No Downtown Restrooms

The City has dropped their plan to include the creation of public bathrooms in the renovation of the Downtown Recreation Center. The bathrooms would have provided much-needed relief to attendees of events at the Downtown Amphitheater — notably Fridays After 5 — that are currently restricted to portable toilets. The bathrooms are no longer included in the plan because the city estimates that they’ll cost $500,000 to install, well over the city’s budget limit for the overall project. Jake Mooney has the story in today’s Progress.

46 Responses to “No Downtown Restrooms”


  • Thaaaannnnnks faithful city governement employees! This is just another example of an unresponsiveness government. This is what is not only needed, but what city residents WANT. The port-a-johns, are, needless to say, nasty. But if they all of a sudden feel that restrooms are no longer in the budget, then I guess everyone can just head up to the Omni whenever nature calls. In fact, that should be the new mantra. SEND ‘EM TO THE OMNI!!!

  • City Council gave The Paramount $500,000 so the restrooms there should be open to the public.

  • $500,000?! Funny, it cost me a lot less than that to get a full bathroom installed in my house. Granted, it’s not the same thing, but that still seems pretty ludicrous.

  • This is the #1 complaint from out-of-towners who visit the Downtown Mall. They just can’t fathom that a city so flush with tourists (if you’ll forgive the pun) wouldn’t provide any public restroom facilities. They laugh when I tell them to try City Hall or the public library (if those are even open). The only other downtown options I can think of are the small bathroom at York Place and restaurant bathrooms. It’s too bad that no solution from the City is in sight.

  • Thaaaannnnnks faithful city governement employees! This is just another example of an unresponsiveness government. This is what is not only needed, but what city residents WANT.

    Which begs the question: why is the City so out of touch with how most residents think about local issues?

    Here it’s the toilets (a major goof, I think) . . . but that’s small fry compared to the nutty placement of the Transfer Station and the ill-conceived East Mall Expansion.

  • Exactly. Because the downtown mall is no longer just a 9-to-5 destination and most places aren’t open all the time for people to have somewhere to…um…go, more facilities are needed. And since Fridays After Five is an event anchor for the mall that draws thousands every year, having adequate and sanitary restrooms is a no brainer. I think the people of Charlottesville would get a lot more use out of the restrooms than the upgraded AC system or the new shower stalls. And the bright green and yellow portable toilets are ugly! For a city that cares about aesthetics, I can’t believe they are still around.

  • This decision is absolutely disgraceful. The City has been promising bathrooms for the Amphitheater for at least three years, and probably longer – always saying they’ll be ready by “next summer.” Maybe they’re finaly tired of lying to the public and are ready to admit their “error.”

    I can’t imagine that the newly-renovated DRC will accommodate anywhere close to as many individuals over the course of a year as 24 Fridays (plus all the other events, including the Municipal Band concerts) will, and I can’t imagine that many downtown mall patrons – particularly tourists – give a hoot about a nice gym floor. I’m all for having the best possible facilities, but I can’t help but wonder if the City just wanted to continue to use the basement of the DRC for storage.

    In case people weren’t aware of this, city employees and their companions regularly go into City Hall to use the bathrooms during Fridays. Just stand by the entrances and see for yourself. Has anybody ever seen a City Hall employee standing in the porta-potty line? Having porta-potties certainly doesn’t inconvenience or disgust the people who decided not to install bathrooms for public use.

    Quite frankly, until the city gets rid of those DISGUSTING porta-potties, they should be required to drop the “World Class City” bullshit. Their actions here clearly defy that pledge/promise/goal/MYTH. It’s becoming a really bad joke.

  • I wrote: Which begs the question: why is the City so out of touch with how most residents think about local issues? Here it’s the toilets (a major goof, I think) . . .

    Big Al writes: In case people weren’t aware of this, city employees and their companions regularly go into City Hall to use the bathrooms during Fridays. Just stand by the entrances and see for yourself. Has anybody ever seen a City Hall employee standing in the porta-potty line? Having porta-potties certainly doesn’t inconvenience or disgust the people who decided not to install bathrooms for public use.



    Bulls-Eye! Nice shooting, Big Al.

  • Maybe we need a pee-in one Friday night…

  • Ok, I’ll play devil’s advocate here and point out that these restrooms will quickly become the haunts of layabouts, drugdealers and homeless. You know those guys who sit on the benches on the mall all day long? They’ll be there. Pissing all over the floor and wall. Drinking forties in the stalls. Ashing cigarettes and cheap cigarellos all over the sinks and counter. Passed out in the doorway, reeking of assorted, misplaced bodily fluids.

    Let’s not kid ourselves here. The best solution to that would be to only open them during Fridays after Five or other high-traffic events.

  • They have them in a number of cities and they are supposed to be quite nice.

    I know people are outraged, but if there isn’t money, there isn’t money. And we are talking about 24 days out of the entire year. And jsut to really go the other side, why should the tax payers fork over $$ for a bunch of folks that want to drink beer in the sun and then realize they need to pee? Can’t they hold it till they sit down at one of the restaurants for dinner?

    I’m not a city official…

  • Again playing Devils advocate…

    Because the downtown mall is our civic gathering place and home of the government. Part of what a great city does is build a bunch of stuff like that even though it costs too much money.

    What made Rome so great? Good plumbing and great architecture. Probably there were very smart people in ancient Rome who thought that the Colosseum was a waste of money for a bunch of folks who wanted to drink beer in the sun and then realize they had to pee. They would have had a good point, but we’d never know it because that philosophy would have led to a dull, unenduring Rome that we’d never have heard of.

  • Why should taxpayers fork over money for toilets for FAF attendees?

    Well, obviously foremost, it’s not just an FAF issue. There is no other public restroom facility downtown, during FAF or at any other time. In contrast to the sun-soaked beer-drinkers, think about this: If you have kids and you take them with you anyplace, you will need to find a bathroom.

    So, why should the taxpayers contribute? Think about how much economic stimulation those peeing folks give to the downtown-area economy. They pay for parking, food, drink, and go shopping. The city should be doing everything in its power to enhance their comfort and make being downtown a pleasant experience every time.

    Pay toilets are an interesting concept, but I’m not sure Charlottesville’s ready for the idea. It’s hard enough getting most of us to accept the idea of regularly paying for parking (you know, like they do without thinking in the big city).

  • You know those guys who sit on the benches on the mall all day long? They’ll be there. Pissing all over the floor and wall.

    Um . . . and where are they pissing now? There could be a good public health and public nuisance motive to getting permanent public toilets installed — be they something like the ultra-modern self-contained cabins in Paris/NYC/San Fran, or the simple pissoirs seen in so many European cities.

  • Not only would this be happening (the peeing and passing out), then the city would have to hire someone to make sure that they were kept clean (after all, would you want to use a bathroom with bodily fluids all over the place?) and to make sure that they were vandalized. (If a Christmas tree can be vandalized, why not a bathroom? And it wouldn’t be by the homeless necessarily….)

    Not to mention it would be a great place to do drugs!

    If the city doesn’t have the money, it doesn’t have the money to do it. Try passing the hat among those standing in line at Fridays after Five who have drank too much beer. I’m more than a little unsympathetic. Perhaps the city could stop selling the beer and see how that would work?

    Quite frankly, living in town and driving past the Rec Center, I see more usefulness in providing a place for kids (of all ages) to play basketball late at night than having a place for a bunch of people wanting to pee after drinking $2-3 beers each.

    Grinch in C’ville who can hold in for a long time….

    PS Why is a public bathroom a right? Give me toilet paper or give me death? Is this the new battle cry?

  • When the Amphitheater was built, the plan was to put public restrooms in the basement of the DRC. This only makes sense – you don’t build a public facility that accommodates several thousand people (beer drinkers or not) without making restroom arrangements. The porta-potties were supposed to be a temporary solution, not a permanent one. Once again, the City has conveniently forgotten their previous pledges and agreements.

    As for the issue of “let the beer drinkers hold it in,” in case you weren’t aware the Amphitheater is used for many events that don’t involve beer drinking. The Municipal Band plays there many times during the summer, and without being too descriptive they play in front of a crowd that may not have the bladder control they once did. You think those older citizens relish the thought of schlepping down to Chaps to use the facilities? Or maybe they just wear extra Depends instead.

    But the big issue for me is the fact that City Hall employees use the rest rooms in City Hall – they don’t use the porta-potties. Perhaps they should just open the City Hall facilities to the public – you know, the people who pay their bills.

    Further, CDF offered to pay the City for the use of the bathrooms – to the tune of $5,000+ each year. That would pay for a lot of cleaning, don’t you think?

  • There are many things that the French are good at, such as cooking and running away. But I would not put their ‘pissoirs’ on the short list of French accomplishments.

    They are stinky, unattractive and magnets of vice. And the pissoirs are, too.

  • then the city would have to hire someone to make sure that they were kept clean … and to make sure that they were vandalized.

    Aha! No wonder taxes are so high! We pay for not only the cleanup and the investigation of vandalism but for the acts themselves! ;-)

  • Come one, dude, the pissoir is kickass! I would love to be able to take a leak on a pole in the middle of town and not get arrested. The best, too, is how there’s that little grate that allows bystanders to see the person’s torso and an opening at the bottom so that the legs and urine can also be in view.

    Do they have a model for the ladies, too? Or do they just use the same pissoirs?

  • Well, it’s time for a road tour of “Urinetown!”

  • So adding permanent public toilets to the plan would add 500K. Does anyone know what we’re paying for the temporary toilets?

  • Further, CDF offered to pay the City for the use of the bathrooms – to the tune of $5,000+ each year. That would pay for a lot of cleaning, don’t you think?

    When was this offer made, and what (if any) was the response?

    Five grand is no small sum.

  • There’s loads of good questions developing in this thread which could be posed to City officials involved in this mess. Is Mooney planning a follow-up?

    And why didn’t he ask similar things in his first strike at this story? Mere complacency? Today’s piece reads like a regurgitation of a City press release rather than a news story.

    Perhaps the alt-weeklies will pick up where the Regress shirks . . .

  • $500K for 20-30 pissers in a bathroom.

    Who’s building them? The Pentagon?

    Oh, wait, the City, now it makes sense.

  • Over in Richmond (or rather more accurately) there are Friday after Five like shows at Innsbruck (I probably have the spelling wrong). So what are their toilet facilities? How about other towns?

    Quite honestly, I am quite curious about the insatiable need for a public toilet in Charlottesville. I’ve lived in Richmond, Washington, small towns and the only place that ever had a public toilet was Woodstock, Virginia. I’ve been to other towns and I remember needing a bathroom in Savannah and went to one of their hotel bathrooms. I certainly didn’t bitch and moan about no public bathrooms. I’m trying to think of other places in the U.S. I’ve visited and whether there was a public bathroom and I really can’t think of any that were available. Maybe it’s an idea whose time has come; who knows? If you’ve been to a town w/ public facilities, share with us. God knows there has been many a time I’ve travelled with my friends and we had to stop at every rest area, restaurant, shopping center and potentially every tree in a 10 mile radius.

    One thing to consider (and I have no idea whether it’s true or not but I know that the state is being hit with this so why not the town): is the shortfall due to a) the economy and/or b) investments not as generous as in the years past (the so called go-go years).

    I’m tempted to say that just as there is no free lunch, there is no free toilet. Or to quote Jay Leno’s old old joke, “Depends — they’re not just for incontinence!”

    :)

  • Last year – that’s the amount they pay Allied to rent the porta-potties each year. I’ll paraphrase the city’s response: “That’s great – we should have them finished at the latest by the middle of next season!”

  • CDF pays around $5k per year. However, that doesn’t take into account the public shame of having portable toilets within pissing distance of City Hall. If you drive downtown over the Belmont Bridge, what’s the first thing you see (“Wow – what a classy place this must be”)?

    The city touts the Downtown Mall as the catch-all gathering place. They promote everything down there, and they want people to patronize the mall. However, they seem unwilling to make the necessary public accommodations. Most restaurant owners have a problem with the public using their restrooms without buying something, and the Omni is too damn far to walk unless you’re at that end. Seems like they may have missed an opportunity to build some into the Parking Garage Retail Complex they just built. Perhaps that should be the City’s official Motto: World Class Missed Opportunities.

  • If I recall correctly, you were the same exact Belle that couldn’t stand for this sort of populist usage. When did the Belle that I could have at least feigned respect for disappear?

  • What a blow to civic pride. Now we will never get George Micheal to move here!

    Every man’s got his patience, and here’s where my ends.

    :from I want your sex

  • If it is 5k a year that is a 1% return on our tax dollars. I would be better if the city put the money in 5% t-bills. Think of fancy port-o-john we could rent for $25k. It going to cost more then 5k for maintanence of the bathrooms. So from a sense of cost building bathrooms seems very stupid!

  • If we’re going to boil everything down into cash returns, then much of what the city spends $ on makes very little sense. Planting flowers (ANNUALS!!!!!) in front of City Hall? No money there. Renovating the DRC? Not much money there. Pitching in for police to make the Dogwood Festival Parade moves along safely? Not much money there, either.

    Check with the City Manager – the Pugh Partnership recently did a study and discovered that Fridays pumps hundreds of thousands of dollars into the local economy every season – it is a huge monetary engine for the City and the mall businesses who are interested in staying open. If the City doesn’t nuture and invest in this event that otherwise costs them very, very little (all they pay for is picking up the trash bags on Saturday mornings – CDF pays for EVERYTHING else), they’ll be shooting themselves in the foot.

    I mean, come on – it’s purely a quality of life issue (demonstrated by the fact that City Hall workers make sure THEY have clean restrooms). If you care about that, then you find the money.

    And if you buy the $500,000 estimate, you’ve been hanging out in some mighty fine bathrooms!

  • Half a million dollars?!?! The stupid low flow toilets wont even work when they’re done.

    I suggest those who feel they cant hold it in go down to the office of “not building toilets” or somesuch in city hall and relieve themsleves on their rug.

    “All the dude ever wanted was his rug back”

  • Has CouncilPerson Schilling taken a stand on peeing, or is he sitting this one out?

  • Waldo,

    As a former city council candidate, what would you do?

  • http://www.sfdpw.org/sfdpw/toilet/index.htm

    trust me, ALL the angles were discussed/covered including “layabouts, drugdealers and homeless.” the program has been a success.

    this is a good read:

    http://www.ci.sf.ca.us/bdsupvrs/leganalyst/reports/98-1599.htm

    this part is interesting:

    The operation of this program requires no capital purchases or expenses by the City; only minimum funding in the way of salary and support for one full time Project Manager in the Department of Public Works. The programs are supported almost entirely through revenue from advertising and public toilet usage. The terms of the amended contract indicate that during the first two years of the amended contract period, payments in the amount of $35,000 and in all subsequent years, $25,000 will be paid to the City by DeCaux to offset the costs associated with City expenses related to site selection public hearings, permit processes and the management of this program. As discussed in earlier sections of this report, due to the expansion of the program, there is also potential for additional revenue to accrue to the City from advertising on the Public Service Kiosks which will be paid directly to the Department of Public Works. Funds paid to DPW which exceed costs associated with the oversight and management of this program could be designated by the Board for other City General Fund Purposes. Presently, if funds were to be paid to DPW above the actual costs to the department, those funds would be credited against future General Fund allocations.

  • As I read Mooney’s story, it doesn’t seem like City Council was part of the decision-making process. Rather, it seems it was a bureaucratic decision.

  • As a former city council candidate, what would you do?

    The same thing as every other former City Council candidate: nothing at all, because I wasn’t elected.

    But if I were on Council, I wouldn’t do a thing; this seems to be out of the scope of Council, something to be handled by staff.

  • Perhaps the public restrooms can be put in the bus transfer station. They will be extraordinarily useful there for the estimated two years in which we won’t have any kind of an ampitheatre because we will have dug up 7th Street to underground it and add 190 underground parking spaces. After which we will be able to enjoy a flat ampitheatre.

    Swell plans.

  • I think the poster’s point was that your layabouts are already pissing in public, whether you give them pissoirs or not.

  • I don’t think anyone is claiming that a public bathroom is a right. Instead, I think some people believe that it’s good for the city (quality of life, etc.) to have a vibrant community scene–the Mall, FAF, etc. You don’t see this in a lot of cities, where people stay in their little subdivisions. Here, more people get out and about and take advantage of things like the Mall and FAF. And many more people–even those who skip FAF–realize that the vibrant community scene adds value to living in Charlottesville. If Cville is viewed as a desirable place to live (a perception that is surely fueled in part by things like the Mall), then property values go up. My house is worth more partly b/c of the scene that I am not part of.

    And I guess where I’m going with this is that the city/public has to invest some money in maintaining this successful scene. I hear a lot of people saying “no free lunch,” but if that attitude triumphs, there goes your scene and everyone retreats back to their private property. And my property value goes back down because Cville then looks like just any other smallish town with crappy traffic.

  • DeCaux is but one of several companies which specialize in the “street furnishings” known as Automatic Public Toilets. DeCaux is a French-based multinational, but other makers are are from Philly, Germany . . .

    Has anyone from the bowels of City Hall ever even looked into getting bids from these companies? They’re eager to place toilets — which they maintain, BTW — in return for advertisment revenue.

    Time for some “World Class Thinking”.

  • It is unlikely that the city would enter into a toilets-for-ads bargain. A few years ago they were approached by a company that wanted to supply the city with new bus shelters in exchange for ad space. The proposal was rejected. Also, the City Manager had all the ads (except for ads by non-profits) pulled off of city buses because he thought they were “tacky”.

  • Certainly, City Council members have a say in this decision. (Not that they are likely to do this but) they could tell Bill Letteri to nix the A/C upgrade and use that money for the restrooms. All it would take is a formal vote. Heck, it could happend at the next meeting if the Mayor wanted to put it on the agenda. So while adminstratively, it WOULD be handled by STAFF, the ultimate decision lies with council on how to direct those funds. And simply “not doing a thing” is not good enough when you are trying to meet the needs of your constituants: you have to go to bat for them by speaking up even if you ultimately know that the outcome will not be in your favor or if you know that you have no power (see Maurice Cox and the Meadowcreek Parkway, for example).

  • Anonymous writes:”It is unlikely that the city would enter into a toilets-for-ads bargain. A few years ago they were approached by a company that wanted to supply the city with new bus shelters in exchange for ad space. The proposal was rejected. Also, the City Manager had all the ads (except for ads by non-profits) pulled off of city buses because he thought they were “tacky”.

    Then I’d ask the City Manager: what is tackier – a permanent Automatic Public Toilet (like this) OR the port-a-johns, OR the stench and stains of those who piss on local businesses and homes?

    This reminds me why I’d like to see the Mayor directly elected. It would eliminate the need for a City Manager who seems to be accountable to no one.

  • Certainly, City Council members have a say in this decision.

    Well, then see why I didn’t get elected? ;)

  • “And my property value goes back down because Cville then looks like just any other smallish town with crappy traffic.”

    Trust me your property values will never go down! and the crappy traffic will stay until the meadowcreek parkway is built

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