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City Council unanimously approved a contract with a Portland-based fabrication company to purchase a stainless steel public restroom on Thursday in an effort to combat public urination and relieve pressure off of downtown businesses.
The $97,700, stainless steel structure is “extremely durable” and easy to maintain, said John Jacks, interim director of the Center City Development and Operations Department.
“It’s a unique solution to a universal problem,” Jacks said, unlike any other public restroom in town, this one will be open 24 hours a day in a highly-trafficked downtown location yet to be determined.
If the “Portland Loo” works out, the City might look into purchasing more, he said. The manufacturer Madden Fabrication gives a 30% discount per unit.
The structures have been installed in 20 locations across the U.S., mostly in Oregon.
Councilman Mike Gallagher (D10) noted that some, including talk radio hosts, have balked at the price of the loo.
The long term maintenance cost of a more traditional facility would be much higher, Jacks said, with the Portland Loo, the City is essentially paying maintenance cost up front. The 9×18-foot structure is designed to be easy to clean and hard to break.
“All of the wall panels are replaceable,” and graffiti resistant he said. “If one was damaged, the panels could be replaced.”Inside, guests will find the basics: a toilet and a motion sensor LED light. No mirror.
“(This) discourages someone from hanging out in it, which is a problem with most restrooms,” Jacks said. It is possible for law enforcement to see inside to check if anyone is sleeping or conducting other illegal activities as there are small windows at the very bottom to see an occupant’s feet.
“It still gives enough privacy to a person using it,”Jacks said, like any other bathroom stall.
Outside, the public will find a small hand-washing station and a panel on the door where you can install art or display event/map information.
Councilman Roberto Treviño (D1), whose district covers downtown, traveled with Jacks last year to Portland to examine the loos. Treviño said the bathrooms could be customizable and include a public art component.
The City could spend anywhere between $30,000 to $60,000 for installation once a location is selected. It’s expected to be installed in May.
The CCDO is currently investigating where the best spot is to put it, Jacks said. “It needs to be in a place that has high (pedestrian) traffic” and access to water and sewer utilities.
The bathroom will likely be checked on and cleaned twice daily, Jacks said, depending on where it’s located. Cleaning materials are located in a locked panel on the back, but since it’s stainless steel, it can essentially be hosed down.
The San Antonio Police Department will need to be part of the conversation, Treviño said. Police officers will need to know how it works and how to provide security.
He also defended the cost of the new loo. “This is an industrial grade product. It’s well built. It’s built like a tank,” he said.
*Top image: The “Portland Loo” by Madden Fabrication. Photo courtesy of the City of San Antonio.