Mayor Todd Gloria has had it with folks making a mess in the city’s public restrooms.
Asked at Politifest what the city is doing to add more public restrooms downtown to address needs cited by homeless residents and business owners, Gloria said the city is “fighting like hell” for more bathrooms but has struggled to deal with users who make it difficult to even maintain existing ones.
Late last year, Gloria set a goal to have public restrooms within a five-minute walk of all areas downtown, a target the city initially envisioned meeting quickly.
Gloria’s team said Tuesday the city is still working to achieve that goal. As Voice of San Diego has previously reported and Gloria acknowledged Saturday, the city is continuing to grapple with how to ensure access to bathrooms it already has as it tries to add more restrooms.
Gloria said the city has pushed hard for restrooms outside UC San Diego Extension’s Park and Market project downtown and the now-shuttered Horton Plaza mall, set up new port-a-potties elsewhere and is including bathrooms in new park developments.
But Gloria said some messy bathroom users are complicating efforts to add more restrooms:
“I just need to ask folks to quit acting a fool in these bathrooms. I mean, it’s not just the homeless population. It’s everybody. You’ve seen the stories about the lack of cleanliness. Talk about worker issues. It’s very hard to get people to do that job as well. And so, you know, when these bathrooms are being destroyed – and I’m not saying this is the homeless thing – this is everybody’s getting in there and acting some foolish. Like, it’s kind of funny, but it’s not, right? I mean, it makes it hard for me to tell a community we need to put a public restroom there because they think of it as only a negative thing rather than a common human thing, which is that we all go to the bathroom, right? But the answer to the question is, we’re doing that work now. We could certainly be good partners in making sure you clean up after yourself after you use the damn thing. I can’t believe I have to say that, but some people came out of the home (the) last two years, they came out crazy and they’re acting stupid in these things. And I don’t have enough park maintenance people to keep this thing clean, right? So just for God’s sake, if you see someone messing this up…this is getting crazy…. I think my staff’s gonna have a heart attack, but I just [..] it’s theirs, the bathroom’s available. You know, you’re talking about them in cases when they’re not there, but when they’re there, people don’t like them. And then it’s chasing our tail. And this is just as nuts. I’m just asking to be a decent human being for God’s sakes. And flush when you’re done if it’s not too much…”
Gloria concluded by jokingly wiping under his eye.
Fellow Politifest panelist Nathan Fletcher, chair of the county Board of Supervisors, was sympathetic. He said cities, counties and other agencies struggle with the “tremendous expense” tied to restroom and that, though he thinks there should be more, delivering them is real hard.
“To the mayor’s point, you have to have 24/7 security – 24/7 security. You also have to clean them every two to three hours,” Fletcher said. “And so at a time, again, when we have a critical shortage, it does become like, ‘OK, should we launch a new shelter facility that has bathrooms, should we have safe parking, safe camping or should we fund (a bathroom)?’”