A former resident of Escondido is voluntarily cleaning park bathrooms across the city and documenting the grueling process along the way.
Earlier this week, I wrote about how Escondido is still grappling with its growing budget deficit. The city has used one-time funding sources to close its budget gaps for the past few years, but the deficit hasn’t gone away, and it’s projected to keep getting larger.
In fact, the city is expected to run a deficit of up to $23 million by 2036.
Because of these one-time funding sources, Escondido hasn’t had to make drastic cuts to city services, but some aspects of the city have taken a hit – maintenance and public works.
Christina Holmes, director of finance, said an estimated $8 million of maintenance has been deferred annually since around 2008. That includes maintenance of parks, playgrounds, libraries, recreation centers, pools, streets, sidewalks, bridges, storm drains, fleet and other city facilities.
This annual $8 million in deferred maintenance compounds, meaning a park or recreation center that has not been maintained will remain that way until the city finds the funds to do so. In the meantime, that leaves roughly $120 million in backlogged fixes that Escondido doesn’t have the money for.
The city has also reduced pest control measures at its parks, has cut public restroom maintenance at parks by 50 percent, has curtailed the replanting and refreshing of the landscaping at parks and other city facilities, and it decreased how often the parks’ parking lots are striped and sealed.
That’s where Amy Landers comes in.
Landers was a longtime resident of Escondido before moving to San Diego a few months ago, and for the past several months, she’s been voluntarily cleaning park bathrooms.
I first came across her work in a Facebook group for Escondido residents. Landers was asking people what park bathrooms she should clean next. Immediately, I was intrigued.
It turns out, Landers is a professional restoration cleaner and owns a cleaning business in San Diego. She’s also a mother of two kids who love going to the park, which is how this all started.
One day, she and her kids went to Kit Carson Park in Escondido, and when she took her daughter to use the restroom, she was horrified.
“It was disgusting – absolutely foul,” Landers said. “I started talking to a woman there who was pregnant, and she said she couldn’t even use the bathroom because of how dirty it was.”
This wasn’t the first time she had seen Escondido’s park restrooms in this state, but this time, she decided to do something about it.
“Kit Carson Park was the first bathroom I cleaned in August of last year,” Landers said. “In my professional opinion, I don’t think that bathroom had been deep cleaned in over two years.”
Each of the bathrooms she’s worked on has taken her three to five hours, sometimes longer, to clean. Along the way, Landers has found broken glass, knives, drug paraphernalia, used condoms and more on the bathroom floors.
She’s been posting videos of the cleanings on her TikTok account, which has garnered more than 180,000 followers, in hopes of raising awareness and inspiring some action from the city.
“The fact that the city is not allocating money to keep these bathrooms, and I don’t want to say pristine, but even usable is ridiculously dangerous,” Landers said.
When Landers raised her concerns to the city, she said city officials pointed to Escondido’s budget deficit and mounting pension obligations as the reason park maintenance has been deferred.
But, Landers said, the city needs to find a long-term solution to the problem because it’s impacting the community, and it’s only getting worse.
“There’s absolutely no reason why I, a single mother of two who works 10-to-13-hour days, six days a week, should have to delegate what little time I have to ensure my children, my neighbors and our homeless veterans can use the restroom in a clean bathroom,” Landers said.
Landers said she intends to keep cleaning park bathrooms and documenting the process and, maybe with enough attention on the issue, the city will have no choice but to correct it.
“This impacts Escondido residents and their children, and it also impacts the city’s homeless population,” Landers said. “A public restroom is an important resource for some people, and it shouldn’t be a health hazard.”
Escondido has tried twice to address the structural deficit by raising sales taxes, with ballot measures projected to raise around $20 million annually. The first one failed at a City Council meeting in 2020, and the second failed at the ballot box last year.
Read my full story on Escondido’s budget problems here.
In Other News
- The Vista City Council last week voted to contract with Jewish Family Service to operate a 25-lot safe parking program at the city’s Civic Center. It will be the first safe parking lot for Vista. (Union-Tribune)
- Related: I wrote about Vista’s safe parking program when the city first decided to move forward with it earlier this year. The safe parking lot will be the second of its kind in North County. The only other option for safe parking in North County is in Encinitas.
- A new landslide at San Clemente has, once again, suspended all rail services between San Diego and Orange County. The shutdown comes less than two weeks after rail services resumed two miles away after a nearly six-month suspension caused by a different landslide. (Union-Tribune)
Bless here for doing the work of the Government. Shame on Biden for his open borders and shame on Escondido for allowing the vagrants to camp there.
Finally! This is the first comments I’ve read about North County! All I ever seem to hear is what Mayor Todd Gloria is doing in San Diego. Let’s hear more that’s helping No. County Cities.
Pensions have decimated our expectations of public servants. They are totally unsubstainanable. I pull goatheads along public paths. My school district doesn’t nor does the county of SD. Hard to improve our experiences unless citizens get it done.
Think I missed the part where she cleaned “multiple” park bathrooms. Taking video isn’t the same as cleaning it. Good on her for bringing attention but clout chasing ain’t it.
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