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Ceremony Marks First ‘Portland Loo’ Restroom In Downtown San Diego

The Portland Loos were installed in downtown in December and January, Dec. 3,...

Photo by Guillermo Sevilla

Above: The Portland Loos were installed in downtown in December and January, Dec. 3, 2014.

San Diego's first Portland Loo — a prefabricated, metal public restroom — opened Wednesday near Petco Park in a ceremony dubbed a "First Flush." The hope is it will help accommodate the homeless people who live downtown.

The name for the restroom comes from the Oregon city where the concept was inspired. Portland Loos are now in several cities across the U.S. They were designed specifically to serve homeless residents.

San Diego's new loo is in the East Village at 14th and L streets, where many homeless people congregate. It’s free and will be open 24 hours a day.

The nonprofit group Girls Think Tank was a supporter of installing the restroom in downtown. The group advocates for human dignity for homeless people and collected more than 5,000 signatures in support of the Portland Loo.

Noor Kasmi, a member of the nonprofit's board, said it took almost four years to get the stainless steel restroom facility approved and opened.

Support also came from Civic San Diego and downtown East Village residents and business groups, which helped identify locations for the restrooms.

At one point, a statewide budget crisis placed the project on hold, but last year the city approved funding for two restrooms.

"The city in 2013 approved $400,000 for the maintenance, purchase and installation of two of them. So I think that breaks down to about $200,000 per restroom, including the maintenance and all the installation and permitting process that needed to happen," Kasmi said.

Homeless advocates say access to a public restroom is a fundamental human right. A second Portland Loo is scheduled to be placed at Park Boulevard and Market Street.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said Mayor Kevin Faulconer and Councilwoman Marti Emerald were at the opening of the Portland Loo.

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