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San Diego Beaches May Soon Be Commercialized

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With the city in a budget crisis and public services taking repeated and crippling hits to their operation funds, a potential plan to sell advertising space on San Diego County public beaches has surfaced and been approved by a City Council committee as of July 14th. The proposal consists of acquiring one corporate sponsor with a five-year contract for each of the city’s eight main lifeguard stations and funneling the revenue back into lifeguard services—a plan that has some San Diegans jumping for joy and others bristling with anger.

Were the plan to be approved by the full City Council, it could bring in between $200,000 to $500,000 per station, or a grand total of up to $4 million annually—income, some contend, that is vital for the effective functioning of the city’s lifeguard services and the safety of beachgoers. San Diego Lifeguard Services Sergeant Ed Harris, a veteran lifeguard with 22 years of experience, fully supports the plan. “We understand the city’s in a budget crisis and we want to be part of the solution,” Harris told SDnews.com. “We’re not asking them to do anything unreasonable. We’ve come up with funding sources and we’ve asked that they take the revenue from those sources and put it back into the services.”

Harris continued to state that budget cuts are threatening lifeguards’ ability to respond appropriately and quickly to emergencies, with about 12% of staffing and 90% of training eliminated over the course of the past few years: “We’re facing pretty drastic cuts and we’ve virtually eliminated the most meaningful training,” he said. “We’re just stretched really thin.” While many support the idea, others are opposed on the grounds that the commercialization of

San Diego beaches will cheapen their natural beauty and act as the catalyst for further corporate intrusion onto some of the city’s most pristine and protected land. Joe LeCava, president of the La Jolla Community Planning Association (LJCPA), expressed a cautious opinion regarding the plan in an interview with SDnews.com, stating, “Protecting the parks and beaches from commercialization has long been a worthy goal by the city, the community and the Coastal Commission, so this effort has to tread carefully.”

Whatever the outcome, however, the main consideration for both sides of the issue is that the money goes where it is most needed. “We want to ensure that people realize our situation and that this is a good thing,” Harris said. “We can do subtle advertising, we can bring money back into the city, but it needs to be put towards a purpose.”

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Photo from biskuit via flickr

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