A 24-hour public restroom on the west side of Percival Landing will open this summer as part of an effort to increase restroom access in downtown Olympia.
The restroom is among four single-occupancy restrooms located in a small secluded structure behind the Oyster House restaurant. The restrooms were closed in 2014 because of drug-related behavior and litter.
However, the city has faced steady pressure to open more restrooms to reduce human waste in downtown alleys and storefronts.
Renovations were approved Tuesday by the Olympia City Council as part of an ongoing pilot project.
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One of the four unisex restrooms at “Percival West” will be open 24 hours and accessible through a new door that faces Fourth Avenue. The other three restrooms will be open during the day, said parks director Paul Simmons.
Construction could wrap up around the Fourth of July. Simmons said the renovations are expected to cost as much as $85,000 when factoring in security cameras, lighting and compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The facility also would incorporate principles called Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design, commonly referred to as CPTED. Right now, the shuttered restrooms have poor natural surveillance and cannot be easily monitored from the street. The alcoves encourage loitering and sleeping, said Simmons, and some users lock themselves inside single-occupancy restrooms.
“There’s no perfect solution,” Simmons told the council Tuesday.
In addition to the Percival West restrooms, the council allocated $70,200 to install temporary portable restrooms outside the Salvation Army near Plum Street and Fifth Avenue, as well as outside the Fertile Grounds Guesthouse at Adams Street and Ninth Avenue.
The funding will cover solar lighting for all four portable restrooms downtown. Two other portable restrooms were installed last year at the Artesian Commons, 415 Fourth Ave. E., and near the Olympia Transit Center at Olympia Avenue and Franklin Street.
The council also allocated about $90,000 in Community Development Block Grant funding to purchase the Portland Loo, a heavy-duty stainless steel public restroom slated for installation later this year at the Artesian Commons. The city has budgeted $355,000 total for the Loo’s purchase and installation. Bids for a contractor will be sought this spring, according to the city, and construction could begin in June.
In addition, the state Department of Enterprise Services — which manages the state-owned Heritage Park in downtown Olympia — recently installed a temporary portable restroom and handwashing station that will be open at night through June. The department reports that it is collaborating with the city on the downtown restroom access problem, but it lacks funding to keep Heritage Park’s regular brick-and-mortar restrooms open 24 hours a day.