1975 San Diego guide to public bathrooms

Downtown, night spots, La Jolla

There is this popular activity, that every San Diegan ponders at one time or another, yet it goes on unmentioned and unrecorded. A web of facilities, spread all over the city for this activity, is diffuse and unmapped. How long can a body go on. without some information on these facilities? What this place needs, if 1 may make so bold, is a good guide to public bathrooms.

After long research, these itineraries have been prepared to show some of the more notable places in San Diego.

The best facilities downtown can be covered in a one-dav walking tour. There are many good bathrooms on a tour of the city's night life. A side trip to La Jolla yields a few worthy rooms. And at all the conventional tourist spots there are municipal bathrooms to explore.


A downtown tour of bathrooms might start at the impressive Little America Westgate Plaza bathrooms. One of the cleaner rest stops downtown, the bathrooms have marble floors: reproductions of French paintings, and gold doorknobs that don't turn. I would recommend dressing up for this one: uniformed valets open the doors to the lobby for everyone entering and leaving.

After the Utrillos and gold-framed portraits of the Westgate. I usually feel so expansive I cross the street and squander my money in Jack-in-the-Box. ff the budget is tight, though, one can simply visit the bathrooms at Jack-in-the-Box. which are clean and adequate, and buy a sensible lunch for the rest of the trip.

The bathrooms under Horton Plaza provide interesting contrast to the Westgate. The atmosphere is the closest San Diego comes to being “big city." The rooms are below street level, and thick squares of glass imbedded in the Plaza sidewalk act as skylights. The rooms collect a lot of city grime and dirt.

Albert Johnson, of the city's Public Buildings department, reports they are cleaned twice a day. year round, unlike the once-daily treatment the other city bathrooms get.

And graffiti is a problem on the painted walls. The “graffiti experts." as Johnson calls them, use felt-tip markers that are impossible to remove from painted surfaces. “They are artists, some of them." Johnson admits, “and it's a shame their talents can't be used productively somewhere else in society."

Walker Scott’s women's lounge is a complete comfort station in the middle of downtown. The bathroom is modest but. more importantly, they have a foyer lined with chairs: a good place for resting one's feet and enjoying a little conversation. It is reminiscent of the great powder rooms of Gimbels and Macy's.

The Public Library at 8th and “E" has good bathrooms on the second floor. They have good drinking fountains, too, but that's another tour.

Usually women's restrooms have much more variety and elaborate decor than men's. The women's room in the Fox Theatre, at 7th and B. is standard-issue while the men's room has incredible urinals. At least a half dozen are lined up like horses in the gates at Del Mar. They are huge and deep, and imaginatively contoured.

The tourist will have to pay the price of theatre admission to see these bathrooms but for that money one can sit in the throne-sized chairs of the plush lobby, drink from an ornate fountain, and even see a movie.

Also downtown there are public bathrooms in parking garages and in some of the stores, with differing degrees of accessibility.

It might be expected that banks would have public facilities but they do not. In fact they are quite reluctant to open their bathrooms. At one bank I had to point out that my daughter would reach the breaking point in two seconds whether they let us use their room or not. The woman took a long look at the little girl dancing on their thick carpet before she agreed.

In any bank, the way to the rooms is through at least three locked doors; it's like trying to get into Fort Knox. Banks are not recommended except in extreme emergencies.

On the other hand, most neighborhood grocers and small-store owners will let people use their humble facilities. These facilities might be very humble, though.


The night circuit in San Diego has bathrooms deserving of mention. Ten Downing Street is a good example of the inequality that usually exists between bathrooms. The men's room is unremarkable; the women's room is dominated by a full suit of armor standing in the middle of the floor.

A bathroom is an extension of the business that houses it and carries on its character. The women’s room in Mister A’s bears this out. Just like the dining area, it aspires to Continental elegance and interprets with chintz and gold spray-paint.

Bully's, like many nightspots in its class, has bathrooms the New Yorker would call “small and bouncy." On an average evening the occupancy limit of one-and-a-half can become very stretched.

Boom Trenchard's has mirrors around the sinks in position to reflect a person’s image thousands of times. After an evening of enjoying the spirits, this can be quite an experience. One’s face becomes smaller and smaller, receding infinitely down a tunnel .of crystal mirrors.

I never went to the bathrooms in the Catamaran Lounge. I was afraid I would have to get my hand stamped again.


A trip to La Jolla shows what money can do and what it won't do. It won't build many public bathrooms. There are no easily accessible rooms in McKellar Plaza and the restrooms within the restaurants, like the Bratskellar, are undersized and crowded.

What money can do is provide the most ostentatious bathroom in the area: in the I. Magnin store in La Jolla.

The La Valencia Hotel on Prospect Street has restrooms with a view. Ignoring the awful pink and gold decor of the women's room, one can walk through it, out the French doors, and onto a little balcony with a railing. The breeze is always refreshing and it has a good angle on La Jolla. The view of the Cove is excellent and beyond that can be seen the curve of La Jolla Shores and Torrey Canyons.


The municipal bathrooms around the city get extra attention in the summer because of the crowds but sometimes it may seem they are losing the battle. There is a dress recommendation for the beach bathrooms: six league boots. They usually have four different colors of toilet paper, a choice not offered anywhere else, but it isn’t worth the hike through ankle-deep water just to see it.

On the municipal pier at the foot of Broadway there are good restrooms. The hidden doors make it look as if one is entering the building supports the way elves disappear into tree trunks.

The bathrooms in the House of Hospitality in Balboa Park are four-star bathrooms. The House of Hospitality Association leases the building from the city to provide space for civic groups. They take care of the restrooms and are justifiably proud of their work.

In both the men’s and women’s there are open-beam ceilings, richly-patterned wallpaper, blue Mexican tiles, and spacious sink areas.

Better than that, it is never crowded or dirty, even at peak hours on Sunday afternoons. They were designed by a professional San Diego decorator.

Share / Tools

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google+
  • AddThis
  • Email

More from SDReader


Log in to comment

Skip Ad