FOLLOWUP: City still deciding what’s next after West Seattle Junction portable-toilet fire

(WSB photo, Sunday)

Will the city replace the portable toilet destroyed by fire at 44th/Alaska early Sunday (WSB coverage here)? Seattle Public Utilities spokesperson Sabrina Register tells WSB, “There are discussions around next steps for hygiene resources at the location,” After removal of the controversial “hygiene station” in Junction Plaza Park three weeks ago, the city-funded toilet was the only remaining public restroom in the area; the fire also destroyed the portable sink that had been moved there from the park. SFD tells WSB there’s no information on the fire’s cause; one engine was on scene for about 15 minutes and its investigator was not dispatched. The charred remnants of the toilet have not yet been removed, but Register says SPU is working on that “and is reviewing any actions that can be taken to reduce fire risk.” We researched the portable toilet’s history while covering a Junction safety initiative in 2016; the city told us then that one had been there since the Junction Association requested it in the ’90s.

26 Replies to "FOLLOWUP: City still deciding what's next after West Seattle Junction portable-toilet fire"

  • Morgan November 24, 2020 (5:48 pm)

    Portland Loo. They’re spendy To get up and going but then they work And will be cheaper in long run. Nothing better out there. Don’t hesitate and pull the trigger. Buy the Portland OR loo. Google it.

    • WSB November 24, 2020 (5:59 pm)

      King County has installed several at Steve Cox Memorial Park in White Center.

    • Cozy November 24, 2020 (7:41 pm)

      Yes! Let’s do this WS, in Junction Plaza Park.

      This Loo seems to address the need for accessible public bathrooms, while also mitigating some of the problems that unfortunately can arise in public bathrooms.

      Thanks for sharing this Morgan.


      • S November 24, 2020 (10:30 pm)

        The Wikipedia page for the Portland loo has a bunch of examples of it attracting crime and drug use. 

      • CMT November 24, 2020 (10:41 pm)

        Why would they put a Portland Loo in the tiny Junction Plaza Park after they just went through months of deliberation to remove the last facilities due to the numerous accounts of increased criminal activity after its installation?  I’m all for having a reasonable public restroom facility in the Junction but it has been made abundantly clear that a pocket park is not a wise location. Let’s not repeat the same costly mistake.

        • Cozy November 25, 2020 (7:40 am)

          Because an accessible public bathroom is needed in the area, and we need to come together to find a solution.

          This public space is a logical place for it for numerous reasons, including the central location and there being good space for it.

          The park would also be an intuitive location for visitors of WS to look for a public restroom.

          This Loo could also benefit local businesses, by easing pressure with sharing their bathroom with non-customers, as they would be able to refer people to this nearby public facility.

          The design of this particular bathroom mitigates many of the issues associated with unwanted bathroom activities.

          • CMT November 25, 2020 (11:41 am)

            Given the size of the park, unless your goal is for the  park to become primarily a destination to use a restroom, that makes absolutely no sense.   It was funded with the purpose of being a park for residents to enjoy as literally the only  green space (aside from the golf course) in the West Seattle Junction neighborhood.  What you are proposing would decimate that purpose.   I don’t understand why you would propose such a blow to the neighborhood residents rather than a more appropriate area (like the bus stop area where the existing structure was blown up) unless you simply want to destroy an amenity for the sole purpose of calling attention to the plight of homelessness. If your goal is truly for people to come together to find a solution and not simply to punish people that have permanent homes, I would suggest not proposing to promptly reinstate a public restroom in a park that was just the subject of a mountain of adjacent neighbors’ and businesses’ concerns.

          • Jethro Marx November 25, 2020 (1:52 pm)

            I know you probably know this, and really just mean “people who aren’t so poor as to lack real estate” when you say “residents” but those living in tents and vehicles are not only residents of your neighborhood but actual neighbors. Not the neighbors you want, and I understand why. But what you’re saying is, “Pay more attention to the needs and preferences of those who are better off, and who I think are better behaved, than the needs of the poorest among us.” I know it’s a complex problem with no easy answers, but then, “Who is my neighbor?” is a complex question with simple answers.

          • CMT November 25, 2020 (5:38 pm)

            I think you are making a lot of incorrect assumptions about who I view as my neighbor and the inherent value that I place upon individuals based upon their financial means. My comments are limited to whether a public restroom should be placed in a tiny park, effectively making that its primary usage.  The Junction Plaza Park’s intended use was a park not a public restroom or a permanent homeless encampment.  Yes, I recognize that people may reside in the park for a variety of reasons.  No, I do not believe we should be choosing the location of a public restroom based upon the views of the residents of a park that was not intended or designed to be a residence.  Hopefully we can all agree that the goal should be that residence by individuals in the park is not a desired permanent solution, as opposed to individuals securing long-term shelter.  That being the case, yes, I do believe that the concerns of individuals and businesses occupying spaces near the park that are intended for long-term occupancy should be accorded significantly greater weight, particularly where alternatives are available. Yes, I recognize that individuals have basic bodily needs and I believe that compassion and a recognition of the breakdown of the social safety net require providing public restrooms.  I just do not believe this park is the appropriate location and frankly, the location next to transit, in the heart of the Junction makes far more sense. Finally, I believe that pushing for a public restroom in the park given recent history is extremely foolish if one’s goal is actually to increase services to the homeless instead of dividing the community and increasing already negative feelings.

          • Cozy November 26, 2020 (11:27 am)

            Not everyone shares the same views or may agree, but in my view, there is adequate space in this public park to host a Portland Loo. 

            It could be installed on the concrete square area, while not impacting the green space or seating areas. I believe it would add value and be a convenient bathroom facility for any and all visiting this area to be able to use. 

            This is not just about meeting the need of homeless folks, though that is of great need and importance, but also to benefit all in the community, anyone visiting the area to have convenient access to a public restroom that can be well maintained. Seniors, children, runners, tourists, are some others who could greatly benefit from this.

            I do not agree that it would negatively change or decimate this park or be bad for the community.

            However, having one of these installed over by the bus stops instead of in the park, if that was decided, would also be a good thing. I see the park as a better location for a number of reasons, some of which I’ve already shared, but would agree that location should be well discussed and considered.

            Fyi to everyone who hasn’t looked up more info regarding this Loo, it is designed smartly to help to deter and avoid some of the activity, damage, vandalism, and destruction that can occur with lesser structures, such as the honey buckets and other facilities.

            As a side note, I also think this park could use some sprucing up and more attention to be more inviting for people to visit… more flowers, art, benches, live music, perhaps occasional outdoor vendors could set up here too?

            There may be many different views on this, but I think discussion and exploring options is good. Thanks for sharing your perspective.

          • CMT November 26, 2020 (2:06 pm)

            Agree that a public restroom could be a welcome amenity and agree to disagree about the park as a locale – Happy Thanksgiving!

  • Shufflerunner November 24, 2020 (6:17 pm)

    I bet it takes them 8 months to make a decision while the smoking husk of a toilet remains. Minimum 4 zoom Town Halls about it. 

  • payattention November 24, 2020 (6:58 pm)

    Shufflerunner. I think you’re too optimistic.

  • Auntie November 24, 2020 (7:24 pm)

    Why are they still saying the cause is undetermined? Last time I checked, plastic toilets and sinks weren’t known for spontaneous combustion. Come on – somebody lit these up, no? Now we need fireproof facilities. Good grief.

    • Lee November 24, 2020 (7:49 pm)

      Yes, this was undoubtedly caused by a person, but I would think a fire investigation would want to provide something more specific. Was it a smoldering cigarette someone left? A crazy person playing with fire? A vigilante who wants public toilets out of the junction? This could have been anything from a stupid accident to an arson, and that’s what they don’t know. Probably pretty hard to determine too given the condition the toilet’s in now.   

      • Morgan November 24, 2020 (9:34 pm)

        Doesn’t matter…centuries of urban life tells us: public toilets will get trashed. And if people don’t have bathrooms nature will be answered in ways even less hygienic.lets just be civilized about this and pony up for a Portland loo and make as little controversy about it as possible, and resolve completely and not drag out for a decade debating. Should just be a piece of infrastructure like hydrants…and hopefully,  un news worthy (Appreciation for this blog And forum of course).

  • McGruff November 24, 2020 (8:46 pm)

    This is why we can’t have nice things….

  • The King November 24, 2020 (8:54 pm)

    Hopefully the mayor can hire one of her many campaign donors on the maximum scale for a no bid contract to investigate and get to the bottom of this. 

  • N November 24, 2020 (9:00 pm)

    Not to be cynical but one would think the city and Junction, would act quickly to clean the scene in the middle of our central biz district.  

  • Rick November 24, 2020 (9:12 pm)

    Must have been some  nuclear spicy Mexican food! Maybe we could bring back those fancy a** self cleaning stainless steel shoot up/hooker toilets. I bid on one but missed out by a few bucks. It was a steal.

  • Huck November 25, 2020 (7:44 am)

    What does a Portland loo cost?

  • Deb November 25, 2020 (12:17 pm)

    Wasn’t this SW Alaska Street location originally picked because it’s at the WS Junction Transit Center and it aids transit drivers?  

  • Stevie J November 25, 2020 (7:09 pm)

    Number of locations for people to store their privately owned 3000 lb vehicles which cost tens of thousands of dollars on public land for free: 500,000

    Number of locations to do basic human functions like peeing and pooping on public land: like 5

     Nice priorities 👍👍

    More benches and toilets and less car storage please.

  • Kathy November 25, 2020 (9:39 pm)

    What are the chances that the City of Seattle would install a Portland Loo with a logo of Portland on it and be responsible for its  maintenance, vandalism, etc? Not appropriate. I think a rented honey bucket with routine maintenance that leaves the liability with the rental company or their insurance company  in a case like this makes much more sense financially.

    • Cozy November 26, 2020 (11:46 am)

      Other major cities are also purchasing and installing these Loo’s because of their smart design.

      Honeybuckets are not a great long term solution, and as we’ve just seen, can be easily destroyed. That is not appropriate, in my opinion.

      The Portland Loo’s are made of steel and even have a graffiti resistant coating making them easy to maintain.

      Also, the greater public, shoppers, etc. would probably be more comfortable using a Portland Loo in the park, over a Honeybucket near the bus stops.

      Meeting the greater needs of the community, good for all!

  • balderdash November 26, 2020 (9:24 am)

    A rented honey bucket will fill the need, do it pretty much instantaneously and be to everyone’s benefit without the city going into an unending conversation about it.

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