SILVER LAKE — The 1990s dance hit “The Power” blares from a portable stereo as a group of men and woman do push ups on colorful mats spread across the Silver Lake Meadow. “Nice job!” yells the fitness instructor leading the group. “Stay strong! Stay strong!” This is a Monday evening Full Body Conditioning class, the last of three outdoor fitness sessions that L.A. Beach Fit held that day in the public green space. While the classes have attracted paying customers, they have also rankled residents, who have complained about noisy 6 a.m. workouts and the use of public space for a commercial enterprise. “This is not supposed to be a commercial zone,” Silver Lake resident Renee Nahum said at a City Council committee meeting on Monday. “Anybody can open up a business there. It’s wrong.”
The fitness class at the meadow was an example of what residents and officials say are a wide variety of unpermitted and unregulated vending and business operations that takes place in park and open spaces across the city. The type of commercial activities ranges from pony rides and bike repair stations to swap meets and bacon-wrapped hot dog vendors.
It’s not clear whether L.A. Beach Fitness has a city permit to use the Silver Lake Meadow (The Eastsider has contacted the firm to find out). But it does not matter. City officials who spoke at Monday’s Arts, Parks Health, Aging & River Committee said the city is currently powerless to stop or even issue tickets for vending of products and services without a permit.
“Basically, anyone can set up a business in the park,” said Valerie Flores with the City Attorney’s office. “Right now the LAPD has no effective mechanism” to stop unpermitted vending.
The ordinance that would allow the city to shut down unpermitted businesses and vending in city parks was suspended about a decade ago in the wake of free-speech legal challenges. Those lawsuits have been resolved and an updated ordinance that complies with free speech protections but allows the city to regulate and issue vending permits is now making its way through City Hall. However, the ordinance, which was the subject of Monday’s committee hearing, has met with opposition from immigrant rights activists and vendor organizers, who claim the law’s penalties could leave many immigrant vendors vulnerable to deportation.
The committee voted 3-2 in favor of the amended ordinance, with council members Gil Cedillo and Curren D. Price voting against and council members Joe Buscaino, Tom LaBonge and Mitch O’Farrell voting in favor. The issue now goes before the full City Council.
Back in the Silver Lake Meadow, L.A. Beach Fitness charges $20 for individual classes, with discounts available if a membership is purchased. In addition to L.A. Beach Fitness, Yoga With Helen offers one-hour, $5 classes at the Silver Lake meadow.
Rudy Perez, who lives across from the Silver Lake Meadow, said he’s okay with kids playing in the meadow, kite flying, sunbathing and picnics. But at Monday’s hearing, he complained about the noisy music accompanying the 6 a.m. workouts. “My concern is the influx of all these classes and what further is going to happen to that area.”