Downtown bathroom project plans approved

East Village to get two “Portland Loos”

A Portland Loo will be installed at the northwest corner of Park Boulevard and Market Street.
  • A Portland Loo will be installed at the northwest corner of Park Boulevard and Market Street.

The San Diego City Council on February 4 unanimously approved plans and specifications for two downtown restrooms (Portland Loos) to be placed in the East Village. They will be installed at the northwest corner of Market Street and Park Boulevard and the southwest corner of L and 14th streets.

A Portland Loo (photo courtesy of Environmental Services, City of Portland, OR)

A Portland Loo (photo courtesy of Environmental Services, City of Portland, OR)

The project budget, which includes permitting, design, purchase, installation, and construction costs, is $400,000. The expenditure was approved by the city council last year. It was transferred to Civic San Diego for selection of a contractor.

The downtown bathrooms will be open 24 hours a day/365 days a year. They are solar-powered and have interior and exterior LED lights. There are louvered panels at top and bottom for ventilation and natural light.

The Market Street/Park Boulevard location was chosen because it's adjacent to a city-owned property held for future mixed-use development and close to a trolley station. There are homeless clusters along Park Boulevard, between Broadway and Market Street.

The L Street/14th Street site is close to Tailgate Park. The area serves a sizable homeless population, as well as those who park there while visiting Petco Park.

Gary Smith, president of San Diego Downtown Residents Group, has misgivings about the project. He called it an “elegant solution, but who does maintenance?” Also, he wonders “why not [have bathrooms] at transit stops instead of random street corners?”

Jeff Graham, president of CivicSD, said the Market Street bathroom does have funding for maintenance, based on parking revenue. The other Portland Loo may have maintenance paid for in the general CivicSD budget, Graham said.

The project is expected to be completed this summer. The city chose to purchase the Portland Loos because of their “safety elements, affordability, ease of maintenance, appealing aesthetics, urban scale and low cost to acquire and install.”

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They seem like a good idea. I just wonder about the locations of them. The city doesn't seem to be flush with cash. I'd also expect something a bit more for $100,000.00 apiece.

The Loos reportedly cost around $90,000 each, plus shipping from Portland. Engineering and design, permits, legal work, sewer and water hookups, and final installation (including breaking up the sidewalk, then re-pouring the sidewalk later) apparently take up the rest of the costs. It does seem like an awful lot of money for two restrooms. As for location, it appears that other locations were considered but later rejected due to strong objections from East Village residents and businesses.

The East Village Association emailed a copy of a letter, after I had completed my article. In that November 2010 letter to the (then) CCDC and Redevelopment Agency, their choices for locating the Portland Loos were 11th and Market streets, and 14th St. and Imperial Ave.

There is no plan to make homeless individuals pay for using the Portland Loos.

Well, the Loos are finally installed, but late and over budget. Is that any surprise?

The SD County Grand Jury released its report on the need for more downtown bathrooms. The link is here: http://www.sandiegocounty.gov/content/dam/sdc/grandjury/reports/2014-2015/TheOngoingNeedforDowntownPublicRestrooms.pdf The report also said the two Portland Loos were too expensive to buy and install.

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