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SEATTLE - The Seattle Parks Department is in the process of spending $550,000 to put in a public toilet in Ballard Commons Park. The city believes the design of the single-occupancy bathroom will help avoid the disastrous public toilets installed in Pioneer Square in 2003. The city spent $5 million on the self-cleaning bathrooms and eventually removed them because they were plagued by drugs and prostitution.
Gary Johnson with the Seattle Planning and Development Department said the permanent public toilet is needed for health reasons. In 2017, the King County Public Health Department told the city it must install a public bathroom within 100 feet of the Ballard Commons Park spray park or the water feature would be deactivated.
The city is in the process of buying a Portland Loo single-occupancy bathroom. It boasts a design that prevents it from being used for crime. Its promotional video says, “Its sleek design uses heavy duty stainless steel, with an anti-graffiti finish. Along with unique louvers, lighting, and an outside hand wash to move people along and prevent crime.”
“I think if it's for a health reason for the kids that play here it's certainly a good thing,” Nadja Chorba Wiese said on Wednesday.
Chorba Wiese has lived near Ballard Commons Park for 13 years and took her son to the spray park when he was younger.
“I don't think that's a huge cost to have a sanitary place,” she said. “Or keep the park more sanitary for the kids.”
Some people worry this public toilet could have the same problems that plagued the Pioneer Square public toilets in 2003.
“I would just be worried about security and cleanliness,” said a woman, who didn’t want to give her name. “And is it going to draw more people and more activity?”
A man named Marvin who uses the park said he thinks the Portland Loo facility would be misused.
“People out here on the street that are using certain drugs,” he said. “And they're using the facilities to sit inside and do the drugs.”
In 2015 the city budgeted money to put a Portland Loo in Pioneer Square, but Johnson said it didn't happen because of issues with that site. They're now considering one for the U-District. The Portland Loo at Ballard Commons Park is scheduled for construction in next spring.
You can share your thoughts on it and ask questions at a public meeting at Ballard Commons Park on Saturday, Nov. 17 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.