Lawsuit Filed Over City of San Diego’s Beach Yoga Ban

san diego yoga instructors file lawsuit yoga ban
Photo Credit: Amy Baack

Two San Diego yoga instructors have taken their fight to the mat, filing a lawsuit in federal court on Monday against the City over a recent ordinance that effectively bans free and donation-based beach yoga classes led without a permit.

This revised ordinance in the City of San Diego’s municipal code now prohibits groups consisting of four or more people engaged in commercial recreational activities like yoga, fitness classes, and dog training from gathering in parks without a permit, and can only operate in certain designated areas. 

The lawsuit argues that the ordinance is vague in its wording and also violates the First Amendment rights of free speech and assembly. Furthermore, the suit claims that addition of yoga classes as a “commercial activity” was not discussed in reports or city council meetings, and therefore violates the teachers due process rights under the Constitution.

Frustration Mounts as Permits Remain Elusive

Yoga teachers Amy Baack and Steve Hubbard are the two plaintiffs listed in this lawsuit. Both have faced shutdowns by park rangers despite leading classes at iconic locations like Sunset Cliffs for years without issue. They, along with other instructors, are particularly frustrated by the lack of permitting options and communication from the City. The City of San Diego offers permits for activities like weddings on the same beaches.

“At least if we can’t have donation yoga classes, it should be possible for us to then work as a business…and get a permit, and then be able to charge for our classes,” says Baack. “It just seems like a clear win-win for the city. They would be able to make money off of all these businesses and they’d be able to regulate them. But to have no communication and no clear path forward has been the most frustrating part.”  

Late Tuesday, the City of San Diego published a news article outlining fitness permitting for public spaces. The article directs users to the new Fitness Permitting section of the San Diego Parks and Recreation website. Currently, the locations available for fitness permitting are Mission Bay, Balboa Park and Liberty Station.

From Beach Bends to Legal Battles

This isn’t just a local story anymore – the story has been covered in the LA Times and The Daily Mail in the UK. The unexpected media attention surrounding the ban has added pressure on the city to find a resolution. 

Baack and Hubbard have asked the San Diego community to get involved. Signing petitions, contacting the mayor’s office, and attending city council meetings are all ways to make a difference.

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