Restroom Overhaul Project No Relief to Eyes, Noses

It's a sight that's become quite an eyesore in downtown San Diego.

With smells that are wrinkling people's noses.

The unwelcome offender?

A long row of Porta-Potties across the street from City Hall.

They've been on the sidewalk north of the C Street Trolley line, on the east side of Third Avenue, since late February.

They serve mainly the homeless, since the public restrooms next to the Civic Theater’s loading zone were closed to make way for an accessibility project under the Americans With Disabilities Act.

"It’s just been a mess and it's a disgrace to the heart of the city, quite frankly,” says Paul Dobson, owner of a popular downtown restaurant bearing his name.

“A lot of times it smells so bad I have to go around the other way," Dobson added, in a streetside interview Tuesday. "The homeless hang here, too. I feel sorry, but it's a blemish to the city."

The infrastructure work has disrupted both foot and vehicle traffic in the heart of San Diego's downtown, high-rise financial district.

It’s taking place just steps away from a trolley line in the shadow of luxury hotels whose guests may be tempted – to the dismay of tourism boosters -- to send Twitter-pics of the Porta-Potties to followers world-wide.

While the work that's put them on the high-visibility sidewalk can't be avoided, civic and business leaders say City Hall is way overdue for demolition -- and that the restroom overhaul project once again raises larger questions as to when, and how, a new city hall gets built.

"This building has got to come down,” says Tom Wornham, a past chairman of San Diego’s regional Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Corp.

“If you were a business and you were anybody but the city, you couldn't occupy this,” Wornham observed, on his way into City Hall late Tuesday morning for a meeting with Mayor Faulconer.

”It is rotten with asbestos. It has problems with fire sprinklers and even the structural integrity … but if that's what it takes to get everyone focused on that building needing to be replaced -- it's time folks!”

Why haven’t city leaders been able to overcome inertia, the financial and logistical problems involved?

“It’s that lack of political will,” Wornham replied. “It’s more political ‘won’t’.”

The estimated pricetag for the last new City Hall proposal was upwards of half a billion dollars.

Meantime, public works officials say the project to bring the public restrooms into full ADA compliance will come in at under $200,000.

But – hold your noses for a while longer, pedestrians – it’s expected take another month to finish.

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