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Downtown San Diego Public Toilet Still Open For Business

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.

Downtown San Diego Public Toilet Still Open For Business
Five months after city staff recommended removing a public restroom in downtown San Diego over complaints of increased crime, the stall still stands tall.

Five months after staff from the city of San Diego recommended removing a public restroom at 14th and L streets in downtown San Diego over complaints of increased crime, the stall still stands tall.

A spokesman for Mayor Kevin Faulconer said the restroom will be removed likely in the next month. To replace it, the city is contracting with nearby homeless shelter St. Vincent de Paul to have restrooms open 24 hours a day.

"The city hopes to have this contract finalized this week or early next week," said spokesman Craig Gustafson by email. "It will then take two to three weeks for the restrooms to be open for use. Once they are open, the Portland Loo near Petco will be removed."

The Portland Loo is designed by the city of Portland, Oregon. It’s meant to be easy to install and clean, is connected to a sewer line, and has running water.

The city bought two loos last winter to offset the dearth of public restrooms downtown, especially ones that are open all day and night. The city plans to keep the other loo at Park Boulevard and Market Street open.

The L Street loo cost more than $250,000 to buy and install. Removing the public toilet will cost $60,000, and paying St. Vincent de Paul for cleaning and security for its restrooms will cost another $80,000 to $105,000 a year.

City staff said maintaining the L Street loo would have cost $85,000 to $105,000 a year.

Bill Bolstad, chief development officer for Father Joe's Villages, which runs the St. Vincent shelter, said he expects the contract with the city to be finalized this week. Then his organization will need to hire and train additional staff to manage the restrooms, which he expects will be done in the first week of January.

Bolstad said his priority is offering people secure access to restrooms, so he thinks removing the loo and using St. Vincent's facilities instead is a good solution.

But Dan Selis, president of Mission Brewery, which is across the street from the L Street loo, said he's concerned removing it will create more of a problem, even with St. Vincent's restrooms open a few blocks away.

"If you're a homeless man at night and the bathrooms are four blocks away, and you have to use the restroom, are you going to walk eight blocks, four blocks there and four blocks back, or are you just going to use the shrub?" he said. "St. Vincent de Paul was there before the loo, and they did not walk all the way to St. Vincent's."

Selis said he wants the public toilet to stay where it is, even though it's directly across the street from his business.

"Before the loo, the entire area on 14th smelled like urine," he said. "There was no place for the homeless to do their business, and so they'd use the shrubs, and it smelled really bad."

He said people would also use his doorway.

"It was horrible," he said. "When the loo was installed, all of that stopped."