It’s Not a Dump Anymore

Before it became a park, it was the dump

Cesar Chavez Park is a measure of what Berkeley is capable of. The Berkeley of the 1950s and before was capable of turning its waterfront into a garbage dump and its Bay into a sewer. The City built a diamond-shaped dike into the Bay’s tidelands and between 1961 and 1985 filled the 90-acre space – today’s Chavez Park – with more than a million and a half tons of garbage. Berkeleyans and residents of surrounding cities came to think of the area as “the dump.”

Since then, Berkeley has worked hard to recover from its ecological misdeeds. Thanks to the vision and hard work of hundreds of park advocates, with strong support from voters time and again, Berkeley’s waterfront is mostly green. It’s a far cry from the abundant marshlands and open creeks that sustained centuries of the original inhabitants, but it’s a definite improvement over the 1950s.

But in one crucial respect, Cesar Chavez Park is still a dump. Progress has overlooked a central necessity of parks, decent restrooms. The area had porta-potties when it was the dump. More than 35 years later, it has porta-potties still. Berkeley is the only city in the East Bay that dares to offer its park visitors – many from around the world – these stinky, disgusting, anti-woman, anti-child, anti-disabled outhouses. They’re fiberglass versions of a medieval technology. They’re the main reason why there’s no playground in the park — how many parents would allow their kids to “go” in these stinkholes?

Flush-vault restroom, National Park Service, Pacifica. Cost $62,000.

Berkeley could easily do better. Restroom technology has advanced, and the cost factor is a fraction of what it was. Cities like Lathrop and Emeryville and systems like the National Park Service have installed modern flushtoilet park restrooms for less than $125,000 apiece, complete. These are not the old model park restrooms with holes big enough to drop babies in. They feature flush toilets and handwashing. They can be connected to sewers (as in Emeryville) or based on vaults, which brings down the installed cost to $65,000 or less. And they’re far cheaper to maintain than porta-potties. You can read more about the park bathroom situation here.

Signing petition for better bathrooms

Nearly a thousand park visitors have signed a petition for better bathrooms. Only permanent flush-toilet restrooms meet the expectations of today’s urban park visitors. Berkeley is certainly capable of rising to that level. Isn’t it?

As a Conservancy Member, you will join the thousands of park visitors who believe that Berkeley deserves better than porta-potties in its parks. You may hold City authorities to task for attitudes and claims that keep us locked into an unsanitary and disgusting technology, while every other city has moved into the modern era.

If you agree that Cesar Chavez Park deserves modern flush-toilet bathrooms, become a Conservancy Member.

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