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Why Some Tourism Marketing District Dollars Need To Go To Lifeguards

Lifeguard stations in San Diego need investment

Lifeguard Tower in Ocean Beach, California

Lifeguard Tower in Ocean Beach, California (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ed Harris spoke to the Club on Sunday 24 February and gave a clear exposition of how “all politics is local”.

The lifeguards were extolled by Mayor Sanders as a model of efficiency. They ingeniously courted sponsorship deals with major brands (such as Toyota) to save San Diego City money but still their training, equipment and personnel budgets were cut. During that same time period other city departments, including Mayor Sanders’ office, were given raises.

San Diego has just 90 full-time lifeguards (175 in the summer) covering 26 miles of beaches, and performing 4-6,000 water rescues per year. Equipment and facilities need updating, and training is necessary to avoid injuries. Safe beaches help the tourism economy, unsafe beaches damage it (as Cocoa Beach, Florida discovered 2005-07, PDF).

Tourism is in the headlines this week, with lots of discussion around the Tourism Marketing District and the allocation of millions of dollars to promote San Diego as a vacation destination.

Along with seeking better legal protections for the city and a shorter term for the agreement, Mayor Filner is asking that the downtown hotels pay their employees a living wage and he wants a cut of the hotel ‘fee’ for other city services, such as lifeguards.

The contrast between Bob Filner and Jerry Sanders over this issue is clear. Sanders for years paid lip service to the needs of the lifeguards, whereas Filner within months is acting in their, and consequently our, interest.

Let’s just consider this incident that happened earlier today, Tuesday 26 February to understand how investing in lifeguards is a proper use of ‘marketing’ dollars and promotes tourism in San Diego.

At 1200 hours today, a 61 year old male was spotted by Mike Manley (in the observation tower at La Jolla Shores) floating face down in shallow water in front of the North Restrooms at La Jolla Shores. The victim was still attached to his surf board. Mike radioed to his crew. Neal Collins was in the garage and immediately bolted across the beach and was the first guard on scene. Neal grabbed the victim and began to pull him from the water. Bruce Jamison and Sgt. Sandmeyer were not far behind. The patient was not breathing and had no pulse. Neal started CPR. Also in the area was off duty Lifeguard I Amanda Scarski who also responded and assisted. As CPR was being performed, an airway was inserted, BVM was applied, and of course the AED. Not long after this, the AED indicated shock, which was applied. The victim’s pulse was restored. Rescue breathing continued by the guards. Shortly after, the patient began to regain consciousness. By the time the patient was being loaded into the ambulance he was talking and asking what happened. He had no recollection of the event.

This was an absolutely outstanding job performed by our Lifeguards! It started by the diligent water observation by Mike and an incredible spot. His radio transmission to his team was calm, clear and professional. The response from crew at the Shores was extremely fast and proficient. They worked in excellent harmony. Every lifeguard knew what to do and what their job was. As a result, this man was sent to the hospital alive and talking. What an AWESOME rescue. Great job to the entire team!

Rick Wurts
Lifeguard Chief
San Diego Fire-Rescue Department, Lifeguard Division
2581 Quivira Court
San Diego, CA 92109

Correction: this piece was updated on 2/27 to state that San Diego has 90 full-time lifeguards, during the summer this number is 175.


  1. L. Brown says

    Why does it say that Filner is acting in our interests while simultaneously saying that he wants to cut funding for lifeguards?


    • No, the article is not saying that he wants to cut funding for lifeguards. The opposite. “Mayor Filner is asking that the downtown hotels pay their employees a living wage and he wants a cut of the hotel ‘fee’ for other city services”. Rather than spend all of the ‘fees’ collected solely on advertising and various fat-cat salaries, Mayor Filner wants the City to be able to spend some of the monies on other services and we’re suggesting this could include the lifeguards.


  2. The city has over $150 million in transient occupancy taxes to pay for city services. The TMD is an assessment and must be used to market San Diego – that is how assessment districts work. The TMD pays the city fees to administer the district. Get the facts More tourists to San Diego means more TOT revenue for the city, more jobs and more economic benefit from our 2nd largest industry.


    • I don’t think the ‘facts’ are in contention. In addition to the four issues that Mayor Filner has correctly raised I would add a review of the ‘administrative’ overhead that San Diego incurs through this structure, and how that compares with its peers.


  3. Pingback: San Diego Lifeguards – Michael Russell Raises Questions Concerning Gender, Diversity and Salaries | The Point Loma Democratic Club

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