Garberville Public Restroom Becoming a Reality
Work has begun on the public bathroom at the Garberville Town Square where the Farmer’s Market is held each week. Local builders Jim Truitt of the Garberville Redway Public Restroom Working Group (GRPRWG) and Dennis Bourassa of the Garberville Town Square Board have both been working on the project. The concrete will probably be poured this week, and Bourassa says he expects the foundation to be finished by Christmas. And Truitt thinks the bathroom unit will be finished and installed by the end of February if all goes well. Everyone involved feels pleased that the permits are secured, ground has been broken, and work has finally begun.
A public restroom in Southern Humboldt has been in the process for some time. The Garberville Redway Public Restroom Working Group started work on the matter six years ago. That was after local homeless advocate, Debra Carey, tried to give the homeless community a porta-potty at the Veterans Park for her own birthday. It was quickly removed by the County.
This left those without homes also without a bathroom. Local businesses often find human feces when they arrive to open shop for the day. It is so common that one business owner leaves cardboard around for people to use so cleanup is easier. That’s still not the hygiene standard of the modern world.
Bourassa says that public restrooms have an underestimated value in community life. When he lived in Spain, Bourassa said that the law mandated public businesses like restaurants and markets allow everyone to use the restroom. Other people have commented that most tourist destinations in the United States have public restrooms supported by the areas’ Chambers of Commerce to make them comfortable destinations.
However, in recent decades, homelessness has exploded in numbers and solutions have not come forward. Problematic use and misuse of bathrooms in the public sphere has resulted in even taxpayer-funded buildings like Garberville’s Department of Health and Human Services closing their bathrooms to people not currently conducting business there.
Solving Problems with Planning
Bob Froelich of the GRPRWG board says the group has done a lot of homework toward designing this bathroom. They provided a porta-potty for a couple of years on the very north end of Redway to see how it would be received. Froelich says they had virtually no problems. Residents in a nearby neighborhood found they had fewer problems with trespassing in those years. And Froelich said the porta-potty wasn’t vandalized and was used regularly.
Froelich also says GRPRWG has researched problems towns and cities commonly have with public restrooms. The problems, he said, include vandalism, being used for a safe sleeping space, and being used for bathing and laundry needs.
The bathroom being installed at the Garberville Town Square is modeled on the Portland Loo which the people of Portland, Oregon had designed to solve the city’s public restroom needs. Portland Loos incorporate a supply closet and solar panels mounted on top of their units while keeping vandalism and non-bathroom uses to a minimum with its design features.
Some of the Details
Southern Humboldt’s restroom will be a stainless steel bathroom stall for long life and easy maintenance. Trash and handwashing will be outside the unit to prevent vandalism and to prevent the sink being used for bathing and laundry needs. The handwashing will be a spout in the exterior wall of the unit operated on a very short timer. The local version will not have solar panels at this time. It will be using conventional utilities. And it will have a wood frame and stucco supply closet that will be shared between the bathroom and the town square for tools and supplies.
Sleeping in the bathroom will be discouraged by open, screened slats on the sides below the knee line. The design of the slats, angling down toward the inside, means that a person laying on the floor will be easily visible from the outside, but no one can see the user of the commode. And the user will maintain his or her sense of privacy because the user cannot see out from above. The slats also create a breezier, less sheltered environment.
The stainless steel bathroom is currently being fabricated at Work Horse Welding of Miranda for less than a quarter of the price of the Loo according to Jim Truitt. Nonetheless, this is a costly investment into the positive atmosphere of the community. Fabrication and materials will be about $25,000. Permitting and engineering were about $10,000. There were design costs with the architect, Kash Boodjeh, who nonetheless donated a lot of his time to the project. Getting a water and sewer connection was less costly than it could have been because GRPRWG paid their connection fee while it was still $1,200 and it has jumped to $8,000 since then.
Community Support Making It Happen
Jim Truitt says the project was jump-started by Rotary who gave a donation of $4,000 “to get us off the ground.” Since then GRPRWG has received donations and offers of support from many business and private citizens. GRPRWG will soon be writing a letter to thank everyone who has already helped. And they are reaching out to the rest of the community as they work to raise enough to finish the project and to have $8,000 on hand for cleaning, maintenance, and supplies for the first year of operation.
The public bathroom is a coordinated project between GRPRWG and the Town Square with a formal MOU that leaves GRPRWG responsible for its maintenance for two years according to Froelich.
GRPRWG has a facebook page so you can see more detail.
Interested people can donate funds in support of finishing the public bathroom in Southern Humboldt. Here is a link to their GoFundMe page and an account number at CCUSH. (Donate to “WISH” donation account-51/ Public Restroom Group).