Palisades Park: Santa Monica's Best Idea

Palisades Park is world-renowned. It's a magnificent urban forest, a unique biome, a western landmark, and our city's most valuable asset. Today it needs a little help from its friends.


Do city restrictions on commercial fitness groups help reclaim the park?

Have trainers been allowed to continue the same unsustainable abuses?

We are delighted with the new restoration efforts. 

But will the restoration last, now that the city has permitted 20 new boot camps? Will they be watching for this? 

Boot camps — permitted


On October 8th the City Council sanctioned 20 commercial training groups with up to 15 members each, all potentially operating at the same time.


The impact for the newly permitted boot camps is bound to be significant.  The potential for degradation from the proposed daily, weekly, monthly pounding on the grasses and soils is bound to be significant on the Park's fragile ecosystem.


Scientific study of their impact — not permitted


How will the city monitor such impacts? They do not say. When will it decide enough is enough? They do not say. Will they allow the land to return to the former degradation, a condition which it tolerated for many years and brought about by excessive abuse from trainers and boot camps


Will the current restoration effort proceed to all areas of the park, to all the proposed and currently degraded zones? There is unfortunately no known plan for the park's complete restoration, nor is it mentioned in the staff proposal.


Thus we urge the Council to establish a moratorium on all commercial training groups until full restoration has been completed, wait until all the grasses and soils have been fully restored in all five of the proposed training zones.


Thus city staff and landscape staff will both have an established benchmark — full restoration. They will have a clear and scientific picture by which to gauge impacts of the trainers.


No one is watching


The new ordinance allows trainers to continue using already eroded and degraded soils, often the results of their own activity. This is a step backwards, into ignorance, and in disregard for earth science. It also makes it impossible to monitor their impacts. When no one is wathching they see nothing.


We urge city staff to scientifically monitor the conditions of the Park's soils and grasses. There are easy tests with simple scientific instruments by which city staff can monitor the condition of the soil, especialy in the compaction, which is the most likely impact from a boot camp working out on the grass.  


All licensed trainers also should be required to follow established guidelines for sustainable use. Such guidelines currently do not exist. Another reason city managers do not iseem serious about protecting our most significant landmark. 


But even this new proposal sidesteps three critical questions:


1. Is Palisades Park active or passive? Historically it has always been a passive park. It has been designed and managed so since its founding. Please see our page: Is Palisades Park Active of Passive?


2. Does the city really want to set a precedent of monetizing our public parks? How, for example, would a commercial trainer be distinguished from a commercial vendor selling gum, maps, or sun glasses?


3. Is the city prepared to maintain Palisades Park for active use? The costs will be very high indeed. Please see our page on managing for active use. 


Have they addressed any of these issues?

See our video on the spirit of Palisades Park

What Friends and Neighbors Are Saying about Palisades Park

"Palisades Park is one of the great parks of the world...It is also special because it represents the beginning ...of the American continent and overlooks the Pacific. It has the power of imagination by its presence." 


Commissioner Richard McKinnonCity Planning Commission



"This is my to go spot when I need a day of clarity and escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday frantic LA life. I absolutely LOVE it here. The view is amazing, the path is gorgeous, and the air is always crisp."  

Diane T.


"This park is a little slice of heaven. I love to come here on a Sunday afternoon and go for a walk and then lay out on the grass and read magazines, stare up at the palm trees ... I always feel at peace here. ... when I finally tear myself away ... I always feel so refreshed and recharged. This is truly one of Los Angeles' gems."

A. T.


"Run, sit, read, or ponder your navel it's good for it all. The park has monuments, the park has shade, the park has benches what else do you want? Oh duh it's the best damn view of the Pacific Ocean at ground level in the LA area!"

Orville C.


"This park has been featured in many movies, tv shows and in cinema. Even though Santa Monica tends to be very crowded and congested, this park is truly a hidden gem in the bumper to bumper concrete jungle of west LA. I highly recommend you come here and just watch a relaxing sunset, or bring your journal and write some poems!"

Sam N.


"This is a highly frolicable park.  Stare at the ocean, it is free therapy. Bring people visiting LA to this place with a packed lunch.  Guaranteed great day."

Ryan U.


"Palisades Park is where the real L.A. meets the movie L.A. Homeless people hang out here, yes. And why not? It's paradise. The city runs to the ocean and is stopped by a crumbling cliff. It's here that Palisades Park, a strip of immaculate green grass crisscrossed by paved and earth paths lined with trees and benches, stretches for several miles. There's a war memorial, a world-class rose garden, large-scale sculpture, drinking fountains and clean restrooms. What more do you want?" 

Angelique L.


"In my opinion, this is SM's version of Central Park. Where else can you run on a trail on a 3 mile bluff that over looks the ocean? There are rose gardens, a huge variety of trees, tables where old people play chess and picnic, tons of spots to throw down a blanket and read..."

James M.


See more comments at Yelp's page on Palisades Park

Does Palisades Park face a tragedy of our own making?



Palisades Park is the most popular park on the west coast, popular with tourist, residents, and athletes. With such intense use it now faces a tragedy of the commons. That is, although each individual user of the park intends no harm, the cumulative total impact is destroying the park. For now the greatest impact is to the parks soils and its grasses.


See current documentation in photos and personal observations here


Learn more about what economists call "a tragedy of the commons" and how it applies to Palisades Park.

Is Palisades Park Passive or Active?

A City Council decision could tarnish the Park's legacy, alter its historic character, and commit the Park to a future of more abuse.



Above: Palisades Park has always, since the beginning of its time, been a passive park. But now, in recent years, it has suddenly gone active! 


The costs of "going active" to the city and to the Park are no slight matter and could double in the near future.  Converting a Park from passive mode to active mode requires the city to adjusts management strategies. 


Just the costs of retrofiting the lawns and soils for intense active use could run into the millions. This is a serious concern for a cash-strapped city management.


Learn more about the pending financial challenges:


The Most Important Question Facing City Council: Is Palisades Park Active or Passive?


Erosion is the enemy of the Park, so why are we ignoring it?

Humans are contributing—by destroying the soil composition and eroding the grasses




Excessive human activity compacts soils. When soils are compacted they lose their texture, microbiological processes cease to function, and rainwater cannot percolate into the soil.


Learn more about the Park's fragile ecossystem:  Soils and Erosion

Soil compaction is a result of human abuse


The Parks unique soils are a combination of clay and silt are thus highly susceptable to erosion.


When rain falls, the water can't percoilate into hard compacted soils and will run off the surface. Eventually this rain overflows the park's edge and erodes the western bluffs.


See the consequences of human activity: Palisades Park:  A Tragedy of the Commons


Tourists flock to Palisades Park

A critical natural refuge from the hustle and bustle of downtown attractions

Are we recognizing the true economic value of this park?


While the city may receive some revenue from trainers who use Palisades Park, a far larger industry, one critical to the economic viability of our city, absolutely depends on Palisades Park: tourism.


Palisades Park is the most significant natural open public space near doowntown. It provides shade, water, restrooms, green lawns, benches and spectacular views! It is an vital enhancement for tourists on whom the city greatly depends. 


In developing the ciity's new Tongva Park, city staff envisioned a vital role for Palisades Park. 


According to The Santa Monica Convention & Visitors Bureau: 


  • 1.53 billion dollars is generated by tourism each year.
  • Over 70% of hotel visitors do not use a car once they arrive in Santa Monica.


Learn more: Tourism Depends on Palisades Park



How is Palisades Park like Atlas, the Titan?

—the resemblance is uncanny!

We often think of Atlas as the heroic Titan condemed by Zeus to the task of holding up the world. This is the image that Ayn Rand refers to in her philosophy.


In the real story, Atlas was assigned the task not of holding up the sky, but of keeping the sky, not the earth, at bay. 


Why should Atlas hold up the sky? Because the sky is the source of all erosion, the most destructive force of the universe. When it rains and pounds, and pilages the land, it destroys and washes away terrestrial life. Thus, Zeus thought, the earth needs someone to hold the sky at bay; it needs a Titan, like Atlas.


Atlas is a great symbol for Palisades Park, which in itself is a complex ecological system of soils and plants and trees who absorb the brunt force of all storms. This is the true reason for Palisades Park. It was built to hold up the sky.  Read more about the history of this fascinating park.

PLEASE SIGN THE PETITION HERE: Keep Palisades Park Green! 


And share your thoughts below.


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October 6


Palisades Park has always been a special refuge for families, individuals and nature...except for as of late. It's been so sad to see the park degraded in so many ways by the numerous boot camps and excercise groups that have taken over much of the park. We can no longer enjoy our quiet picnics, or our cherished peaceful walks due to the plethora of loud and agressive training classes. It's tragic to see the grass worn down and the habitat compromised. Palisades park should not be a venue for commercial enterprises!

My family and I support your efforts to keep the park as natural and as peaceful as possible Thank you so much for your efforts!


—Susan B


August 5, 2013


Wonderful!   —Christine P.

August 5, 2013


I go to Palisades Park with my family and love to just walk there and unwind with my family.  I hate to see the grass and plants dying because business people don't want to pay for space to run their businesses.
I understand that some people like to work out in the outdoors.  Perhaps we can all compromise and a certain area can be converted to "active" use that the trainers will rent from the city.  The rent will pay for the conversion and ongoing maintenance.


—Kelly T

August 6, 2013


We are former So. Californians, who love to return to visit the Santa Monica area.   Each time we spend refreshing hours in your lovely park, and would like to be able to vote to keep it as healthy and beautiful as possible.



August 12, 2013


This is one of my favorite spots in the world. When I was traveling outside the state and outside the country a vision of Palisades Park in my memory is what kept me certain that I would return to Santa Monica.


Kathryn B

August 14, 2013


This park is life blood, soul food, relief, succor, sustenance, BEAUTY.


Irene B

September 9, 2013


I love the park and all its varied activities. Those who exercise on the park have inspired me to exercise. I lovew to see the park used for everything and everyone. Please keep it that way.


Nancy B


Thanks for you comment, Nancy.


Yes, we too love the park and we are inspired by all those who exercise there.


But as with all things of nature we must also respect the beauty and life. We must exercise sustainably, and with a light footprint; we must leave the park and soils undisturbed in all their living, thriving, magnificance. 


You, we, can all be Active and Sustainable in Santa Monica. Learn more on how to do so in Palisades Park, a delicate and fragile ecosystem.