It's official. Council Votes to Allow Commercial Fitness in Palisades Park
You might have thought the parks ordinance went down to defeat on Tuesday. You would have been right. But only briefly.
In a 3-3 tie, the City Council failed to pass the proposed ordinance that allowed commercial fitness trainers in city parks. The proposed ordinance had drawn sharp criticism from a coalition of all the city's seven neighborhood groups, as well as the Recreation & Parks Commission and the Landmarks Commission (see below). Council Members McKeown, Holbrook and Vazquez voted against the measure, with Mayor O'Connor and Council Members Davis and Winterer voting for it. With Council Member Terry O'Day absent, the ordinance appeared to be dead. For a while.
Then about half an hour later, Council member McKeown made a motion to reconsider. By the time it was all over, the parks ordinance permitting commercial training that had died earlier was revived and passed in a 4-2 vote. McKeown's "yes" vote was joined by O'Connor, Winterer and Davis; Opposed were Holbrook and Vazquez. Council Member Terry O'Day was still absent.
McKeown said he strongly opposed commercial training in Palisades Park and termed the ordinance "inadequate," but argued that it was better than nothing in offering some protection to the city's parks. Both Vazquez and Holbrook, who voted against the ordinance, joined McKeown in voicing strong opposition to commercial training in Palisades Park. Vazquez favored asking city staff to redraw the ordinance to include stronger restrictions on trainers in Palisades Park.
Holbrook said he had received an avalanche of complaints from the public on the issue. "I have had my rear end chewed out up one side and down the other about Palisades Park and what we're doing to it with the trainers there, " he said. "I have had leaders of neighborhood organizations saying, 'What is wrong with you people? Aren't you listening?' ... It's been loud. It's been continuous -- it's probably the loudest thing I've heard since the tree issue and shrubbery issues and the fence issue ... it's a big, big thing brewing in the community. It's erupting. All I wanted to do was protect Palisades Park."
Council Member McKeown later sent out an email explaining his actions, which is attached here. See also the analysis of the night's activities by Peggy Clifford at the Santa Monica Dispatch here. The video of the council meeting is on the council's website here. The reconsideration of the parks matter begins at about 4:06.
Many, many thanks to everyone for all your good work on this issue. The neighborhood groups stood united in seeking curbs to commercialism in our parks, and we found out which council members were listening.
The newly approved ordinance takes effect in 30 days. The next phase will likely involve working with the city to monitor the situation, and insisting that enforcement be properly funded and implemented in all city parks. We will share more information as it becomes available.
Neighborhood Groups Ask Council To Reconsider: Ban Fitness Trainers From Palisades Park
The Boards of NOMA,Northeast Neighbors, Wilmont and Mid City Neighbors have joined in calling upon City Council to reconsider its decision to allow commercial fitness trainers to operate profit-making businesses in landmarked Palisades Park.
Our message: "Ban all commercial fitness activity from Palisades Park."
The letter follows here.
TO: The members of the Santa Monica City Council
CC: Media contacts, City Manager, Santa Monica Conservancy, Friends of Palisades Park, Parks and Recreation Commission, Landmarks Commission
FROM: The North of Montana Association; Santa Monica Northeast Neighbors; Wilshire Montana Neighborhood Coalition; Santa Monica Mid City Neighbors;
SUBJECT: Amendment to Chapter 4.55 of the Municipal Code Related to Commercial Fitness at Palisades Park – Council action on October 8, 2013
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 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
October 9, 2013 -- Santa Monica City Council voted 5-1 last night to approve a measure that will permit commercial trainers to operate in Palisades Park and other city parks. The measure bars trainers from Palisades Park on Sunday, and imposes sliding fees for trainers. A surcharge was placed on fees for trainers who operate in Palisades Park.
Voting in favor of the measure were Council members Kevin McKeown, Ted Winterer, Bob Holbrook, Gleam Davis and Terry O'Day, with Council member Tony Vazquez voting against. Mayor Pam O'Connor was absent.
The vote followed a failed effort by Council member McKeown to add Palisades Park to a list of city parks in which commercial trainers would be prohibited from operating. McKeown's motion was seconded by Council member Vazquez, and failed to gain a majority. Voting in favor of McKeown's motion were Council members McKeown, Vazquez and Holbrook; opposed were Davis, Winterer and O'Day.
The North of Montana Association has consistently opposed the idea of allowing commercial trainers to use Palisades Park for profit-making businesses. (See letter below.)
Following the vote, Council Member McKeown sent the following email to NOMA representatives:
From: Kevin McKeown <firstname.lastname@example.org> To: Kevin McKeown <email@example.com> Sent: Wed, Oct 9, 2013 12:26 am Subject: Palisades Park disappointing outcome
I tried tonight to stop all commercial training in Palisades Park, making a motion to add Palisades to the list of parks where all training is prohibited. There just weren't the votes. With six Councilmembers on the dais, the closest we got was a 3-3 stalemate.
I tried to move the rest of the licensing scheme forward, but with a one year moratorium on any use of Palisades Park. Again, a 3-3 deadlock.
What finally passed was a program prohibiting commercial use of Palisades Park on Sunday (I wanted all weekend, but, again, couldn't get a majority of four votes) and with a 50% surcharge for trainers on permits for Palisades Park, which may be an incentive for them to use other parks, particularly Reed Park where there is a discount on permits.
Thank you to those who came and testified, or wrote to the Council via email. You changed my mind, but needed to change one more.
Subject: Council Agenda Item 7A – Commercial fitness or athletic classes in City Parks
We are writing to object in the strongest possible terms to the recommendation which comes before you tonight in Agenda Item 7A, which would allow commercial fitness or athletic activities in Palisades Park and other city parks.
As you know, The North of Montana Association has urged rejection of this idea in the past. So have both the Recreation and Parks Commission and the Landmarks Commission.
And now we have learned that the city staff has met and negotiated with the Fitness Trainers Coalition to arrive at this so-called compromise, but not with NOMA or the other above-named commissions.
To say that this is distressing is a vast understatement.
The city staff has failed to include in their talks the very organizations which represent the primary stakeholders here – the residents, voters and taxpayers of our city.
We ask you: How can such a recommendation go forward without the participation of the stakeholders? Why is the staff honoring the wishes of a small but vocal group of fitness or athletic trainers who are conducting profit-making business on City property?
We remain firmly opposed to allowing commercial fitness activities in historic Palisades Park and nearby Goose Egg Park.
We also have grave reservations about the application of this proposed staff recommendation with regard to other city parks. We would be prepared to discuss them with city representatives in the event that a genuine “negotiation” might ever take place.
Among our concerns are the following:
-- Designated areas – The designated areas as proposed put an unfair burden on the North of Montana neighborhood. This is unacceptable.
--Enforceability – We strongly question whether the City can and will enforce these regulations. What is the impact on staffing?
-- Size of classes -- 15 maximum. This is a large group. What is the justification for this number? Has this been driven by the trainer coalition?
--Weight of equipment -- 25 pounds max. What does this mean? 25 pounds per participant? Per class? A 25-pound weight is heavy and will damage turf. Please prohibit all equipment in all city parks, or substantially reduce the weight limit and clarify how that weight limit is determined. Again, Staff recommendation seems to be driven by the trainer coalition. And enforceability will always be an issue.
-- Time restrictions -- 6 am start time. This will place an undue burden of noise and congestion on designated areas that are adjacent to residential areas and apartments. This start time is clearly another response to trainers, not residents.
--Permit fees -- $100/year, 15% of gross receipts per quarter. This seems inadequate to cover the cost of repairing the damage that will surely result from intense park use. What is the justification for $100, vs. $200 or any other amount? What is the enforcement mechanism?
--Education -- Any proposal under discussion should include a requirement that trainers undergo an orientation with regard to the history and features of Palisades Park, emphasizing its importance as a Santa Monica Landmark and the need to protect the features and landscape of this world-class park.
--Anticipated revenue -- Staff's projected revenue source of $63,000 would hardly seem to cover the expenses that the City will incur for administration, enforcement and increased park maintenance for this new program. It is also astonishing to note that the $63,000 to the General Fund has already been included in the adopted 2013-2014 budget, even prior to the adoption of the Staff-recommended program.
In conclusion, we urge you to reject the proposal before you. Do not allow commercial trainers to operate in historic Palisades Park or nearby Goose Egg Park under any circumstances. If further consideration of this matter is merited as regards other city parks, the city must consult with the true stakeholders here: the residents.
The intensive development planned for downtown Santa Monica is likely to impact the whole city. But just what kinds of impacts will the planned tall, dense projects have on traffic circulation, parking, water use, air quality, green space and safety?
To assure that the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for downtown Santa Monica addresses all potential impacts of concern to you, please join residents from throughout the city at the "scoping" meeting Thursday, Oct. 3, at the Civic Center beginning at 6:30 p.m. The purpose of the meeting is to take public input on issues to be studied in the EIR.
Your input is critical. Attached below for your convenience is a list of talking points developed by NOMA's Land Use Committee. Please feel free to use this list to brainstorm ideas and put them in your own words.
Free parking is available in the Civic Center parking lot. If you need a ride, please contact us at NOMABOARD@gmail.com and we will form carpools. Hope to see you there!
Thursday, October 3, 2013 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. Civic Center – East Wing 1855 Main Street
PLEASE NOTE: NOMA’S REGULARLY SCHEDULED OCTOBER 3 MEETING HAS BEEN CANCELLED TO PERMIT ALL MEMBERS TO COME TO THE CIVIC CENTER MEETING INSTEAD. Our next regularly scheduled meeting will be held on Thursday, November 7.
To: The members of the Planning Commission, Planning Staff, City Council, City Manager, City Attorney
From: North of Montana Association, Board of Directors
With this letter, the North of Montana Association outlines the areas of focus, concern and anticipated factors of study that we expect to be addressed in the upcoming Environmental Impact Report study for the Downtown Specific Plan. As residents, key stakeholders and community partners, we would respectfully request that these areas be addressed comprehensively in the EIR. Please consider this letter a list, not necessarily a comprehensive list, of the areas we expect to be addressed in specific detail with respect to the Downtown Specific Plan.
1. Before any projects are advanced through the planning process, it is essential that the city complete an EIR study of at least two scenarios for its downtown, using as its baseline the current state of the downtown:
Scenario one: Building out everything to the maximum extent permitted under current zoning.
Scenario two: Adding to scenario one the proposed modifications for the eight so-called "opportunity sites”.
2. Please measure potential environmental impacts in at least the following areas:
2. Increased water usage, and adverse impact on city's ability to meet water goals
3. Increased electricity usage and potential reduction in stability of the power grid
4. Air quality
8. Effects on the underlying geology of the downtown, particularly as regards potential seismic activity.
9. Access by first responders in a timely fashion -- potential slowing of response time
10. Visual impact -- light/shadow on the streets and sidewalks
11. New costs to the city vs. expected new revenues
12. Changes in the character of our community
13. Added population
14. New car trips daily, broken out by time of day
15. Increase in number of public school students
16. Increase in use of the parks
17. Increase in demand for use of public facilities, including ball fields, meeting venues and other public spaces
18. Increase in daily volume of sewage and cost of hauling/treating it
19. Increase in daily trash and recycling (in tons), and cost of hauling/processing it
20. Increase in demand for hospital and ambulance services, and cost of providing it
21. Increase in demand for fire fighters and equipment
22. Increase in demand for police officers and equipment.
23. Increase in demand for public school services, including teachers, classroom space and administrative support
24. Increase in demand for public transportation.
25. Potential adverse impact of additional traffic on Santa Monica intersections, by name.
26. Potential adverse impact of additional traffic on through-trips by commuters who reside in nearby communities
27. Potential adverse impact of additional Santa Monica traffic congestion on adjacent and nearby communities (West Los Angeles, Brentwood, Pacific Palisades, Culver City, Venice, etc.)
3. Is it legal under the California Environmental Quality Act for the city to be advancing development projects prior to the completion of the required environmental impact report? This seems pertinent in light of recent statements by members of the Rent Control Board that the RCB was forced under threat of lawsuit to approve the withdrawal of rental units at Village Trailer Park, suggesting that advancing a project creates some legal rights for the developers before final approval is given.
4. There have been discussions about requiring deed restrictions on affordable units so that only people who work in Santa Monica can live in the units. Are such deed restrictions legal? Are they enforceable?
5. How can we accurately assess the impact of new residents and car trips on the city when we have no realistic way to assure that scarce in-town housing units are occupied by people who work in Santa Monica?
6. How can we accurately assess the impact of new businesses on car trips and traffic in Santa Monica when we have no legal way to ensure that such businesses will hire local residents? Or could we include such a requirement in the Development Agreement (DA)?
7. More than $1.5 million in political donations have been made by developers in recent City elections. We know that developers who made these contributions stand to reap profits of hundreds of millions of dollars if the City Council approves additional height and density over current limits for their buildings, and they are seeking to gain advantage in this political process. It is customary in Santa Monica for council members not to recuse themselves from matters before council in which their campaign donors stand to benefit financially. Will each member of the City Council make public, on a current basis, the amount and source of all contributions and loans they have accepted from developers, people associated with developers, and developer-funded PACs, over the past five years? Residents don't want density and height downtown, but developers have more money than residents. We need to study the influence of developer donations on our City Council and the politics of our city. Please include that in the EIR.
8. Questions continue to be raised about the potential effectiveness of Traffic Demand Management (TDM) efforts to reduce congestion in our city.
a. What enforcement mechanisms will be put in place to require the developers to fulfill the terms of traffic demand agreements that they make with the city? How will the city ensure that TDMs will be implemented by subsequent owners in the event that properties are sold?
b. Given that we are seeking to apply TDM measures to new developments in the city, should the practices not also be applied to existing large-scale employers, both private and public, such as the City of Santa Monica? In view of the fact that the City government is the largest employer within the city, what effective mechanisms will be put in place to ensure that the city requires its employees to use vanpools, carpools and other methods of transit as a way of decreasing traffic congestion?
9. The city has already stated that it is unlikely to be able to achieve its goals for reduced water usage by the year 2020, given the existing level of development in the city. Please provide an estimate for the expected water shortfall by the year 2030 under each of the following three scenarios:
1) With the downtown at its present state;
2) With the downtown built out to 84 feet, and
3) With the downtown fully built out plus with the eight “opportunity sites” fully built out?
10. Assuming that the Development Agreement proposals currently submitted to the city within the first three years of the LUCE are all implemented, the population of the city as projected by the LUCE for the year 2030 will be achieved within the next decade. Does then the city have a revised population estimate for the year 2030, broken out in the following ways:
1) With the downtown at its present state;
2) With the downtown built out to 84 feet, and
3) With the downtown fully built out plus with the eight “opportunity sites” fully built out?
The EIR cannot be completed without access to such population data.
We thank you for the work you have done to date. We look forward to working together with the city to ensure conformance with the LUCE and identify potential environmental impacts that could result from anticipated development in the downtown.
The Board of Directors
North of Montana Association
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