Council Considers Controversial New Restroom at Desiderio Neighborhood Park

Published : Monday, July 23, 2018 | 5:45 AM

The City Council on Monday will review the earlier Design Commission approval of a new public bathroom for a small park beneath the Colorado Street Bridge which some nearby residents fear will flush the neighborhood’s quality of life down the toilet.

City staff has recommended the Council green-light a plan to construct the 875-square-foot restroom-and-storage facility at the Desiderio Neighborhood Park, along Arroyo Boulevard beneath the eastern portion of the Colorado Street Bridge.

The review before the Council would uphold the Commission’s earlier decision to approve the application and waive the California Environmental Quality Act under a small buildings exemption.

“The original approved design was a simple rectangular structure with a side-gabled roof, extended eaves, exposed beams, fiber-cement siding in two colors, and a concrete base with extended, angled pilasters flanking a large recess that provided entry to the men’s and women’s restroom facilities,” according to a staff report.

The design was OK’d, with some adjustments, by the Design Commission.

“Staff approved the application with conditions requiring fiber-cement siding to have a smooth finish, transitions in color at inside corners… and provision of additional architectural details,” the report states.

But some residents who live near the park, as well as the West Pasadena Residents’ Association, have brought up concerns about the project.

West Pasadena Residents’ Association President Dan Beal penned a letter to the Council.

Among the issues raised was the size of the building.

“A much smaller structure would be far more suitable for this small area,” Beal said. “A large public toilet building ought not be shoehorned into this tiny neighborhood park. One size does not fit all.”

He also asked the Council to reconsider the location of the restroom.

“The current recommended placement is 15 to 20 feet from the neighboring residences, and this proximity is both unsightly and unhygienic,” according to Beal. “Further, it is adjacent to Arroyo Blvd. This proposed location can potentially serve as an attractive post-event alternative relief station, causing traffic congestion, noise, and loitering.”

He said the group would prefer to see the bathroom places closer to the children’s play area.

And Beal said the architecture of the building left much to be desired.

“Although the current design has moderately improved our stylistic concerns, the structure remains a rectangular concrete box with superficial arts and crafts references. Given the setting and the restroom’s adjacency to the historic Arroyo Bungalows, as well as the new Habitat construction which manifest the Craftsman style, it seems… Arroyo stone and wood siding, exposed rafter tails, darker colors, etc. would be more applicable and compatible.”

Robin Salzer, a 36-year resident who lives less a half mile from the proposed site, worries the restroom would attract criminal activity.

“How are the proposed bathrooms going to be protected from possible crime situations?” Salzer asked.

He and other residents also wondered if the project was the best use of the City’s money.

One resident points to the City Council’s budget shortfall leading to the Council’s approval of a new sales tax to make ends meet. Pasadena’s Capital Improvement Program Budget has millions of dollars in identified, but unfunded capital needs, she said, such as fire station earthquake retrofitting and upgrading 911 communications.

Given those more pressing needs, she characterized the Council’s “pushing this project that is clearly not a necessity” as irresponsible.

The City’s staff report addresses many of the concerns outlined by neighbors.

The facility would have not significantly impact policing, according to the report.

“A project would be considered to have an impact on public services if it were to require construction of new or altered governmental facilities in order to maintain acceptable service ratios, response times or other performance objectives,” it states. “The construction of a public restroom is not expected to require new public safety facilities to be constructed or any physical alterations to existing public safety facilities.”

Officials said the restroom is the smallest size that will accommodate practicality, as well as disabled access.

Regarding worries over people crowding the park to use the restroom, especially after events at the Rose Bowl, the report concluded: “A restroom building itself is not a destination and would not generate additional vehicle trips… it is possible that vehicles passing by the site may occasionally stop at the proposed park restroom. However, the size of the proposed restroom and any trips associated with it are far below the thresholds for transportation analysis identified in the City’s ‘Transportation Impact Analysis Current Practice and Guidelines’ manual.”

City staff said the current proposed location was selected with community input. And it’s too late to move it now.

“The building was originally proposed in 2015 to be located adjacent to the playground and was relocated in response to comments from the public specifically requesting it to be constructed in the location now proposed,” according to the staff report.

With the construction at the park already well underway, including infrastructure intended to support the proposed restroom, “Significant additional costs would be incurred to redesign the park to place the building in the originally proposed location and extend infrastructure further within the park to accommodate the change,” staff wrote.

And staff also concluded the design is fine, from an aesthetic perspective.

“The proposed small-scale restroom building is similar to other existing small structures that are within the viewshed of the bridge, including the Vista del Arroyo bungalows and the Habitat for Humanity houses,” the report says. “Views of the Colorado Street Bridge and all of its visual attributes would remain from multiple public vantage points.”

The report also says the City Council previously authorized the restroom in 2014.

Marcelline Solway joined with two other neighbors in filing a formal request for an appeal on the plan in May.

“My opinion has not changed,” she said, adding that the park is becoming drastically different from its original, low-key design.

Solway said while she’s not happy with the design in general, she’s especially concerned about safety, given its proposed location beneath the bridge.

Falling debris, and even people, make the proposed location dangerous, she said.

“When the city, when it rains or the city cleans the bridge, all kinds of debris comes down on those parked cars, which is a hazard and a danger,” she said.

And she said another, more morbid issue needs to be addressed.

“The suicides continue,” she said. “ I have seen 10 deaths last year and one this year.”

“I can sit at my dining room table drinking a cup of coffee and all of a sudden hear a familiar sound, bolt out on my over my patio wall and there’s a dead body. It’s terrible,” Solway said.

“I think the city is very negligent with their putting the play area where they’re putting it, parking where the putting it and a bathroom,” she said. “There’s 3.8 acres.”

She said she feels the city is ignoring the wishes of local residents.

“There is something not right, and I think the City has an obligation to the people who live here and people who are law abiding tax paying citizens to consider what’s best for us,” Solway said.

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