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$100,000 ‘loo’ puts load on taxpayers

By   /   March 11, 2016  /   News  /   No Comments

AP photo

THREE’S A CROWD: Two men enter a sidewalk restroom in San Diego. The city has been flooded with neighborhood complaints about the “loos,” which will be coming soon to San Antonio.

 

A Texas city is plunking down $100,000 for a street-side public restroom — a move that was flush with controversy in San Diego.

San Antonio City Councilman Roberto Trevino said Portland Loos will bring relief to downtown. The first stainless steel kiosk would be located on a yet-to-be-determined site.

Pat DiGiovanni, president and CEO of the downtown advocacy group Centro San Antonio, said the restroom project will help tourists and homeless alike.

“It’s kind of a welcome mat,” Di Giovanni said.

San Diego’s experience could be a cautionary tale – and suggests why Trevino & Co. are being coy about placement of the toilets.

Reports of prostitution, lewd behavior and assorted criminal acts flooded City Hall after a loo was installed in San Diego’s East Village.

Nearby businesses complained about homeless people stalking women after dark, brandishing knives and rampant drug abuse in the area, said Councilman Todd Gloria.

Under pressure, the city agreed to relocate the loo near a homeless encampment.

“The city has a responsibility to address all criminal acts in our neighborhoods, and that responsibility is even more acute when deviant behavior is being facilitated by a city-funded project,” Gloria told San Diego City Beat.

Whatever criminal behavior a loo might attract, the cost estimates for San Antonio’s restrooms are either a bargain or grossly understated.

Before agreeing to move the East Village restroom at a cost of $200,000, San Diego spent $560,000 for its two Portland Loos – nearly three times the per-unit price cited by Trevino. San Antonio officials have not specified installation costs.

If San Diego’s experience is any guide, maintenance expenses will be substantially higher than San Antonio’s $1,000-a-month estimate. The California city originally said its cleaning bill would run $50,000 a year. Now officials peg it at $185,000 annually.

Additionally, San Diego authorities have recommended hiring a security guard, estimated at up to $438,000 a year, depending on hours of employment and whether the guard would be armed.

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Without citing specifics, Centro San Antonio’s DeGiovanni said, “There are not enough [restrooms] to accommodate all our visitors.”

In fact, more than a dozen public facilities are within a 100 yards of the city’s famed downtown River Walk. Locations range from the RiverCenter Mall and Hemisfair Park to La Villita, the Alamo, the downtown library and Main Plaza.

Before the loo arrived in San Diego’s East Village, Melissa Hill, marketing manager at Mission Brewery in the East Village, said the police department and community groups were “cleaning the area up.”

“It was getting better … now the Portland Loo moved in and feels like we’re stepping back,” she said, pointing to a pot-smoking crowd milling outside the gritty metal pit stop as street people slammed its doors. “This is just a magnet for people.”

Kenric Ward reports for the Texas Bureau of Watchdog.org. Contact him at [email protected]. @Kenricward

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Kenric Ward is the San Antonio-based reporter for Watchdog.org. A California native and veteran journalist who has worked on three Pulitzer Prize-winning newspapers, he received a BA from UCLA (Political Science/Phi Beta Kappa) and holds an MBA. He reported and edited at the San Jose Mercury News and the Las Vegas Sun before joining Watchdog.org in 2012 and previously reported from Virginia. Kenric can be reached at [email protected]