Outdoor Gym in San Francisco Runs Into New Problems

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Gym owners around the Bay Area are increasingly turning to outdoor spaces for makeshift gyms in hopes of simply staying in business. But at least one San Francisco gym says that solution has sparked a big new problem.

CrossFit Golden Gate’s 4,700-plus square foot space filled with properly spaced out equipment, cleaning supplies and fans has been closed by COVID-19 restrictions for five months. When owner Danielle Rabkin was told she could open outside, she spent the little money she had left to create an open air gym space. Not everyone is respecting that space the way she intended.

“I didn’t think having a deck on Sutter Street would go well. I was worried people would sleep on it, hide behind fencing to do drugs, and use it as a toilet.”

Adam Noffsinger has been a CrossFit Golden Gate member for eight years.

“Given the circumstance, it’s definitely worth building and having it," he said. "But I know there’s going to be a lot of problems for sure with the outdoor space here.”

Under the city’s health order, Rabkin isn’t allowed to fence off or barricade her makeshift gym because it’s still considered a public space. Lately, when the gym isn’t in session, the homeless and mentally ill have started using it as a public bathroom.

“It’s disheartening,” Rabkin said. “If we’re going to stay closed this long, the city really needs to do more.”

Supervisor Aaron Peskin, who represents the Lower Polk neighborhood, said he was quick to connect Rabkin with someone who could help clean her deck. He also pointed her to a coalition of small gym owners that is now demanding the city reconsider the indoor gym closures.

Rabkin said something has to give or she will have to give up.

“We can’t live on this string day-to-day with a bunch of maybes," she said.

Owners of small gyms said they simply don’t have the financial reserves of the big chains, and if the city waits too long to allow reopening, only those big chains will be left.

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