Now’s the Time for Better Bathrooms

What:  Final Meeting on T1 Bond Money
When: Saturday April 8 2017, 10 am to noon
Where: South Berkeley Library, 1901 Russell St., corner of MLK
Two of the park porta-potties, 9/14/2016

The City’s Parks and Waterfront Department has “blessed” Cesar Chavez Park with plastic porta-potties for the past two and a half decades.  The current department boss, Scott Ferris, seems intent on making park visitors suffer the porta-potties for another decade, if he gets his way.  He has ignored the petition for better bathrooms signed by nearly a thousand park visitors in 2015.  He has stonewalled the feelings of practically every City Council member for the past two years, all of whom support better bathrooms in the park.  At the March 18 bond money hearing event, his staff blocked a flyer containing information about better bathrooms from the literature table  — only City-approved handouts were allowed there.  

At an upcoming City Council work session on Tuesday afternoon, April 4, Ferris will present a written statement claiming that new bathrooms in Cesar Chavez Park and in seven other parks would cost $800,000 (eight hundred thousand dollars) each.  (See City of Berkeley website, Council agenda.)   He also claims that replacing restrooms in five other parks would cost $350,000 each, and that renovation of restroom buildings in four parks would cost $450,000 each.  The total bill, according to Ferris, would come to just short of ten million dollars.

The new GreenFlush restroom at Mori Point Park in Pacifica: $50,000

There is no basis to these cost estimates for new bathrooms.  Ferris has made them up.  

Good park bathrooms, with flush toilets, urinals, and sinks for handwashing, do not cost an arm and a leg.  As I’ve shown here repeatedly, other cities and park systems have installed bathrooms with these features for around fifty thousand dollars each — one sixteenth of Ferris’ absurd $800,000 number.  For just one expenditure of $800,000, the City could replace every porta-potty in the park system with sanitary, odor-free, flushing and handwashing bathrooms, and have money left over.  

One has to wonder about a parks director who thinks so little of the citizens’ intelligence as to propose numbers so out of bounds from reality.  Ferris’ numbers are “alternative facts” in the Trump manner.  Ferris’ obvious purpose is to fabricate an alarmingly high number that will scare people away from the concept of good bathrooms in the park, so that we will stop complaining and put up with the porta-potties.    

If you care about the park, and you’re tired of the city’s games, please show up on Saturday April 8, at 10 a.m., at the South Branch Berkeley Library, 1901 Russell St, corner of MLK, for the last of three hearings on how the T1 bond money will be spent.  I hope to see you there!

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