City of San Diego Cracks Down on Beachside Yoga Classes

Amy Baack, a local yoga instructor, arrived at Sunset Cliffs on Wednesday evening to lead her donation-based yoga class, only to be greeted by three park ranger trucks parked directly on the cliff, barricading access to her class’ cliff location. The rangers informed Amy that a revised City of San Diego ordinance aimed at limiting illegal sidewalk vendors also prohibits providers from holding yoga, fitness, sound healing or wellness classes (including free and donation-based) at the city’s public parks and spaces. Offenders may be subject to fines or arrests.

This recent crackdown has left a wave of confusion and disappointment amongst wellness providers and participants alike, given that these locations are free to all for public use. During the height of the pandemic, these free or donation-based classes offered a safe haven for community gathering, and continue to be a lifeline for those that cannot afford a regular studio membership. Now, their future hangs in the balance. 

sunset cliffs yoga san diego

“What’s really getting to me is the messages I’m getting from people about how these classes have literally saved their life,” says Jacqueline Kowalik aka Yoga Jawn, a local yoga instructor whose donation-based beach sessions have been a staple for years. “Someone can literally walk off the street, join class and find a true community.”

Adding further frustration, many of these instructors have proactively sought proper permits from the City’s Parks and Rec department, only to be met with refusals. However, permits are available for weddings in these same locations that may have as many as 100 people in attendance.

“It’s crazy how someone can set up an altar, literally drill nail holes into the cliffs to put in an aisle, and my yoga class is the problem?” says Kowalik. 

Local residents have voiced their concerns about these classes contributing to increased traffic and noise pollution, as well as the potential commercialization of the City’s public spaces. However, there is very little money exchanging hands at these classes.

“Do I get donations for this? Sure, but I use it to fill gas in my car,” says Kowalik. “I’m not swimming in my money here!” 

The San Diego City Council has not yet provided a response to the local instructors. However, the lack of transparency leaves instructors, practitioners and participants in the dark. 

In the interim, Amy Baack has started a GoFundMe page to raise funds for potential legal fees and lobbying efforts to advocate for free use of these public spaces for any community gathering or class. Baack has asked concerned citizens to contact local city council representatives and voice their concerns to keep public use spaces accessible and free to all.

This is a developing story. Any news tips, send an email to hello@locallywell.com

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