City Council Meeting: April 10, 2012
Agenda Item: 7-C
To: Mayor and City Council
From: Karen Ginsberg, Department Director
Subject: Ordinance Amending the Santa Monica Municipal Code Sections Relating to Park and Beach Use and Direction on Non-City Sponsored Fitness Classes in Parks and the Beach
This report recommends that the City Council:
1. Introduce for first reading the attached Ordinance updating, consolidating and improving sections of the Municipal Code that guide use of City parks and the beach.
2. Direct staff to return with options for addressing community concerns about non-City sponsored fitness classes in parks and the beach.
Sections of the Municipal Code that guide use and maintenance of City parks and the beach can be found throughout the Santa Monica Municipal Code (SMMC). Many of these code sections are outdated and confusing to staff and the public. In addition to consolidation and updates to the code, the attached Ordinance changes penalty options for violations, and restricts use of large exercise equipment in parks.
Staff also seeks direction from the Council on initiating a process to address community concerns about non-City sponsored fitness (personal trainers and boot camps) classes in parks and the beach.
Santa Monica Municipal Code sections guiding use and maintenance of City parks and the beach are currently found in a range of Chapters, from Chapter 3.12 Traffic Regulations, to Chapter 4.08 Disorderly Conduct, Nuisances, Etc., and Chapter 4.55 Park Maintenance. Certain codes were established as far back as the early 1950s and use terms and concepts are no longer relevant to current practices. Some of the codes address behaviors that lack serious consequences or are rare occurrences. To improve the code, staff recommends:
· Consolidating pertinent codes into a new Park and Beach Code to replace Chapter 4.55 the Park Maintenance Code
· Clarification of definitions and ambiguous language
· Consolidating closure codes into one Municipal Code section
· Extending some park codes to beach areas
· Adding a code section prohibiting use of large exercise equipment.
This Ordinance updates and organizes codes guiding public use of City parks and the beach. Certain sections of the existing code are repealed and other sections are moved. New or modified code sections are also proposed.
Staff recommends that the following code sections be repealed because they are out of date, redundant (addressed in another section of the SMMC), or have been taken over by other agencies:
· Ball playing within 300 feet of the mean high tide (Section 4.08.010)
· Police shall place signs (Section 4.08.030)
· Undressing on the beach (Section 4.08.070)
· Picnicking in playgrounds (Section 4.08.100)
· City not responsible for children left in playgrounds (Section 4.08.120)
· Children in wet bathing suits not permitted on playground equipment (4.08.130)
· Tents and umbrellas not permitted in playgrounds (Section 4.08.140)
· Children not obeying playground supervisors shall be excluded from playground (Section 4.08.150)
· Children with a contagious disease shall not come to a City playground (Section 4.08.160)
· Use of equipment at Muscle Beach after sunset and before sunrise (Section 4.08.096)
· Picking flowers not allowed (Section 4.08.320).
Additions or Modifications to the Code
Staff recommends that the following additions or modifications be incorporated in the proposed new Parks and Beach Code:
· That the names of new parks be added to the list of parks under “Definitions”.
· That the “Definitions” section be updated to reflect current amenities and accurate descriptions.
· That the code section guiding vehicles on the beach clarifies that permits issued will ensure “protection of public safety and adjacent private and public properties.”
· That the code on tennis instruction be updated to reflect that a City business license is required as part of the permit process.
· That code sections regulating parks that are related to destruction of facilities or foliage; golfing; maintenance of clear accessways; leaving property; interference with maintenance activities; and fire hazards be extended to apply at the beach.
· That the Department authority to create Rules and Regulations for parks be extended to the beach.
· That a range of appropriate penalties (misdemeanor, infraction or administrative citation) be authorized for violations of the new Park and Beach Code, and Rules and Regulations for park and beach use.
Use of Large Exercise Equipment in City Parks
On February 23, 2010 the City Council approved an ordinance restricting the use of all exercise equipment on the 4th Street median and parkways near the Adelaide Stairs. Consequently, equipment users have moved their activities to nearby City parks where exercise equipment is not prohibited. Exercise equipment is now regularly used in City parks, especially at the northern end of Palisades Park. This equipment ranges from yoga mats and hand weights, to large pieces of equipment such as weight lifting tables and bar bells and massage tables. Staff believes that the large equipment impedes the public’s enjoyment of City parks and causes damage to park facilities, especially turf. For this reason, staff proposes that the new Park and Beach Code include a section prohibiting large exercise equipment from being brought into parks. That section also allows the Director of Community and Cultural Services to authorize the use of large equipment if it is determined that the equipment will not damage park foliage or facilities, interfere with the public’s use and enjoyment of the park, or interfere with normal park operations.
Community Complaints about Non-City Sponsored Fitness Classes and Instruction
While the City seeks to promote fitness and health, and encourages the public to use the City’s parks and the beach for vigorous exercise, in recent years the number of non-City sponsored instructors or trainers leading fitness groups and activities, from “Stroller Strides” in parks to “Boot Camps” in parks and at the beach has grown exponentially. The density of this activity over time erodes amenities and infrastructure and can prevent the public from enjoying the park and the beach as groups dominate use areas, benches, paths and other amenities. Community members regularly complain to Community and Cultural Services staff that:
· businesses are making a profit on City land without compensation to the City
· the City is at risk for allowing businesses to operate without insurance
· groups impede pedestrians seeking to use paths
· groups prevent the public from using park and beach areas and amenities
· instructors and their clients exercise by attaching exercise bands to park light poles, railings, picnic tables, park benches and trees which can cause damage
· fitness trainers seeking to motivate their clients yell loudly and disturb nearby residents, especially during early morning hours.
In order to begin to address these issues, staff recommends that the Council direct staff to return to Council with a report on options to address the proliferation of fitness classes and boot camps in the parks and at the beach.
If the Ordinance revising park and beach use codes is approved by the Council, the Director of Community and Cultural Services will have the authority to promulgate regulations to protect park and beach areas in order to “ensure their availability as a shared resource for all members of the public.”
Over the years, the department has, through the Director’s authority, developed rules mainly for park use areas which complement but are in addition to the SMMC. In a future Information Item to Council, the Director will submit a consolidated list of official Park and Beach Rules and Regulations. Following distribution of the Information Item to the City Council, the Rules and Regulations will be placed on file with the City Clerk and posted on the City’s web site.
During its January 19, 2012 meeting, the Recreation and Parks Commission reviewed and discussed the proposed changes to the SMMC regarding park and beach use. Commissioners unanimously supported the proposed modifications to the code. Commissioners also reviewed the list of community complaints regarding non-City sponsored fitness classes in parks, concurred with the list, and recommended that Council give staff direction to look into regulating non-City sponsored fitness classes in parks and at the beach.