This Week in the Mercury


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Looky Loo! Second Downtown Toilet Now Open

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Wed, Aug 11, 2010 at 2:47 PM

Great success! Roz Eisenstark emerges from the new loo.
  • Denis C. Theriault
  • Great success! Roz Eisenstark emerges from the new loo.

It was just about 1 o'clock this afternoon when the telltale WHOOSH issued through the vents of the new loo down on SW Naito and Taylor. Roz Eisenstark, visiting from Del Rey Beach, Fla., emerged shortly after to wash her hands and marvel at the gun-metal facility where she had just done her business.

"It was great," gushed Eisenstark, the first civilian to press the flusher button inside the toilet, which opened with modest fanfare this afternoon. "It was clean and it was noiseless and it was efficient."

The toilet, like its counterpart on 5th and Glisan, which opened back in 2008, is the brainchild of Commissioner Randy Leonard, patron saint in these parts of those who need to piss. Like RIGHT NOW. OH SHIT! OH GOD! RIGHT NOW!

Leonard, beaming like a proud papa, was on hand to show the thing off. And he was greeted by a handful of bureaucrats (including Commissioner Amanda Fritz) and a slightly smaller handful of reporters clearly looking for the, um, straight poop. (Sorry, first and last one of those.) He gave the honors of the first flush, at 12:45 sharp, to one of his aides, Stuart Oishi.

If it was a big day for Leonard's office, the doubling of Portland's stock of ballyhooed loos, it's only because the road to a piss-pot on every corner has been a bit strained.

In fact, some people are downright pissed the city is putting up toilets period. And keeping them open 24/7? The horrors! Why so mad and will the toilets keep popping up? Keep reading.

A patriotic Stuart Oishi, from Randy Leonards office, performs the first flush.
  • Denis C. Theriault
  • A patriotic Stuart Oishi, from Randy Leonard's office, performs the first flush.
Basically, some neighbors think the loos will serve as magnets for junkies and hookers. Or that they'll smell bad. That's one reason why a planned toilet in the Pearl District (which used to smell like beer, frequently a key ingredient in urine) has been so controversial.

Leonard brushes all that aside. The loos — which are patented, he says, and "one of a kind" — have vents that let cops and others see whether there are four legs or just two. And, he said, public urination at 5th and Glisan has all but dried up. Other cities, including San Diego, want to bring the design to their own downtowns.

Here in P-Town, Leonard hopes to open two more by the end of the year, including the toilet in the Pearl. But he wants them all over, in places like Pioneer Courthouse Square and near the MAX station in the Rose Quarter. Good luck with that.

Asked if he'd be willing to compromise on whether the loos should stay open all night, Leonard essentially said "hell no."

"It's an option not to have one," he said. "It's not an option when we have one to have it locked."

The toilets cost $58,000 each to install and $12,000 more a year (all from the general fund) to scrub up twice a day. The fact that they sparkle, relatively speaking, was appreciated by John Shaw, a homeless Portlander who said the Glisan toilet has been a blessing for him and others on the streets.

Sure, he said, sometimes you have to wait for a crackhead or two to finish before you can get in, but "it's not much of a hassle."

"It's about time," he said. "They need 'em all around town. It's hard to find a bathroom."

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