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September 30, 2013 at 6:00 AM
Bring the Portland Loo to Seattle
The residents and retailers of Pioneer Square don’t just want a public loo. They need it. The smell of pee permeating from street corners and alleys is truly unpleasant for visitors. Seattle’s most storied district should elicit fond memories, not disgust and wrinkled noses.
Seattle’s City Council is scheduled to vote Monday on a land use ordinance to allow developer Urban Visions to build a project at 200 Occidental up to a maximum height of 130 feet — or one extra story — “if a freestanding manufactured public restroom structure is acquired and installed.”
They should say ‘yes’ to the deal.
Months ago, Urban Visions offered to comply and purchase an environmentally friendly public toilet called the Portland Loo. (Not to be mistaken with the five $1 million German toilets the city purchased and installed in 2004. According to this 2008 Seattle Times news report, those proved to be disastrous.)
Transporting the Portland Loo to Pioneer Square is expected to cost about $100,000. The developer would be on the hook for the facility’s capital costs, too, bringing the total to as much as $250,000.
What makes this deal extra sweet is the Alliance for Pioneer Square is willing to pay the Portland Loo’s maintenance costs, at least for the first five years. Wish the association would commit to a longer-term deal, but that’s not out of the question. The council may have to revisit costs later, which are estimated to be about $17,000 per year.
For now, we’re looking at a solution to an immediate public health problem. It’s an instance in which a public-private partnership might really do some good and free up funds for the city to spend on other important needs, maybe even invest in another Urban Rest Stop (already located in the U-District and 9th & Virginia).
In a Sept. 23 letter to the City Council, Urban Visions head Greg Smith said his firm has not decided whether to go through with building a mixed-use project that includes retail space, offices and residential units — or an alternate plan to build just offices. Urban Visions owns a master use permit to develop that project. Hopefully, the city council’s approval — and strong backing from the Pioneer Square community — will encourage Smith to stick with the plans they’ve been working so hard on for years.
A toilet kiosk may not be the most visually appealing option out there, but it sure beats seeing people do their private business in public. I’ll let this June 14 KOMO-TV news report show you what the alternative looks like. Think: buckets, human waste and ammonia.
Bring the Portland Loo to Seattle. Now.