Advertising to the Rescue in Huntington Beach

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Corporate images are everywhere — freeway billboards, TV commercials, web-ads and more.

And if you’re a Huntington Beach resident, you can soon add lifeguard towers to that mix.

Two Huntington Beach lifeguard towers — previously made possible by taxpayers like you — are now brought to you by the surf-wear company Hurley.

Hurley’s generosity comes at a time when there is no money in the general fund to pay for replacement of the towers, but don’t think the company is doing it only because it cares about public safety.

Hurley gets to brand the towers with its logo.

The Huntington Beach City Council last night decided to allow private sponsorship of the towers after a budget study session revealed the city’s budget woes are leading to some drastic cuts to marine safety, including a reduction of non-peak-season lifeguard service hours from 18 hours a day to 10.

City officials say the sponsorship — a deal that saw Hurley pay $90,000 to replace the two towers — is a creative method to conjure up money when the pockets are empty.

City Councilman Don Hansen said that he isn’t worried about negative reaction from the community over the branding of the lifeguard towers and that he would like to see more private sponsorship of public spaces in the city.

“We should start with the top sponsors of the U.S. Open,” Hansen said.

Hansen downplayed the idea that private sponsorship was unprecedented, saying that the city already implements a deal that gives Coca Cola exclusive rights to operate vending machines in the city and that Toyota also sponsors marine safety.

According to Community Services Director Jim Engle, Toyota provides, at no cost, 17 vehicles for beach lifeguards — so long as the pickup trucks and sport-utility vehicles say Toyota is the official lifeguard vehicle of Huntington Beach.

Engle said the vehicles given to the city amount to $600,000 in value.

And at least one marketing firm sponsors 350 beach trash cans, earning $10,000 a year for the city, Engle said.

We’ll be watching for more of these private sponsorships in Huntington Beach as they come up, and we’ll let you know about them.

In the big news of the night, the City Council voted, 5-2, to begin the process of annexing the community of Sunset Beach. The decision to annex followed impassioned resistance from a brigade of Sunset Beach residents who cheered and booed throughout the meeting. You can read more about the annexation here.

— ADAM ELMAHREK

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