Chico Public Works Director: 24 hour restrooms are needed! But vandalism is “unsustainable…”

12 Sep

Yesterday I attended the City of Chico Internal Affairs committee meeting and heard a report from Public Works Chief Eric Gustafson regarding “unsustainable vandalism” in public restrooms Downtown.  Here’s the letter I wrote to the ER this morning:

Chico Public Works Director Eric Gustafson reported to Chico Internal Affairs Committee (9/11/17)  that Downtown public restrooms are suffering “unsustainable vandalism”.  He suggested the city invest in Portland Loo. 

Portland Loo is a toilet designed to keep criminal activities – including prostitution and drug sales – out of public restrooms. With slats at top and bottom so police (and everybody else) can see inside, they are coated with vandalism resistant paint and made in such a way that they can be routinely hosed out by janitorial staff. They must be connected to water and sewer but can provide  their own lighting. They are supposedly tamper-proof.

The manufacturer lists a price around $250,000, but other cities, including Portland, have found initial costs can exceed $500,000 per unit. Both the city of Portland and the city of San Diego have installed and later removed these devices because of increased crime in the immediate area. In Portland, costs for cleaning the devices were so high – $99,000/year for two units – that water ratepayers sued the city for  $617,588  spent on marketing and maintaining their Loo’s,  the cost attached to city sewer and water bills. 

Why do city staff continue to placate transient criminals? Gustafson is the staffer who told me transients have Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights to sleep in Bidwell Park. What about the taxpayers’ rights? 

Juanita Sumner, Chico CA

Citizens and ratepayers of Portland won their lawsuit – here’s the links:

While the Portland Loos are front and center in a lawsuit over questionable spending of water and sewer ratepayer money, those ubiquitous public restrooms may not be such a target going forward.

City leaders continue to play hot potato with the Loos, and the latest funding plan would shift operation and maintenance costs away from utility ratepayers and onto the city’s general fund.

Bushong also concluded that the Portland Loo outdoor public restroom program was essentially a $618,000 business venture gone bad. Before Bushong’s decision, city officials had conceded that the Loos weren’t a core utility serviceand have proposed paying for them with general fund money in the future.

As part of the 2014 decision, [Judge] Bushong blessed utility relocation efforts tied to light-rail projects and acquiring land for stormwater purposes, which totaled about $10.4 million. But he rejected about $1.2 million spent on outdoor public restrooms and publicly financed political campaigns.

5 Responses to “Chico Public Works Director: 24 hour restrooms are needed! But vandalism is “unsustainable…””

  1. Jim September 13, 2017 at 6:28 am #

    Why not just setup porta-pottys? They are a lot less expensive.

    • Juanita Sumner September 14, 2017 at 3:23 pm #

      I’m sure you are correct, but I’m sure their answer would be, these Loo’s are supposedly designed to deter crime by being almost non-private. Slats in top and bottom allow outsiders to see above the shoulders and below the knees, supposedly making it harder to do anything in there besides defecate or urinate. They’re also supposed to be “graffitti resistant” – although, that doesn’t mean they don’t need to be washed out, it just means the graffiti can be washed out.

      My feeling is, we shouldn’t provide public restrooms at all, except for public events. The existing bathrooms should be locked, and those located at parks that are not used for public events should be taken out. Public events would include the swim season, and the bathroom at One Mile should be open as long as there are life guards at One Mile.

      Bathrooms should be provided for people who come Downtown to do business – buy a cup of coffee, visit a retailer, etc. Food businesses are required to have bathrooms, but should not have to allow non-customers to use them. Retail and other businesses could decide whether or not to provide bathrooms for their clientele based on need and past experience.

      I don’t know very many people who would use a public bathroom if given the chance to go somewhere else, most would rather go to a restaurant and buy a quick drink or snack.

      As far as I’m concerned, the “homeless” should have to go to the shelters that are funded to serve them. The police need to crack down on public urination and defecation, and when they catch these creeps red-handed, they should add “lewd and lascivious behavior.”

      • Jim September 15, 2017 at 5:43 am #

        I think the whole downtown plaza should be fenced off and closed, open only for public events. That will be the only way to keep the bums out.

      • Juanita Sumner September 15, 2017 at 5:54 am #

        Don’t get mad and throw in the towel. Write a letter to your local elected officials, tell them this type of service only perpetuates the problem.

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