Council considering corporate ads for La Jolla, other beaches, parks

Picture it now: This lifeguard tower is brought to you by Coppertone.

Corporate signage on lifeguard stations and towers, signage, trash cans and benches could be coming to a beach near you.

Fifth District Councilman Carl DeMaio last week floated the idea of finding a sole corporate sponsor for the city’s eight main lifeguard towers as well as selling branding on beach signs, trashcans and benches and got support from his council colleagues on the budget and finance committee.

Jeff Powell, DeMaio’s communication adviser, called “marketing partnerships ... a creative way to raise revenues to help fund vital services such as fire protection and street maintenance without increasing taxes and fees on San Diego’s working families.”

Joe LaCava, chair of the La Jolla Community Planning Association, called the idea “either very clever — or very scary,” noting the city has resisted going that route in the past. But he added, with the dollar potential available, the more pertinent issue might be “whether it’s going to be done tastefully.”

The beaches have been suggested for a pilot project, said LaCava, because “that has the opportunity for the greatest appeal to potential advertisers.”

Something good that could come out of it, he added, is the possibility of earmarking a portion of proceeds for community improvement.

“Some of the funds could go back to the community to help restore some of the (budget) cuts, adding library hours or restoring funding to parks or fire stations.”

Separately, Jenny Wolff, the city’s director of strategic partnerships, has prepared a similar plan looking at the potential revenue from “expanded marketing partnerships and outdoor advertising with city beaches, bays, parks, rights of way and other public spaces.”

Wolff noted her plan “works within the confines of the city’s existing sign code ordinance,” whereas DeMaio’s would change it “to allow for additional advertising as a way for the city to generate revenue.”

“The plan I presented on the city’s beaches would allow 85 percent public service message and 15 percent company logo,” said Wolff. “The idea is we would take the permanent lifeguard stations on the beaches and bundle them with other assets — beach furniture, streetlamps, etc. — and go out and find one corporate partner to sponsor that area. Instead of slapping all different types of advertising on each asset, we would find one corporate sponsor for the whole area so it would have a consistent look and feel.”

Both Wolf and DeMaio’s aide said community input is critical before a decision is made

Wolff said the timing of what happens next depends on community feedback received during the vetting process.

“Before we do anything the community needs to have input into it and support it,” she said, adding it hasn’t been decided yet whether community groups will get to discuss the idea before it goes to the full City Council.