Yoga Instructors Struggle With City

A group of yoga instructors in San Diego has been told by the city that they can no longer hold their free beachside classes. Despite not charging any fees for their lessons, these instructors now fall under the city’s updated vendor laws. Park rangers have disrupted their sessions and even used trucks to block access to the classes.

Previously, the vendor law primarily targeted unlicensed food vendors and aimed to prevent large gatherings in public parks. However, the ordinance has now been updated to include other commercial and recreational activities, such as luxury picnics and yoga classes. The new language specifically prohibits businesses from conducting beach events, classifying yoga and similar activities as a “service.”

That’s right if you are engaging in any type of organized fun the local officials want their cut.

The city of San Diego states that these classes can only continue with permits and must stick to designated areas. Only classes with four people or fewer will be allowed without a permit.

One of the instructors, Danielle MacGreggor, described the situation to Fox 5: “They showed up with big trucks, they drove them on the cliffs to block out our class, which I thought was very overkill. Every time we show up somewhere, park rangers are sitting there ready to pounce, telling people they have to leave and that they can’t set up – that they can’t use the park space that our city tax dollars pay for.”

MacGreggor and other instructors believed that their small class sizes and the fact that participants pay donations, not fees, meant they did not fall under the vendor laws. The instructors expressed shock and confusion, noting that their classes have been held in parks along the San Diego coast, including Sunset Cliffs, La Jolla, and Pacific Beach, without issue for over a decade.

Jackie Kowalik, another instructor, shared her experience: “When I got here, the street was lined with park ranger trucks. There were three rangers standing in the grass overlooking a class doing yoga.” After the class, the park rangers issued a ticket to the teacher.

Kowalik added, “I pay tax dollars to support these parks to support our city and I want to be able to use the park how I want. I want my kids to use the parks how they want.”

In response, the yoga instructors have issued a cease and desist letter to city leaders, including City Attorney Mara Elliot and Mayor Todd Gloria. The letter argues that the new law did not clearly state it would include yoga sessions and claims that the classes could be considered a form of free speech, which would be exempt.

The letter reads: “Banning yoga in City parks was never stated as being a purpose or result of the sidewalk vending ordinance that was being considered. Our clients are engaged in pure speech, teaching yoga to anyone who wishes to listen and participate. They are not charging fees, and they are not blocking or restricting access to any public space. Passively accepting donations in a way that is not ‘inherently intrusive or potentially coercive’ is similarly protected speech.”

The yoga instructors plan to file a lawsuit to secure an injunction against any enforcement of the ordinance that would lead to the cancellation of their classes. A meeting between the yoga instructors and city officials is scheduled for this Friday.

Meanwhile, a report has shown that more and more SanDiegans are becoming homeless. A report from a local homeless region task force reported that more and more people in the San Dieago area are becoming homeless.

Meanwhile, Park Rangers are citing soccer moms and yoga enthusiasts. But, you get what you vote for.