By Michael Benninger / Photo by Brevin Blach
Since 2008, Steve Hubbard (aka “NamaSteve”) has hosted free outdoor yoga classes weekend mornings at Pacific Beach’s Palisades Park, a small swath of green overlooking the ocean at the end of Law Street. As word spread about the open nature of Hubbard’s classes and his soothing teaching style, his crowd of yogis grew from two people to more than 200.
That’s when then the city started harshing his mellow.
“For several weeks last year, a Parks and Rec. ranger showed up to count people and take pictures,” says Hubbard. “The ranger said our class was violating a municipal code restricting groups to just 49 people.”
In July 2013, Hubbard was ticketed twice. He felt compelled to fight the city.
“My position was that they didn’t have the right to remove people from a public park,” he says. “Ticketing me was in violation of my free speech and everyone else’s right to peacefully assemble.”
When his January court date arrived, Hubbard appeared with a witness, video evidence and a pro bono attorney.
“The Parks and Rec. folks were shocked,” he says. “They probably expected me to show up in a loose robe with prayer beads and to start chanting some Sanskrit mantra.”
It took 30 days, but the judge ultimately ruled in NamaSteve’s favor, not only dismissing the tickets, but also ruling the municipal code unconstitutional.
“It was a long, stressful journey, and I’m embarrassed to say that many times I considered giving up,” Hubbard says. “However, I felt I owed it to everyone who had shown up over the years to support Oceanfront Yoga. I also felt that, in a time where many of our rights are being restricted and taken away, it is extremely important to reaffirm our first amendment rights.”
The yogi bending over backwards for his beliefs — poetry in motion.