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Politics

San Diego Council Members Express Support For Removing Public Restroom

The Portland Loo at 14th and L streets in downtown San Diego at 10 p.m., July 22, 2015.
Photo by Seth Hall
The Portland Loo at 14th and L streets in downtown San Diego at 10 p.m., July 22, 2015.

A city staff recommendation to remove one of two public restrooms installed in the East Village section of San Diego for use by the area's homeless received strong but informal support Wednesday from a City Council committee.

While the council's Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods Committee didn't take an actual vote on the proposal to take out a so-called "Portland Loo" located at 14th and L streets, Chairwoman Marti Emerald and Councilman Todd Gloria spoke out strongly in favor.

The plan, outlined at the meeting by Assistant Chief Operating Officer Stacey LoMedico is to keep the prefabricated metal structure operating for up to 30 days while city staff negotiates with Father Joe's Villages, the nearby social serves agency that operates public restrooms from 5:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Father Joe's would open the restrooms 24 hours a day if the city paid for the extra costs, which would run around $80,000 to $105,000 annually, LoMedico said.

The loo at 14th and L and another like it at Park Boulevard and Market Street were installed in December and January in an effort to improve health and safety in the area. Transients live in the neighborhood alongside residents of expensive condominiums built over the past 15 years, baseball fans going to and from Petco Park, and patrons of the new Central Library.

According to a memo from city Chief Operating Officer Scott Chadwick, police were called to the restroom at 14th and L streets 25 times between April and June, compared to 11 times in the same period last year — before the facility was installed.

He said the calls generally were for disturbing the peace. The 14th and L restroom required repairs at double the rate of the one at Park and Market, staff said.

"We tried, but unfortunately some bad apples come in and wreck it for everybody else," Emerald said.

LoMedico said it already costs $86,000 annually to operate the loos. Hiring an attendant for the one at 14th and L would add $37,000 a year, while an armed private security officer would be up to $200,000 more, she said.

She said she hopes that a new spot for the loo will be found.