By Frank Gormlie / OB Rag
The backlash is growing – the backlash against the use of our public beaches and coast areas by private clubs who host work-outs, volleyball games and yoga classes. About a week ago, the U-T published an article entitled, “Residents Cry Foul at Beach Courts’ Access” – how Carlsbad residents and beach-goers are complaining about a private volleyball club agreement with the state that gives their members priority on volleyball courts.
This echoes a “reader rant” just this summer here on the OB Rag about how a surf school takes too much space on the beach as well as in the ocean. The writer’s complaints about lack of access and safety issues found a lot of resonance among the commenters.
From my own personal experience, I occasionally bike on the Mission Beach Boardwalk and take it all the way to the “grassy knoll” at the foot of Law Street in PB called Palisades Park, a beautiful spot, with benches on grass overlooking the Pacific and sand far below. A couple of years ago, I noticed a small group of people doing yoga on one corner of the park – I smiled – it was cute. I used to do yoga and found it really helped me.
A month ago, on a weekend, I took the Boardwalk bike ride and pedaled over to the grassy knoll for my customary break before moving on. Much to my surprise, just about the entire park had been taken over by that small cute group of people doing yoga. I was aghast – there was hardly any space left for anyone else. I counted – there were literally 200 people on mats. The guy running it had to yell his commands out – and the folks over by my edge of the park surely couldn’t hear him very well.
This is not right, I thought. Where’s Turko and Files? Does this guy have a contract, a lease with the City Parks and Rec? I don’t know and never found out.
But the problem is not on Palisades Park, or on the sands of OB, or up in Carlsbad – it’s all over Southern California, where private gyms, work-out instructors, yoga-operators are increasingly taking their clients – who are usually charged a fee – out onto our public beaches and hilltop parks overlooking the ocean.
Just about a year ago, I wrote a report on the growing trend:
Throughout Southern California, from LA to OB, parks and beaches have been experiencing an influx of organized joggers or people exercising. Personal trainers are taking their classes out doors to public beaches and parks, to take advantage of the great weather. Every public beach has seen its swarm of organized fitness groups using the public space – at times – for a private profit.
There is a push-back happening. Local residents at different beach cities have taken issue with the group fitness classes. And they’re complaining about the human traffic jams in parks and on beaches enjoyed and appreciated for their beauty, solitude, nature-setting, etc.
Up in Santa Monica, the city is dealing with what it calls “fitness fanatics” in its Palisades Park, right on the ocean. The park has become a giant outdoor gym on most days with stunning ocean views. This has become a problem for local residents, whose complaints have been heard in City Hall. The city is talking about cracking down on the fitness craze, and officials are putting together guidelines to regulate trainers who use public parks and beaches for their classes, which could result in higher fees.
The LA Times reports that:
Even some personal trainers admit that the scene at Palisades Park has gotten out of control. Although some trainers and boot camp operators have city permits and insurance, there are unlicensed instructors there as well. The city estimated that in a single week in October, 73 group fitness classes and 74 private classes were held in Palisades Park. Trainers estimate that hundreds of people are served by a few dozen instructors.
Push-back, backlash, whatever. This is not just some “nimbyism” operating.
Californians fought long and hard, particularly in the Seventies, for public access to the State’s beaches, cliffs and coastline. Some of the results of those efforts include San Diego’s thirty-foot height limit and the California Coastal Commission.
Access to the beach, to the cliffs is sacrosanct.
Here below, is more on the Carlsbad controversy:
CARLSBAD — A private company that controls volleyball courts on Frazee Beach in Carlsbad under an unusual agreement with the state is drawing fire from some residents who say the courts should be free for everyone.
The complaints are surfacing as officials with the state Department of Parks and Recreation gather input on whether to continue with the agreement and possibly expand recreational concessions on other state beaches in the county. In the Carlsbad case, the Carlsbad Village Athletic Club — owned by Dennis Shay — reached a deal with California’s parks department about three years ago to operate four sand courts on the state-owned beach near Carlsbad Boulevard and Pine Avenue.
Under the agreement, members of the club pay dues to Shay and are granted priority access to three of the courts, which are fixed wooden poles that Shay installed in the sand to hold portable nets. The fourth court is supposed to remain free and open to the public. Critics say that’s not happening.
“They make people leave even if they (club members) are not using the poles,” said John Forester, whose home overlooks the courts. “It’s ridiculous.”
Other complaints state that Shay called the authorities on some beach-goers who refused to leave the courts.
But the article did note the trend – just with the state.
Though the courts concession is unique — a parks department spokeswoman said it’s the only one in the state — many other types of vendors operate on state parkland. There were 52 concessions — including snack bars, surf schools and tour operators — in San Diego County in the 2012-13 fiscal year that generated nearly $6 million in revenue for the parks department.
The beaches and coasts are not there for private clubs. They’re there for the public. And any incursion into that hard-won “public space” is not taken lightly by Southern Californians.
John Lawrence says
The new water perk in San Diego adjacent to the County Administration building has a “concession” which sells sandwiches, drinks and snacks to the public. You’d think the City would handle this sort of thing itself instead of letting a private company run it and charge big bucks for its services. Also I noticed that it wasn’t run very well. They were out of all sorts of stuff and were having a hell of a time trying to take care of simple business.
bob dorn says
We need this story repeated in many different apps. It is an indication that we no longer have enough money in circulation for government to operate traditional services. Government has to lease out those services. For example:
Any weekend in Balboa Park will feature either a marathon, a walk-a-thon, a halloween encampment, a benefit rock show. I know most or all these “community events” are intended to benefit disease research or sexual freedom or another worthy cause but the park is also littered with booths operated by for-profit companies exploiting the chance to sell an insurance policy or sausages and coffee to a hungry, foot-weary public out for a day in the city’s cluttered and shrunken green expanse.
The Heart (and Stroke) Assn. held a fundraiser by the War Memorial Building about a month ago, with rock and roll stage blaring music at 7 a.m. toward the residents in the neighborhood on a Saturday morning. I woke up to the sound and checked it out. The Heart (and Stroke) Assn. had a co-sponsor… Subway, with a semi-trailer advertising its cholesterol bombs parked outside. No fewer than 6 large tour buses were lined up on Park Blvd., their diesel engines running the entire time I was there. They weren’t going anywhere, they were just waiting for the foot-weary Subway pedamours to board the buses and be taken eventually to the lots where they were parked.
At this point, weekends are controlled by private-public enterprises and our many tourism promoters. We don’t have public space any longer.
Frank Gormlie says
Thanks editor for catching my lack of an apostrophy on the original headline.
Makes me happy that people are getting fed up with this hijacking of our, the people’s, property by private groups and business.
Up in Normal Heights there’s a guy who does dog training at Ward Canyon Park, part of his training is letting the dogs run off leash to teach them voice control, one that’s illegal, two it’s dangerous (what if the dog decides to chase a human), and three there’s a police substation right there.
I commented last week on all the events, concerts, and museums that deny on a regular basis access to our parks without payment.
tom 2 says
In OB, the volleyball courts (poles only, bring your own net & lines) are taken up by junior’s tournaments every other Sunday during the summer, plus a couple of Saturdays for adult tournaments and weekdays for more juniors. They leave the 4 courts by dog beach open, and put up a few additional temporary courts for their use. I don’t know what they pay the city (I would guess a few thousand); they do carry insurance. VAVI pays the city for a permit to set up their own nets on the sand north of Saratoga (except on holiday weekends) for their league with entry fees. In 2013, a generous person paid the city $3K to reserve the 4 courts SE of the bathroom for the summer weekends for a meetup that allowed all comers to play (for free).
I have mixed feelings. The beach is the place to play sand volleyball, but I wish the city would spread the tournaments around a bit more (Mission Beach and elsewhere) so non-tournament players aren’t preempted here half the weekends. [In the summer I need to play during the week.] As for impacts on non-players, most folks not playing volleyball either want to be closer to the water or on the grass, so I don’t think the courts preempt other folks uses (except frisbee, etc.). Parking is bad no matter what.
How do others perceive the issue in OB?
bob dorn says
Back to Balboa Park, and Bud Kearns Pool at Morley Field… Pt. Loma High School by itself gets a part of three days for its water polo team during which most lap swim lanes are closed to the public. I have to doubt Pt. Loma doesn’t have enough money to build its own pool.
The baseball diamonds are regularly reserved for use by some community colleges, for practices and games. The park is exhausted with moneymakers like the golf and frisbee golf courses, the Zoo. Add the Naval Hospital and the freeways and all you have left of the original 1400 acres is about 900 acres for commerce and 2oo acres for plants and people.
Gotta hope the ocean won’t be the next monetized neighborhood in America’s Finest City.
Tim Medved says
Since I’m an avid vballer I’m compelled to toss my opinion into this court and also relate an issue I have with the city provided sand courts. If a private group wants to use the city’s beaches (or parks) to setup volleyball nets for their customers, at minimum, the agreement should be they also set up and maintain nets for public use. If they want to setup one private net, they must setup a public one, two private nets mean two public nets etc. These poles, nets and lines should be available 7/24. The groups will actually see their businesses grow when they encourage the public to play on the public nets and get the real time exposure of their volleyball lessons, classes and leagues. These groups should also pay to play, and monies collected can go to providing more sand courts at beaches and also public parks throughout the city.
My issue with San Diego City’s sand courts is that the city provides the a few courts and poles, but NO NETS or lines! When I asked, the city parks supervisor stated “nets are not provided by the city, you must bring your own”. I equate this to providing tennis courts without nets, or basketball courts without hoops! Please enjoy our public basketball courts, but bring your own hoops. We provide a lot of public tennis courts, but you must provide your own net..can you imagine??
My last plug for public sand volleyball courts (including nets and lines) has to do with land and water use at city parks and city schools. My plea to fellow San Diegans and our elected officials: Stop watering expanses of public turf and put in a few sand volleyball courts, they will pay for themselves many times over in dollars, saved water and healthy patrons.
Important issue, encroachment/entitlement to public space, roads, parks, beaches….
our city sells off the public schools, libraries , swimming pools, military compounds (speaking for the beach area, district 2, home of our mayor) to private sport /club/condo developers, and leases to /tolerates almost anybody who has a startup online “hospitality”agenda, including private corporate bused in “beer crawls” on garnet ave, in PB, even in the middle,of the afternoon on a weekday? Laguna Beach has a crew that sets up shop on any available curb near the Fanuel St park for paddle boarding adventures in mission bay on the weekends… Citizens of San Diego will find their taxes going up to manage the impact of the sellable streets scenario that the park and rec and city planners are practicing…. And less access to their beaches and parks in return…
tom 2 says
There are permanent nets & lines (men & women’s heights, 8m & 9m courts) at South Mission Beach, originally funded by Bill Walton. I heard talk last Sunday of some folks passing a hat to buy a couple of replacement nets. I’ve heard various stories about the origin of the poles at OB, few if any of which were purchased by the city. At least some courts & replacement poles were simply put up by folks who play there, and are available to anyone with a net. But there’s a limit to how much more of the beach should be occupied by volleyball courts: a lot of folks do other things at the beach.
I think Bob Dorn is on to 2 big issues that interact:
1: the city not living up to its standards for recreational facilities in many communities, and planning for more housing in OB, Peninsula, Midway, etc. pushing them even further out of compliance, without planning for increased parks & facilities.
2: the city regularly & frequently allowing private groups (profit & non-profit) to reserve & use the recreation facilities and public spaces, often to the exclusion of the general public, for minimal if any payment, further reducing the available parks & facilities. Those payments may or may not be sufficient to plug some holes in the reduced parks & rec budget, or even to maintain those facilities (how are the charges computed, and where does the $$ go?).
1.5: Pools & ballfields shared by SD City Schools and Parks & Rec are becoming less available to the public, whether the pool at Morley field (I believe public but with increased school use) or the fields at Dana (SDUSD) that will no longer be available for public use after the upgrades.
Tim Medved says
Tom 2 you missed my point. I’m talking about San Diego City sand vollyball courts, not the private supplied poles/nets at OB and S. Mission beaches. There are sand courts at municipal parks on City property, two at DeAnza cove and one at Hourglass Park that I know of. This space is already dedicated to volleyball, there are poles but NO NETS!
Thanks to Frank and the many other SDFP contributors that continue to raise the key question: Is the public compensated fairly for private use of the commons?