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.