San Diego

City Spent $2 Million on Ornate Bathroom

A lack of accessible bathrooms has contributed to the Hepatitis A outbreak throughout San Diego

San Diego city officials spent $2 million on an artistically ornate bathroom while rejecting calls to prioritize the volume of downtown restrooms, according to a report.

The city of San Diego helped install a fancy restroom facility, dubbed "Birds' Words," according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.

The facility opened in 2014 next to Broadway Pier and was welcomed as an aesthetically pleasing piece, according to the report.

But amid the current Hepatitis A outbreak, critics have argued the money could have been better utilized. For example, it could have increased the number of bathrooms available to the homeless population downtown.

Resident Nancy Nygren told NBC 7 she appreciated the investment in the arts.

"It’s not intended to be a functional piece," Nygren said. "You could question expenditures on any art, anywhere."

But the lack of accessible bathrooms has contributed to the spread of the Hepatitis A outbreak throughout San Diego, especially in the homeless population, according to the report.

Some tourists were not too fond of the city's artistic investment. One visitor from Seattle, Marie Mirante, told NBC 7 she was underwhelmed.

"No mirrors. I didn’t see any diamonds or gold and the toilets don’t flush automatically," Mirante observed. "I mean, come on. Let’s help out a girl here."

The design is based on a popular 1970 novella about a seagull trying to become special called "Jonathan Livingston Seagull."

"I’m not impressed with a big square block with some holes cut in it. That’s all it looks like," Mirante said.

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer chaired the special joint government authority that oversaw the waterfront project, including the restroom, in 2007.

A city spokesperson told NBC 7, Faulconer is proud to have supported the "transformative" project.

The statement read, in part:

"We have installed 16 bathroom stalls at four sites downtown, each with 24-hour security to minimize crime and vandalism issues. That brings the total number of public restroom sites downtown to 23. There will be a combined 45 bathroom stalls in the three Temporary Bridge Shelters opening in a few weeks to serve the folks staying there. Once installed, some of the existing public restrooms will be moved to just outside the shelters, for public use, or removed altogether. We are monitoring use of all of the public restrooms to ensure the areas with the most need are adequately serviced."

Resident Kevin Yelverton thought the project was a nice piece of art, but a little pricey.

"I thought it was interesting but if you’ve got to go, you’ll pay just about anything," Yelverton told NBC 7. "Restrooms tend to be kind of scrungy-looking and it’s nice to have something unique. But they probably could have done it for a little less."

The bathroom was funded in partnership with the Port and the City of San Diego/Civic San Diego, according to a spokesperson for the Port of San Diego.

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