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Oceanside looks to regulate beach use by summer

OCEANSIDE — Oceanside is looking at putting parameters on surf camps, fitness instruction and other commercial uses of its public parks and beaches.

Groups setting up tents in the sand, and staging workout sessions at the Pier Amphitheater, have grown to the point of blocking public access. Similar problems have been seen at city parks.

Gym owner and fitness instructor John Graves was among those who asked City Council to consider requiring commercial groups to have a business license and use permit at the Dec. 10 council workshop.

Graves said it is a matter of ensuring an even playing field for businesses.

“At last count in South Oceanside and the harbor there are 30 to 40 businesses going on,” Graves said.

He also expressed concern for the health and safety of students, and added a business license helps ensure trainers have certification and insurance.

City consultant, and former city manager, Peter Weiss said large commercial groups are demanding on city services, and limit public access to recreation areas.

He showed an advertisement for one fitness trainer who meets with students at city parks and beaches 10 times a week.

Weiss added unregulated use has also caused schedule conflicts. A meet-up fitness training group interfered with the annual Race Across America event that brings hundreds of participants and their support teams to the city.

“Our recommendation, at minimum, is to have a business license and property use agreement to adequately coordinate other uses for broader activities,” Weiss said.

Police, fire and lifeguard staff agreed with the recommendations.

Council gave direction to city staff to develop rules for fitness instruction, surf camps, day camps and other commercial uses of parks and beaches.

“They’re expanding bigger and bigger,” Mayor Jim Wood said. “The liability is extremely high using our property.”

The vote to draft regulations was 3-0-2, with Councilmen Jerry Kern and Jack Feller abstaining from the vote. During council discussion Kern said he didn’t think regulating park and beach use was “up to the city.”

Neighboring North County coastal cities have put restrictions on park and beach use. Encinitas requires commercial groups to have a business license and $250 annual use permit. Carlsbad state parks and Del Mar require groups to submit a request for proposal. Solana Beach prohibits private commercial use of its parks and beaches.

Oceanside staff will research options and present regulations to council after January. Weiss said input is welcome on what commercial groups and residents would like to see happen.

The city currently regulates beach vendors, organized sports activities and one-time special events at its parks and beaches.

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