For Better Bathrooms

Flush-vault restroom in National Park Service, Pacifica CA

The photo shows a park restroom with flush toilet, urinal, and hand washing sink that cost the National Park Service $60,000 installed, complete. (That’s sixty thousand, not six hundred thousand.) These are the kind of clean, sanitary, odor-free toilets we could have in Cesar Chavez Park tomorrow. Instead we have stinky, unsanitary porta-potties that are forbidding to women and children and an insult to the memory of Cesar Chavez.

In Berkeley’s city management system, one of the methods of stalling progress is to stage a “public process.” Meetings are called, refreshments served, PowerPoints shown, opinions solicited. Then city management proceeds to do exactly what it wanted to do all along. The public process is a charade.

Nevertheless, its a game that demands to be played. The latest round is an online survey on public toilets. It’s designed by Hyphae Design Lab, which has a City contract to study Berkeley’s public restroom needs and make recommendations. You can download a 4-page overview of their study so far here. The long version, 57 pages, is available here. It’s a decent piece of work.

The online survey is here. It has 15 questions. The most important questions are the following:

Question 7: What is your experience with city-owned public restrooms in Berkeley? My answer: Berkeley Parks, Poor.

Question 9: Do you use porta-potties? My answer: Only in emergencies and then only standing up.

Question 12: Name the public restroom … where you have experienced a problem with a public toilet. My answer: Porta-potties in Cesar Chavez Park. Filthy, disgusting, smelly, in bad repair, unsanitary, forbidding, insulting.

Question 13: Which zone would you like to comment on? My answer: West Berkeley.

Next question, not numbered: Which location needs more restroom resources? My answer: (1) Cesar Chavez Park, 1st Choice. (You need to also rank the other areas to complete the question and move on.)

Next question, not numbered: My answer: Continue to Final Section. Respond to other zones, also an option. In any event:

Remember to go to the end and hit “Submit.” Like voting in Chicago, this online survey allows you to start over again and submit any number of additional responses. Take advantage!

The “public process” originally foresaw a series of public meetings, of which I attended several. The remainder have undoubtedly been coronacancelled. So this online survey is the last gasp of the intake of public opinion. Then Hyphae, having been paid $150,000 by the City, will submit its report to City management, which will drop it in the round file.

We will get decent public restrooms in the park and in the City generally only if City Council makes it clear that heads will roll in top City management unless it is done. In any other civilized country, the poverty of public facilities in Berkeley would never have been tolerated, and any government that failed to fix it would have been swept aside as corrupt and disgusting, no matter how lofty its pretensions of progressivism.

This porta-potty in the park stood broken for three months before it was repaired

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