Early-morning fire destroys city-funded West Seattle Junction toilet

(WSB photos)

When a Honey Bucket driver showed up at noon to service the city-funded portable toilet on SW Alaska near 44th SW, he had a surprise – there was nothing to service, just foul-smelling molten plastic debris. We were there checking because of reader tips that the toilet had been destroyed by fire. The SFD logs show a “dumpster fire” response there at 4:37 am today, with one engine on scene, for a total of 17 minutes. A toilet, framed by a permanent shelter, has been there for years. Recently a portable sink was added, moved from Junction Plaza Park after two portable toilets were removed from that spot; the sink also was destroyed in this morning’s fire.

SFD tells. us the fire remains under investigation. We’ll be checking with the city tomorrow about plans for replacing the toilet.

36 Replies to "Early-morning fire destroys city-funded West Seattle Junction toilet"

  • Craig November 22, 2020 (2:33 pm)

    It’s ok. No need to replace. Thanks anyway, city. 

    • Bus rider November 22, 2020 (4:15 pm)

      Bus drivers use that portable toilet.

    • Mel November 22, 2020 (4:22 pm)

      Agreed. I’d rather they don’t replace it.

      • Michael Hock November 22, 2020 (4:50 pm)

        Mel, you and Craig should be ashamed – the absolute gall to be borderline celebrating a loss of a basic resource for unhoused folks and public servants is revolting. Please, grow some empathy.

        • Craig November 22, 2020 (6:19 pm)

          I’m not ashamed, I do think we see things differently though. I’d prefer they (bus drivers and “unhoused”) use the same resources the rest of us do when not in our homes – a business’ bathroom, or the Safeway, Bartells, QFC, Starbucks. This is what the bus drivers, police, and many others do at the Alki Starbucks for example. Anyone that is presentable, polite and not a disturbance to others can use them. No, I don’t want the city to pay for the people that can’t be civilized and use the existing (and better) facilities. 

          • Patrick November 22, 2020 (6:38 pm)

            Yes because businesses are all too happy to have the homeless use their facilities. You are so out of touch it’s troubling. 

          • Cozy November 22, 2020 (8:10 pm)

            ^ This, indeed.

            Also, many businesses restrict use of their bathrooms for employees and customers only.

            And currently, many have closed their bathrooms to customers during the pandemic.

            You know how many commenters here have expressed intolerance for the homeless folks presence outside at the park… well, they are even less well tolerated in places of business.

            Providing those in need with resources, along with community acceptance, tolerance and kindness, can only help.

          • Resident November 22, 2020 (8:40 pm)

            As a matter of fact yes anyone is allowed to use a Starbucks toilet there was a big above about that over a year ago. I don’t think I’m the one that’s out of touch.It’s not horrible to not want homeless people crowding around an area. Our city needs to do some thing about it and they’re not and this is the Band-Aid a toilet? How about better solutions?

          • Cozy November 23, 2020 (11:52 am)

            I agree we need better solutions, but in the meantime, these folks need access to bathrooms.

          • Cozy November 23, 2020 (11:55 am)

            … also, Starbucks bathrooms are not open 24/7.

          • Michael Hock November 22, 2020 (7:16 pm)

            You and I and everyone commenting here are/were allowed to use that toilet, too…? 

    • DooDooBœkît November 23, 2020 (5:51 pm)

      All you NIMBY’s on here…. you seriously need to wake the f<>k up and look around… We’re experiencing almost year of a f■■king pandemic, the worst economic depression in US history, a completely justified and needed social/civil unrest movement… AND the coming mass-evictions, as people haven’t been able to make rent……And you’re advocating against a necessary resource; an aid to people struggling, in pain, or simply just about to p>ss/sh>t themselves…Re-locate your humanity. Access some empathy. Before your new moniker becomes “Please… Not In My Front Yard?” (PNIMFY just doesn’t have the same ring to it)Because it’s gonna’ get worse, before it gets worse. 

  • Under Achiever November 22, 2020 (2:33 pm)

    This is why we can’t have nice things…

  • West Seattle Lurker November 22, 2020 (3:38 pm)

    Seems like a biohazard. I’m sure all the businesses will be thrilled. 

  • Cat Sith November 22, 2020 (3:56 pm)

    Sure would be nice to live in a society where people don’t wreck everything the second they get the chance.

  • vee November 22, 2020 (3:59 pm)

    area is getting sooo bad- went by about 3pm and police rersponding to fight? yelling in park by qfc – about 4 men there- fighting yelling –  looks like  a dump with all the trash there

    • flimflam November 22, 2020 (5:16 pm)

      honestly, the whole city looks like crap along any major arterial – bus stops all full of garbage, cans overflowing, trash on the sidewalks, streets…isn’t there any sort of city agency that picks up trash/litter or is it ‘not their problem” once it hits the sidewalk/street? dropped a friend off at work in ballard today and the bulk of 15th looks like this, along with spray painted/graffitied buildings, RV’s on the side streets…ugh.

      • Kt November 22, 2020 (6:08 pm)

        Good opportunity to pitch in and pick up some of that garbage.  That is what we do here in White Center.

        • B.W. November 22, 2020 (8:43 pm)

          It’s why we pay taxes to have city agencies do that.

  • AMD November 22, 2020 (7:15 pm)

    I hope it can be replaced soon, especially with the loss of the toilets and sinks were removed from Junction Plaza Park.

  • wsres November 22, 2020 (7:44 pm)

    My guess is it was lit on fire by the same people that have been smashing junction business windows.

    • Junctionette November 22, 2020 (8:27 pm)

      My guess is it was lit on fire by a pearl-clutching NIMBY who doesn’t like the sight of the toilet or the people who use it.

      • Michael Hock November 22, 2020 (9:21 pm)

        This was my immediate thought when I saw the news. Especially considering all the folks in these comment section openly talking about taking matters into their own hands when the plaza has been discussed in the past; thank you for saying this!

      • WSB November 22, 2020 (9:54 pm)

        Please note that we don’t know that ANYONE “set” it on fire. The SFD investigator was not dispatched. So far I’m not finding a police incident number. Hoping for more SFD info tomorrow.

  • Roundthesound November 22, 2020 (8:51 pm)

    Could this have been the handy work of whoever was lighting off m-80s earlier tonight? Seems weird that SFD would leave hazardous materials all over the street, not even caution tape!

    • WSB November 22, 2020 (9:14 pm)

      As noted above, SFD’s spokesperson hoped to have more information for us tomorrow. Their investigator was not dispatched, however, according to the log, and there’s no related SPD call showing, so I don’t know whether this is being investigated as a “set” fire at all. – TR

      • BBILL November 24, 2020 (11:16 am)

        Looking forward to the update.

        • WSB November 24, 2020 (11:19 am)

          SFD has no additional info. SPU acknowledged my inquiry yesterday, but hasn’t answered the questions yet. Haven’t been by the site yet today; went past yesterday, burned remnants still there.

  • business owner November 22, 2020 (10:41 pm)

    Just putting out this info, regarding bus drivers in need of lavatory services… as a business owner, close to a bus stop that parks for 45 min (for scheduling purposes)…Metro offered to pay me for a consistent place for their drivers to have a safe place to use the restroom without feeling the need to buy something.  It wasn’t much, but definitely covered the cost for toilet paper and cleaning etc.  I really enjoyed them coming in.  I have let others use my restroom (homeless or otherwise), and have had to call the cops (3X) because they passed out, with the door locked.  I also allowed one to use, only to come in realizing that they just smoked meth.  My business is close to an elementary school and high school.  Yes, we need to figure out a compromise.  But no, as a business owner, we aren’t entitled and “mean”,  to decline the use of our restroom to a person that is inebriated and puts my employees in a precarious situation (all while having parents and their children) in our establishment.  It’s crazy that people “mean mug” me when I turn this person away… especially since they come in disheveled and not wearing a mask.  I’ve had more people “mask shaming” to paying customers (who, as of a couple days ago) were allowed to take their mask off to eat/drink.  But in comes a mask-less homeless person, and I’m looked at incredulously for kindly asking them to leave.  What gives Seattle?  I’ve tried the “in my backyard”, have dropped food off to homeless encampments, volunteered at the food bank, and generally feel that all folks are good people and deserve to be trusted.  No- in my experience, it is dangerous and ineffective to allow people with alcohol/drug addiction (who happen to be homeless), into my business.  You can’t have it all.We can’t “enable” by providing these services without helping the root of the problem.  Instead of paying to maintain public toilets, revert that money toward social workers that can help with addiction.It is unfair to judge a business owner for their lack of “bathroom” availability. I would never deny a person, who seriously looks like they really need to go… and that person is always respectful and promises to buy something, and I tell them that they don’t have to.  People forget about community, and respect.  And our intuition about what is safe for our business, employees, and customers.  Public restrooms basically ruin the businesses close by. I don’t have an answer… just telling it from experience.  It’s a tough situation.  Truly.

    • 1994 November 22, 2020 (11:29 pm)

      Thank you for your experience and view Business Owner. The situation is tough. Providing basic service like a Honey Bucket seems like the decent thing for the city to do, but then there is the enabling factor to consider as the years of the homeless crisis roll on. Vancouver BC is testing out giving funds direct to the homeless instead of homeless oriented services like shelters, sanctioned camps….Maybe Seattle should consider defunding the homeless providers and give the funds direct to the homeless a la Vancouver BC style of program.

    • Cozy November 23, 2020 (11:43 am)

      Thanks for sharing your perspective as a business owner, I can appreciate the challenges around this. 

      Some things for folks to consider…

      Not every homeless person will trash or smoke meth in a businesses bathroom. Some just truly need to use the bathroom. 

      Just as racial bias and profiling isn’t okay, homeless bias and profiling also isn’t okay, and as a society this needs our mindful work.

      Some might find this of interest to read:

      https://www.frontsteps.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/DiscriminationReport20141.pdf

      As a business owner, you do have every right to restrict your bathroom and space as a general rule for customers only, and to not allow customers back who cause any issues or damage.

      And, this is why we need public facilities like the honey bucket and hygiene stations for homeless folks. Because they have the same basic needs as housed folks, but do not have the same access, and in some cases may not be an accepted welcome customer.

       ‘Instead of paying to maintain public toilets, revert that money toward social workers that can help with addiction.’

      This isn’t an either/or thing, both are needed resources, and arguably, most basic needs should be met first. Access to bathrooms and hygiene is a daily basic need we all have. 

  • Keenan Cottone November 22, 2020 (10:45 pm)

    I’d be happy to pay taxes for  permanent public toilets that are made of steel or brick and serviced daily.   A festival s—-er in the middle of the Junction, however, was ridiculous.  

  • Ms. Sparkles November 23, 2020 (12:31 pm)

    So did all the “contents” of the Honey Bucket burn?  The liquid evaporate & the solids… melt?  Is the plastic structure now melted to the side walk?  How are we going to clean this up… will a pressure washer do the job or is someone going to have to scrape that off to ground?  This is such a mess.  Never before this moment did I consider the possibility & aftermath of a porti-potty fire. Business Owner I agree with you and your policies. 

    • WSB November 23, 2020 (1:23 pm)

      All was gone aside from what looked like melted blue plastic on the pavement by the time we went to the site at noon. Don’t know if there was some SFD cleanup at some point – I have several followup inquiries out today but as noted, the time on scene on the incident log was pretty short.

  • Kathy November 23, 2020 (1:53 pm)

    There seems to be a bit of snobbery being expressed on this thread. I am a West Seattle Homeowner. I have used that toilet  a few times when the need was urgent. Was it ideal or pristine? No, but it was better than peeing behind a bush. I appreciate having a public toilet in the Junction as long as it is routinely maintained. I wouldn’t presume to ask a business where I am not shopping if I could use their toilet, even if I could find one that allows it.  I don’t drive to the Junction so I would have to walk or bike 3 miles to get home to use my own facilities.

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