Opinion: This Disabled WeHo Gym Doesn’t Merit a Disabilities Service Award

In every small town there are businesses that stand out from their competitors – sometimes because of their length of service, sometimes because of their quality of service, sometimes because they are classic mom ‘n pop businesses that have managed to thrive and stay alive despite being battered by the early wave of chain competitors and today’s seismic surge of online product and service providers.

In West Hollywood, one of those businesses is 24 Hour Fitness, the gym on the south side of Santa Monica Boulevard near Westmount that is part of a chain based in San Ramon that claims to operate 425 fitness centers. 24 Hour (which in West Hollywood actually closes at midnight Monday through Thursday and 11 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday ) stands out because of its location in a heavily trafficked part of town. And it also stands out because it occupies a spot that has housed several gyms infamous for their past reputation as places where gay men exercised their sexual desires as much as their muscles.

Pullup machine broken for more than one month

Today’s 24 Hour has tempered the sexual steam a bit by replacing the single-sex jacuzzi, sauna and steam room with co-ed facilities. (However, subscribers to the OnlyFans.com sites of some local porn performers who have chosen WeHo’s 24 Hour Fitness as a stage can still see some gay sexual steam.)

I’m writing this op-ed because I belong to 24 Hour Fitness and it is on the agenda of the city Disability Advisory Board’s Wednesday meeting, where the board intends to honor it with a Disability Service Award in the Business category. In my humble opinion, that would be a mistake.

Why would WEHOville oppose such an award to 24 Hour Fitness? Well, this is an opinion piece that reflects the opinion of Hank Scott, not that of me and the other folks who work with me to publish WEHOville. I have struggled with whether to use WEHOville to call out the issues I have with 24 Hour Fitness as an individual, but have decided to share them because I now understand that those are the concerns of many of my fellow gym members who grumble and complain to me and among one another but not to the gym’s management.

Sinks without water

To put it bluntly, 24 Hour Fitness is a mess — the most poorly managed of the dozen or more gyms I have belonged to over the years. This is a gym where one sometimes can’t find soap in the showers or the bathroom sinks, sometimes can’t get towels, and occasionally finds there is no toilet paper in any of the stalls. This is a gym where exercise equipment (and water fountains) can remain broken for many weeks. This is where an ambulance was called recently to rescue a woman who was injured by a piece of broken gym equipment.  (My two injuries from broken equipment, by the way, were painful but didn’t require medical care).

Racist slurs and damaged sinks at 24 Hour Fitness West Hollywood

It is a gym where I was stunned a little more than a year ago to find the words “Send the n**gers back to Compton” scrawled on two sink counters. Two other African-American gym members were upset by what they saw, but said they weren’t surprised. One of them told me it had taken most of a day to get a similar slur removed. I took pictures.

It is a gym where the trash and dirty towels dropped on the floor make one think of downtown L.A.’s Skid Row. It is a gym where those who love cockroaches can find them on the lowest floor (I have pictures).

This is a gym whose president hasn’t responded to my letter calling out the issues. The newest manager has threatened to revoke my membership for complaining loudly about these problems, although I’m now encouraged that she is working somewhat to address them, albeit without the corporate support she needs. She still hasn’t followed my suggestion to have

Cockroach in locker room

a staffer walk through the locker rooms hourly to check the toilets and showers and stroll the exercise rooms to spot possible problems there.

And, to answer the obvious question, this is a gym where I remain a member because it’s only a five-minute walk from my home and my membership fee is covered by my health insurance policy (i.e. it’s free). And also because I don’t like to give up where change is clearly needed and won’t happen without pressure.

West Hollywood deserves better than this. Those who are members of this gym need to raise their voices – daily – about the poor management. And the city’s Disabilities Advisory Board needs to award a business that truly supports people with disabilities and isn’t so poorly managed that it actually might encourage them.

  1. Well, son-of-a-gun!!! When was someone going to tell me about this? I’ve been asking! As it happened, I was out of town when this was published.


    For the record, I think single sex businesses are just fine! A male only gym would have me as its first member.

    Now, how about women stop going to gay bars and then complaining when they see gay guys doing what gay guys do.

  2. This is off the subject, so forgive me, but does anyone remember the nude sun deck back when it was Sports Connection (and maybe even when it was Bally’s)?

    Yep! And it was packed with chaise lounges, all of which were always occupied.

    How far we’ve come!

  3. Geez. Don’t complain and stay….complain and be on your way! Publishing this as an opinion piece is going to accomplish what? The complaint department blog with no one involved able to take responsibility. Call the health department if you must and whatever agency monitors disability standards. Seems like it would take a lifetime going through the Disabilities Advisory Board. Was a member years ago when it was The Sports Connection and when it became too creepy for me I left. You can do that too, health and cleanliness is a priority.

  4. Wow. I was at the DAB meeting last night. The guy who is chair of the chamber of commerce, and the woman who is the president spoke up in favor of an award to 24 Hour Fitness. I’m guessing all it takes is to buy a membership to get the chamber’s endorsement.

    They ought to take a look at Yelp and the dozens of comments about the filth, broken equipment and nastiness of the employees. And all the people who say they’ve ended their membership, and been cheated trying to do that.

    That place is an embarrassment to WeHo. But I’m guessing the chamber needs the membership dollars. That matters to them more than the reputation of West Hollywood and its business community. If I was a chamber member I’d be nominating Studs theatre for best business next year. It seems to meet the Chamber and DAB standards (the front doors are wheelchair friendly!)

  5. It’s horrifying that you are using the term disabled in a negative way within the title of this article. You might think you are being funny but it’s insulting to people living with disabilities. There must be good reasons that the Disability Board is honoring this business. I’m curious to know if you reached out to this group of people with disabilities? My guess is that you didn’t. My guess is that they must be invisible to you…why else would you want to ruin their award show? Why stir up this kind of trouble for a group of people who volunteer their time for disability rights? Shame on you. This is nothing more than trolling people with disabilities; people who are often subjected to cruel and inhumane treatment. People like Eric Schmidt are really going to humiliate them at their meeting? It’s not right.

    1. oh my, hank, i see you a couple of times a week and i am obviously disabled and you never asked my opinion. you are not disabled and slurs on a counter, while horrific, have nothing to do with disabled access. i love it there. what disabled access in a gym means is elevators, space between machines to park your walker or wheelchair, good lighting, ramps, handicap bathrooms, and many different things depending on your disability. i went to equinox for years where there is NOT room for mobility devices between devices and they are all loud as all heck. crunch is wayyyy too dark upstairs and to get to the yoga room you can not fit a wheelchair or walker between the wall and machines as you turn corner. there haven’t been bathrooms on and off for men or women for at least 6 months.
      as for the gym in new building next door there will be one. owned by the man who owned sports connection and sports club la and who also owns the whole block. it will be tiny, i expect it to be a private training gym. david michael talla. as they say in cuba GTS (google that sh**>)
      i think the manager is great and has helped me many times. if i had a business i would steal her in a second.

  6. PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE more people come to the meeting. This Award should not be given out unless they can show the reasons why. We the people have the power to speak out and make changes. NEVER BE AFRAID TO SPEAK TRUTH TO POWER!

    What is the worst that can happen by speaking up? Admiration from your fellow Residents? If we don’t speak up, who will?

    1. You are really going to scream at people in wheelchairs and walkers in your quest of “speaking truth to power”? It seems like you want to humiliate them in front of a large audience. What satisfaction will that give you? Why disturb the peace and rob the Disability Board of their dignity? It’s a terrible thing to do to people with disabilities when they are trying to have a good time and do something good for the community.

      1. If the Board is not fulfilling their purpose, they need to be called out for it. I would never disrupt an event or discount the needs of the disabled. I will keep my comments very sensitive. I would like to talk to the board members independent of the event and ask them what specifically 24 hour fitness did to deserve the Award. This Award is very important and should not be handed out willy-nilly. If all they did is have an elevator, that’s not worthy of an Award, that’s in accordance with the law and the ADA.

      2. It was a very small audience. Apparently people didn’t care enough to attend. I was the second speaker and sat through the entire meeting. I shook the hand of ever committe member after the meeting and thanked them. I looked in the audience and there were only nine people for the second half of the meeting. Councilmembers bailed the second they could. My comments were so sensitive, I couldn’t read them because I teared up. Ms. Smith offered to read them for me.

  7. The locker room is filthy, so much so that I’m reluctant even to use the urinal. I can’t imagine why the gym deserves an award! It has but one redeeming quality, and that’s its location.

  8. There are so many observations I could make I hardly know where to begin, but like you, Hank, I live only two blocks away from 24, and that convenience is too much to give up on. I’m glad you have introduced this topic.

    The current and previous two managers have been the worst! The only thing that seems to get the current one “up and at ’em” is when she hears of possible sex activity in the men’s locker room or sauna. She’s right on top of that, gathering all the male staff to line up outside the room waiting for the alleged offender to come out. I have reason to believe that all it takes to get a membership suspended for that is an accusation. The denial of the activity is not accepted. I was aware of two guys having a conversation in the shower area, which I could overhear, and one of the staff was sent in to inform them there had been a complaint of them and they were to move on. They were confounded and I stepped up to inform the staff that I was there and that there was nothing inappropriate going on between them. But it appears this manager loves having this kind of “scalp” to hang on her belt, but she has not been at all responsive to any other interaction I have had with her or that I have observed with others. All the signs hanging in the locker room about the zero tolerance policy for the way we are to dress while using the steam room or jacuzzi is insulting. As I was entering the steam room with my towel wrapped around my waist, I was stopped and sternly told that wearing only a towel was not appropriate and to please return to the locker room. I dropped my towel to reveal my swim suit, but I felt like I was being treated like a perv!

    The previous manager was probably the worst fit imaginable for West Hollywood! He was straight out of the mid-west and about as homophobic as could be found.

    I remember the time when the same staff was there forever, and it was a pleasure to go to the gym to see these familiar faces every day. But starting with the previous manager and continuing with the current one, the turnaround in staff is shocking! None of them stay longer than a very short time. What’s going on that no one wants to work there?

    When construction began on the other end of the block I heard that one of the new businesses that was going in was a new gym. I wonder if there has been any information with regard to that? If it’s true I will definitely be leaving 24!

    1. I did complain about two dogs that are being passed off by their owners as service dogs. A woman keeps her dog on a long leash, and often lets the dog roam around without her holding onto the leash. It would be very easy for someone to trip over that dog. The dog doesn’t wear a vest identifying it as a service dog.

      There is an older guy who brings his pit-bull dog onto the work-out floor and in the locker room. He says it is a service dog, but California doesn’t register pit bulls as service dogs, so he’s lying.

      My complaint to management was about the danger the dogs owners were creating for members, but the response is that there is nothing they can do if someone claims their dog is a service dog. I pointed out that surely they can require the owner to keep the dog at her own feet, and to inform the pit bull owner that they can confirm his dog cannot be a registered service dog and to not bring the dog to the gym again. With that I was given only a shrug, and I suggested they pass on my complaint to upper management with my concern for safety.

      That’s the kind of response that reasonable dues-paying members get from management at 24. A shrug.

      1. And then there was the time four of the eight showers were out of order (which lasted for weeks!). It was about 8:00 AM and I was standing in line waiting my turn, during which time I was chatting it up with the guy behind me. We both were in a big hurry. When it came my turn to take the next available shower, my new chat buddy asked if he could share it with me. I said, “Sure, good idea.” Most of my life of gym attendance gang showers were the norm. There was one room with several shower heads. Individual showers are a relatively new trend. So the two of us finished our showers in the time it would have taken one, which benefitted all the guys who were waiting behind us. But when we came out the previous manager was there to tell us we couldn’t share showers. I asked, “According to whom?” He said it is the club policy. I pointed out that exactly half of the showers are closed and everybody is in a hurry to get to work, but his judgmental and disapproving attitude didn’t change. I doubt this was the club policy, but rather it was HIS policy. This is West Hollywood! If two guys are comfortable sharing a shower, especially in a situation where half the showers are out-of-order, what is it any concern of his? I hope this discussion gets to 24 Hour headquarters (which I think is in Irvine) and they place a gay, or gay friendly, management team in the WeHo location.

  9. I have been a member of 24 hr fitness since 1992, when it was Sports Connection. The place did not improve much under Bally’s management, and the way they treated members was really poor. Few years ago, after the place was in a very obvious state of decline, 24 hr fitness finally renovated the building without really changing much of the lifting equipment. Lack of maintenance and poor hygiene are the most common problems. I sometimes wonder where is the management and whether or not they even walk the facility to not notice that the place (particularly the men’s locker room and wet areas) is so dirty? They need to get busy and really scrub the place down. Updating the equipment wouldn’t hurt either.

  10. I will be at that meeting. if there is public comment, I will ask them how they determined that 24 hour Fitness should receive the award. I will ask them to be specific about what the gym has done for the disabled and if any free memberships were given in exchange for the Award.

    1. I think its simply because they happen to have elevators that go upstairs. They certainly don’t deserve an award for that! And I have never seen any of the employees assist a disabled person.

  11. Giving our local 24hr Fitness an award for accessibility is absolutely absurd. Their treatment of the disabled & general accessibility is laughably poor. A corporate gym like this one has no excuse for the situation.

    The elevator & lift required to reach the actual gym floor are constantly broken down. Not only is the elevator the size of a coffin, but it is constantly breaking down and when it is not working, repairs usually take months. It was down for more than six months at least two times within the last decade. While repairs are much faster, the lift is constantly breaking and generally used for storage unless a member of the staff actually clears it out before every use.

    Even when both are functioning properly, the equipment often gets “jammed” on a floor because they have not properly ‘reset’ after previous use. While a fix usually requires little more than closing a door or a power cycle, finding someone to do this task can easily require multiple calls for help, because they are to busy to bother. Most of the time, the staff has to be walked through the troubleshooting procedure! This can easily take 15 minutes to resolve in each direction & for both devices. Imagine having to wait up to an extra hour just getting between the front door and the gym floor, and having to deal with rude and indifferent staff! What if you were parked in the attached garage?

    There are also too many other issues to count. The pool’s “dipping mechanism”. Horribly maintained and misused accessible restrooms. Disgusting accessible lockers shoved in a dark corner. Staff who could care less, or simply refuse to offer needed assistance. Completely inept management who do not take accessibility issues seriously and are downright rude (or even threatening) when confronted with a simple request to fix constant issues quickly or just provide a timeline.

    Because of these issues (and more), I gave up trying to work out there years ago. Still, I have many friends who do and they constantly relay their observation that these issues persist to this day.

  12. If you keep going there, you’re just feeding the problem. Whether it’s you paying or your health insurance, they are making money from your membership. By remaining a member you’re sending the message that “this place is worth my money.”

    Instead of wasting your time whining about things that have been going on for years, spend it walking a few more blocks to a different gym. You might burn some extra calories on the way, and if enough people follow suit 24 will be forced to pay attention or go out of business.

  13. I do business in WeHo but don’t live in the city. I’m disturbed but not surprised at all about your comments. I was a 24 Hour Fitness member and since I live in both Santa Barbara and LA, found membership convenient. The clubs I worked out at has unrepaired equipment, inattentive management, and I left. Those clubs have since been upgraded and I can’t speak to current conditions or management, but it seems 24 Hour has a pattern that requires senior management attention. The graffiti and racist slurs you describe are intolerable conditions and I thank you for your opinion ed to bring these issues to greater attention.

  14. Well, isn’t this just in keeping with what the City keeps honoring – Stormy Daniels and Michael Avenatti, instead of going after the greed slumlords, like mine Monem Corp/
    Danny Monempour.

  15. With so many options available, I’ve never understood why people part with their hard-earned dollars to patronize that sewer of a “health” club. I’ve long gone to a non-corporate gym which is old, but clean, with equipment that is old, but always in good repair, which has no air-conditioning, but has charming old windows that are always open allowing fresh air to flow through, and has an always charming, friendly, helpful, and courteous staff. I hesitate to name it for fear that others will rush and crowd it and the charms will be lost.
    Pull the plug on this ill-advised honor. Maybe the tone-deaf city bureaucracy and student council will finally do the right thing? Sadly, as the pages of this publication have long made clear, the city is run on fiefdoms and egos more than the general good of its residents.

  16. Thank you Hank -I am currently training to be a CASp training – a CASp is a Certified Accessibility Specialist licensed by the state of CA to assess places for their accessibility and more usually for their violations. There is much there that needs attention. By the way, the CASp program was created by a State Senate bill authored by Weho’s own Supervisor Sheila Kuehl when she served in the Senate.
    Let me say this though, if an award for the most reprehensible gym management vis a vis Accessibility and blatant violator of the ADA was given to any gym, it would be Golds Hollywood. It is not in the confines of WEHO, but many of its patrons live here. How any facility that has over 3000 members, and goes so far as to imply it is accessible by having an entry ramp, can have no elevator is beyond me. Also, if it weren’t for certain wonderful and understanding staff members who willingly help me and others to deal with the gym’s issues, I would leave there.
    I have personally spoken to their head of facilities, who promised to fix various of their violations over a year ago when the gym was renovated, and still has not done so despite official letters to them. I have plans to offer an education course in the ADA for disabled people and am planning to enlist and work with the DAB in Weho. In my training, not only have I learned about how little I knew about what our rights are, but I realized that the disabled community in general has little idea of what protection and guarantees that the ADA offers us all that no one knows about.
    BTW, each incidence of access issues has a dollar amount associated with it at a minimum. The system has built in safeguards to prevent one person to go on a dollar driven rampage of filing complaints, but genuine issues are required to be fixed. The monetary reward is in effect regardless of whether an owner fixes the problem or not for the initial reporter of the problem. I caution people from trying to game the system as a few legendary complainers did in nearby counties about ADA parking spaces. He was dealt with by the laws, and is paying for his greed and malfeasance.
    There is another recipient I have problems with -but that will be expressed at the proper time for me.
    Good work in standing up for what’s right and what’s not.

    1. Jim. Count me in with regard to working with the DAB. Businesses in this town (and beyond) make zero effort to provide basic accessibility. Accessibility features also tend to use them in other ways which make them unavailable to those who need them, do not bother to maintain them & often just remove them.

      At the same time, I am constantly treated as a liability & not a customer. They literally believe that I am looking for an excuse to profit from vexious litigation. I actually get accused of “faking it” in order to get rich off of government handouts & payouts from the aforementioned legal action. In reality, I have never received any handouts or payouts. On top of this, I always make an effort to work with the businesses I frequent in order to work around a lack of accessibility features and create a safer environment for others in similar circumstances. I’ve even made a habit of contacting certain businesses, in (digital) writing & telephonically, in advance of my initial visit in order to determine the degree of accessibility (or lack thereof), indicate my desire to work with them RE accessibility, & hopefully show a desire to work with them instead of against them.

      With this in mind, my primary desire is to push the DAB to focus on communication & cooperation instead of immediate fines which only promote negative stereotypes & cost businesses money which could otherwise be spent on actual improvements to accessibility.

      PS: I’d also like to propose offering businesses resources relating to accessibility at the city level would also be a great idea. Ideas include: educational videos & workshops RE accessibility features / compliance, first-hand accounts of the impact of accessibility or lack thereof on the disabled community, and even offering meetings between an actual disabled individual in order to improve accessibility and help foster a positive relationship with the disabled.

  17. Ive been complaining about the management of this gym for a long time. The actual manager spends most of her time schmoozing with her friends and sitting behind her desk texting. And if you complain to her about anything, her knee jerk reaction is a nasty attitude. I and several other people I know have seen it first hand. Mostly unfriendly staff (Im sure she’s also at the root of that). Then there’s the broken equipment. Filthy restrooms (there is stuff growing in the corners that looks like its been there for years). Filthy locker rooms. Showers that don’t work properly. A steam room the size of a small closet that never has anywhere to sit. Too few deck chairs at the pool. The list goes on.

    1. I also forgot to mention that at the present time one room is sealed up with a big sign on it that reads MICROBIAL HAZARD and no explanation as to whats going on in there.

  18. Thank you Henry for this editorial. We also appreciate your disclosure and journalistic caution, as well as your integrity.

    Some of us remember in our youth when Bally’s Sports Connection was selling lifetime memberships without disclosing that they were already in final negotiations to sell to the 24 Hour Fitness chain. It is why their equipment and the condition of the place was allowed to deteriorate prior to 1996.

    Any transition can be rough, and while 24HF “Sport” did replace all of the equipment after that sale in 1996-97, a lot of the infrastructure was decaying – the showers had bad leaks into the locker rooms underneath. It took more than a year for them to get that right, only to have more water issues (it used to rain in the locker room, literally). Where there wasn’t water in the exercise areas upstairs, the carpets smelled awful. The bathrooms were always filthy.

    If that wasn’t enough, the city’s image and visiting clients were slapped in the face: 24HF placed straight men in management at this gym with no sensitivity training. They were openly heard behind the front desk and around the gym by patrons cursing ‘f**king fa**ots” to the mostly gay male clientele who were loyal to the transition.

    It was 1996-1998, a time when AIDS drugs were not saving lives like they do today – and a rumor of Ellen coming out on TV had sponsors bailing and boycotts starting; and Hawaii was still fighting the first, state supreme court marriage equality battle.

    It got so bad that many customers cancelled and moved to Gold’s Gym or the other Bally’s in Hollywood, revoking their option during a transition period to stay with Bally’s or make the move to 24HF. It certainly was embarrassing when the gym had to place a huge banner outside above the entrance touting a new, lesbian manager who was ‘friendly’ to WeHo, complete with suddenly-visible Pride symbols. “Under new management” is a black eye when you already had new management after an acquisition for a year; and really, this was all common sense. There was no “Yelp” at the time, lucky for this gym.

    Still, they would have young employees in their full uniform wait outside of – and walk into – the steam room, as well as watch men shower and change in the locker room to police “activity.” I could see how uncomfortable those male employees were, and it led to some of their derogatory slurs herein mentioned. If the company can place morality staff in the area back then, why can’t they have staff patrol and keep the area clean – not once an hour – but every 20 minutes?

    I long ago left that gym, but was sad to read your editorial and see pictures of these issues which are simply solved and for which there can be no excuses for. If in 20 years they can’t get their act together, the buck stops with regional and corporate management, whose “fitness” to “manage” a 24HF should be highly in doubt.

  19. If this is true, the City should definitely not award this business with a Disabilities Service Award. In fact, they should inspect and if necessary, fine the business if they don’t clean up their act.

    Have you tried to contact the Corporate Offices? This lack of cleanliness and oversight is not good for their corporate image and I would think they would be interested in knowing about it.

  20. You forgot the part about the ventilation/AC system on the workout floor not having worked properly since before 24-Hour took over management of the club.

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