15% to 20%. Other requirements include City business license and police permit, signed release of liability, and proof of insurance. 


Court Permits:

Permits are issued for instruction on tennis, basketball, and beach volleyball courts by the hour on a first-come-first-serve basis. Permit fees vary depending on location, hours, residency, activity type, number of participants, and are based on an hourly rate ranging from $10.00 to $64.00. 


Field Permits

Resident Camps, $25.00 - $35.00/hour depending on sport

Non-resident Camps, $31.00 - $37.50/hour depending on sport


Memorial Park Fitness Room and Gym (for non-exclusive use)

1 – 2 clients: $10.00/hour, $5.00/ ˝ hour.  Limited to 2 clients only


Permit Requirements

Application, application fee, use charge, business license, police permit, release of liability, and proof of insurance naming City as additionally insured may be required.

Attachment B
Other City/County Practices



Culver City

Most trainers participate in City-sponsored classes.  Some park “grassy” areas are rented at $36/$52 (res/non res) per hour.  Proof of insurance and business license required.  If activity conflicts with a City-sponsored class, they deny the permit.  Mechanical equipment, amplified sound, generators, and lights prohibited.  No permits issued for passive parks or parks where neighbors have objected to this type of activity. 


Beverly Hills

Trainers allowed with 1 or 2 clients.  Larger groups (more than 2), and  equipment is prohibited. 


West Hollywood

The City currently prohibits private tennis and golf instruction and is considering expanding this ordinance to address other types of instruction.  If a commercial activity conflicts with a City-sponsored class it is not allowed. 


Los Angeles

Boot Camp and Private Workshop charge is $60.00 per hour.  Proof of insurance is required.


Newport Beach

Commercial use of a park area to conduct training is $200 per hour for residents and $401 per hour for non-residents with a 2 hour minimum requirement. Beach areas cannot be reserved.  A business license and insurance is required. The citation for operating w/out a permit is $100 first time, $200 2nd time, and $500 3rd time.


Manhattan Beach

Commercial personal training  prohibited in all parks, fields and open space without permit. Permits are issued on a very limited basis and only for specific parks.  Permits are date, time and site specific. Permit holders must comply with rules, pay a $25 application fee, a $200 Annual Permit Fee and contribute 1% of gross receipts.


Redondo Beach

Only allows City-sponsored classes.


Los Angeles County Beaches and Harbors

All commercial activity on the beach and in beach parking lots requires authorization.  Camps/Training - $200 application fee + minimum $100 location charge (summer only) and 15% of gross receipts.  Day Use – flat rate or % of registration fee charged.


Attachment C
Palisades Park Use Survey




Dates of Survey:      October 24, 2012 through October 30, 2012

Hours of Survey:      6:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.


Number and Type of Classes

·         73 group classes (more than two participants) and

·         74 private/semi-private classes (one to two participants) with the



Highest concentration of instruction took place between the blocks of San Vicente Blvd. to Idaho Avenue. 


Hours of Classes

·         75% of the groups classes occurred between 7:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m.

·         82% of the private/semi-private classes occurred during these hours.  


Use of Equipment
Staff observed that 90% - 95% of the classes whether group or private/semi-private used some type of equipment such as yoga mats, hand weights, bench presses, kettle balls, cones, large ropes, and miscellaneous items such as chalk/white boards, boom boxes and signage promoting the class. 


Some of the equipment used was attached to park amenities.