29 August 2008

Closing Toilets on FS Huge Mistake

3CDC's decision to drastically limit the hours that the toilets are open on Fountain Square is a huge mistake. Moving them from their formerly underground dingy location was one of the best parts about the redesign of the square. I saw this story on local TV news last night, and I couldn't believe it! I predict that management will cave under pressure, and re-open them. This is a terrible decision for those of us with little kids.


Anonymous said...

Despite the sizable homeless social club on the Sqauer, I have used the bathrooms on multiple occasions and never noticed any overt problems (i.e. sink showering, setting up shop etc.). I have been in many worse ones.

Jason said...

Yeah, it may be an inconveinence for people with kids, but do you really want your kids in the same bathrooms where people with HIV and HepC have been shooting up, having sex, vomiting, and going number 1 and 2 all over the place?
Even if you haven't seen it yourself, I'm sure its happening in there and thats why they are tired of paying to have it all cleaned up constantly.
Restrooms like that turn into huge public health and safety hazards. Just think how easy it would be to get mugged or raped in a public bathroom like that? I wouldn't want my children in them in the first place.

Anonymous said...

Just because someone is homeless doesn't mean that they don't want/need to piss and wash off, or need places to do the things that most of us are able to do in the privacy of our own homes. Nor does it mean that they piss and ish on the walls.

In Dunieir's book SIDEWALK (available at CPL) there is an entire chapter on urinating in public. I suggest people read it to get an inside story on what it is like to be homeless and not have a place to go pee.

Besides this isn't simply about the homeless it is about maintaining a public amenity in a public space. The homeless happen to be part of the public in this case, but they are not the only ones. They might provide a greater burden, but the opposite is true with regards to other public amenities.

The article cited mentions that some other cities don't have public restrooms, but that is not an excuse. There are also cities that have great public restrooms and have found appropriate ways of dealing with issues like this. There are models in the U.S. as well as Europe.

Mark Miller said...

This is certainly an interesting development. 3CDC was granted a license to operate Fountain Square and its parking garage in exchange for paying to renovate same. They were supposed to recoup their investment from parking garage revenue. So the two functions are interlinked.

But a parking garage is a public building which is required to provide public toilet facilities.
2007 OBC 2902.4 Required public toilet facilities says:
"Customers, patrons and visitors shall be provided with public toilet facilities in structures and tenant spaces intended for public use as required in this code. Access to public facilities shall not pass through kitchens, storage rooms, closets or similar spaces not available to the public. Employees shall be provided with toilet facilities in all occupancies. Employee toilet facilities shall be either separate or combined employee and public toilet facilities."

3CDC has sometimes found it convenient to maintain that FS is a private space, but Municipal Code 713-1 clearly says otherwise.

Last time I checked, the garage was open 24/7. So 3CDC has 2 choices; they can either reopen the toilet facilites 24/7 or shut down the garage when the toilets are closed. Financially that 2nd option is impossible. Closing the toilets is therefore a violation of several laws.

CityKin said...

I'm sorry if they are tired of paying for the clean up, but that is part of the responsibility of operating a PUBLIC facility. As Mark Miller notes above, toilets are required by Municipal and Ohio State law. Not only that, but I am sick and tired of every public toilet in this city being closed. It is a disgrace that when visitng Eden Park/Burnet Woods, my son/daughter has to pee in the grass because the doors are locked to the toilets.

Fountain Square is the most public, the most crowded, the most central public space in the city. Public toilets are part of the infrastructure that a city provides for health of it's citizens just like they provide a fire department, public sidewalks, drinking fountains, street lights etc etc...

From my experience these Fountain Square toilets were clean, well attended and extremely convenient. I and my children have never been mugged or raped in them despite using them at least weekly since the new square opended. You are sounding paranoid.

I really think this is an important issue, and I will leave this as the lead topic on the blog for a few days for comments.

VisuaLingual said...

When it comes to a public space like this, people ought to have a choice as to whether to subject themselves and/or their children to whatever Jason is sure is "happening in there." You certainly don't have to use a public restroom, but the amenity ought to be there. I'm really curious to learn more about this via the comments and whatever, if any, media attention this might receive.

Anonymous said...


5chw4r7z said...

That sucks, I use that toilet almost as much as my own!
Maybe I'm the problem? LOL
But its more a public/private space, so who ever is footing the has that right I guess.
Still sucks.
As for the homeless, I just try and breathe as little as possible, I 'd rather face them in there than have them using every doorway downtown.

Unknown said...

I wanted to write you about a different subject however, let me add STRONGLY that I am all about people being continent of their own body fluids and containing them in the appropriate receptacles. Love when that happens:>)Society and businesses should support that.
If you get any time come on up to the Clifton Arts Center for the Katrina Memorial, Floodwall. Think you and your family may enjoy it, and of course, the old Clifton elementary school is gorgeous.

CityKin said...

^I hadn't heard about any exhibit at the Clifton Cultural Arts Center, so thanks for the recommendation.

I am just back from the movie tonight, and the toilets were open. They were being used constantly, and they were clean. The limited hours are posted on the door.

My guess is that the limited hours are intended to inconvenience the grungy (homeless?) group that seems to gather on the western end of the square and to get them to move up the street to the Public Library toilets.

Someone said...

I have filed a complaint with the Ohio Building Code Commission and the Department of Buildings and Inspections, forwarding them the Local12 report with video footage to prove what has been going on.

I forwarded a copy of my complaint to area media.

CityKin said...

OK, I was just at the square, Sunday, noon, no events, a sign on the door saying toilets only open m-f 11-2 and during events. And the toilets were open and being used. I wonder if they have changed their policy already.

CityKin said...

Thanks. Unfortunately this section of the Building Code is rarely enforced (if ever). It is reviewed during the construction permitting process, but no one ever enforces locked toilets.

I have been to many cities that have come up with novel ways to solve the public toilet problem. In Europe, the self-cleaning fifty-cent toilet is very successful, and many crowded places even have toilets with full-time attendants.

This is something that has been bothering me for a while at Cincinnati Parks. They always have toilets, but half of the time they are locked. Some, such as Fairview park will have port-o-lets stationed right outside the locked bathrooms. But we should at least have one opend public facility downtown and FS is the ideal space.

Quimbob said...

The FSQ toilets should be open at least the hours of the city parks.
6AM - 10PM I think.

Brianne said...

If there are no open public toilets in the city, where will the homeless and transient people go to the bathroom? Currently they are using alleys and gutters - I know because about once a week I ask someone to stop going to the bathroom in the alley next to my downtown residence.

Radarman said...

There is a good facility for showers, laundry, and body functions on Main Street. It's Mary Magdalene House, and it's operated by the Roman Catholics.

The Westin is also in violation of the public accommodation law, having put code locks on the restrooms in the Fountain Square South atrium.

There is every need to find ways to help the mentally ill find care and refuge so they don't drift into deeper madness. There is every need to drive the chronic winos out of town so they quit pissing on public property.