Public nuisance hearing set for Hermosa Beach Crossfit gym

CrossFit Horsepower partners Dan Wells and Jed Sanford in 2014. Photo by Ryah Cooley

Hermosa Beach will conduct a public hearing this summer that could force major changes at Crossfit Horsepower, a Cypress Street gym at the center of a quality of life battle with some neighboring residents.

The City Council voted 3-0 at their Tuesday night meeting to schedule the nuisance hearing for their July 10 meeting. (Councilmembers Justin Massey and Mary Campbell recused themselves because of the proximity of their homes to the gym.) Tuesday’s vote does not deem Crossfit Horsepower a public nuisance but allows the July hearing to move forward. If the council were to ultimately pass a resolution declaring the gym a nuisance, city staff could impose operating conditions, enter the premises to ensure compliance, and bill the business for staff time.

Public nuisance is a designation that cities employ for a troublesome activity ranging from smoke-belching factories to liquor stores attracting street gangs. Declaring a business or property a nuisance requires determining whether activity there has certain effects, including harming health, offending the senses, or interfering with use and enjoyment of other property.

Councilmembers said that there was, on initial examination, sufficient evidence that Horsepower had those impacts, a decision based on what city staff described as a “long history of complaints” against the business by residents.

Horsepower’s owners and customers, however, said that staff offered a distorted history of the gym’s operations, and argued that they were being unfairly penalized based on a small number of complaints.  Co-owner Dan Wells said the frequent tussling over city code made it seem as though, “If a mouse farts, we get in trouble.”

“If this was really a public nuisance, you’d have hundreds of people here,” Wells said, gesturing at the relatively empty council chambers during discussion of the issue.

Hermosa has been weighing complaints against the gym for years. Since Horsepower opened in 2014, residents living nearby have complained about excessive noise and vibration caused by music, dropped weights, and members running on surrounding streets.

In April 2015, prosecutor Melanie Chavira announced she was considering a criminal case against the business over alleged violations of the city’s noise ordinance. But the case stalled because code enforcement officers were unable to witness violations. That lack of confirmation continued, Wells and co-owner Jed Sanford pointed out, saying the business has never been cited.

Nonetheless, residents living nearby maintain the issues are real and said that they have recently increased in intensity. “Our home often shakes. It feels like there’s an earthquake in-house,” said one woman who lives with her family on Loma Drive just east of the gym.

Community Development Director Ken Robertson said that the disconnect may be rooted in the time delay between a complaint coming in and an officer arriving to verify it, during which a violation may cease, only to repeat on subsequent occasions.

“Our challenge in code enforcement is in actually witnessing, seeing a violation of the code,” Robertson said.

In response to complaints, the business has agreed to a number of conditions over the years, and recently adopted a new fitness program, called CardioFlex, that is less reliant on noise-generating weights. And accusations of excessive enforcement dogged candidates in last November’s City Council elections, with critics pointing to the case against Horsepower as a prime example.

Nonetheless, councilmembers said that the public hearing on nuisance issues was needed. Mayor pro tem Stacey Armato claimed that the city was receiving complaints from residents about the gym on an almost daily basis.

“We want to reach a happy medium. The best way to do that is to hold a public hearing,” Armato said.


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