A fitness group that counts a number of West Hollywood residents among its members was booted from regular workouts at the Hollywood Bowl, which has cited security concerns as the reason. One WeHo resident is fighting to change that.
The group is part of the November Project, which was launched in New England. In 2014 Orrin Whalen created the L.A chapter, one of 33 around the world. It is a free fitness organization known for welcoming people of all ages, shapes and sizes and providing a sense of community along with fitness. Currently the L.A. group is managed by Maggie Nolting, Steve Selnick and Jesse Buck-Brennan.
As many as 300 people show up (or used to) on Wednesday mornings at 5:27 a.m. and 6:27 a.m. and run up and down the stairs at the Hollywood Bowl. The hours, while painfully early to some, were perfect for ambitious early risers who had to get home or to work soon after.
Jeff Palkevich, a West Hollywood resident, is one of them. Palkevich suffers from congenital heart block, which put limits on his ability to exercise. “Sure, I’d visit the gym and go through the motions, but I never enjoyed it,” Palkevich told WEHOville. “I’d put on my headphones and avoid everyone as I attempted to workout. But slowly the pounds packed on.” Then Palkevich got a pacemaker designed to regulate his heart beat, which emboldened him to try harder. He learned about the November Project.
“I decided to try it out,” Palkevich said. “And it completely sucked in the best possible way. For the first time I found a group that was welcoming to people of all levels and that wasn’t some trendy rip-off like everything else out here. They were motivating people to be healthier and to make a better community, just because it’s the right thing to do, as crazy as that sounds. “
“This group helped me lose over 30 pounds in the past 18 months and take me out of the obese zone and if they could do that for me, I’m sure they can do it for other people too.”
But the group’s use of the Hollywood Bowl came to an end a little over a year ago. “… After three years of incident-free running up and down the stairs at the Hollywood Bowl every Wednesday, the park hours suddenly changed from sunrise to sunset, to 8 a.m. to sunset, making it not possible for us to conduct our workouts,“ Palkevich said.
“The policy in place was created by the LA Phil to ensure the safety and security of all of our visitors to the Hollywood Bowl,” said Leni Boorstin, director of community and government affairs for the L.A. Philharmonic, which owns the Bowl. “We welcome the November Project’s use of the Hollywood Bowl during its park open hours.”
Sophie Jeffries, spokesperson for the L.A Phil, which owns the Hollywood Bowl property, elaborated that new gates and the new operating hours were put in place over a year ago.
Palkevich reached out to the L.A. Phil to try to negotiate a solution. He said Boorstin told him that it was up to L.A. County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl whether the November Project could resume its early morning runs. Palkevich said he reached out to West Hollywood City Council members and the office of L.A. City Councilmember David Ryu for help. Palkevich said WeHo Council members John Heilman and Lindsey Horvath and a representative from Ryu’s office contacted Kuehl’s office. They presented some options to appease the L.A. Phil, including banning backpacks on the property.
“These are based on rules that the National Park Service came up when they approved November Project workouts on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.,” Palkevich said. But Kuehl’s office recently got back to Palkevich and said the decision was up to the L.A. Phil, which has stuck by its earlier decision.
The November Project now stages its Wednesday morning runs, again at 5:27 and 6:27 a.m. and every Friday at 6:27 a.m. at Grand Park in downtown Los Angeles, with rotating destinations around the city. Other locations for runs include the Griffith Observatory and Drake Stadium.
“We’ve been nomads looking for a new home,” Palkevich said. “Sure it’s still a great workout, but it’s just not the same. And I think it’s a shame.
“So often you’ll see local politicians on TV talking about how we need to make this a healthier city and get people of different groups to come together and here’s a group literally doing that and some bogus post 9-11 world security risk is keeping it from happening?
“I’m a straight, white, Catholic guy from New Jersey, and now thanks to this group I’ve become friends with gay guys from South America, super-fast lesbians, techies from India and people from countless other demographics that I never would have met before. “