Public potties piss off some neighbors | September 26, 2008 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - September 26, 2008

Public potties piss off some neighbors

New toilets controversial in park frequented by gangs

by Sue Dremann

As the City of Palo Alto plans to install toilets in six parks between now and 2013, the news is causing consternation among some residents but coming as a relief to others.

Neighbors of Eleanor Pardee Park along Channing Avenue, where one is scheduled to be placed this year, are upset the toilets could encourage unwanted persons to stick around, especially given concerns that gang members have been using the public space.

"We welcome people who want to use the park, but we don't want it to be something where you stay all day and into the night," Pat Eadie, a longtime Crescent Park neighborhood resident, said.

"When a park has toilets, it is like a beacon welcoming people from distances afar. ... It's defeating the whole purpose of the park as a neighborhood park."

Kirsten Essenmacher agreed. She grew up five blocks away and played at Pardee Park as a child.

"It's not a good idea. ... It does encourage people to hang out longer and have larger parties," she added.

Other park users, though, are in favor. They point to a threat to public health if toilets are not installed: young children who relieve themselves anywhere they can.

Rasheedah Jones, a nanny who brought two girls ages 7 and 8 to the playground this week, has already experienced the hazards of not having toilets nearby.

"If you don't live nearby, you have to rush home and hope the kids don't pee in the car. I had one who had an accident in my car recently," she said.

Pregnant mothers with touchy bladders also benefit from rest rooms, according to Megan DeLeon.

"Remember what it was like when you were pregnant?" she asked Anneliese Abdella, whose children climbed on playground equipment.

Abdella, a Menlo Park resident, said Pardee and Holbrook Palmer Park in Atherton are two of her family's favorites.

"For mom's groups, we planned to meet where bathrooms are. At Holbrook Palmer Park the restrooms are open and always clean," she said.

DeLeon and Abdella said they don't fear that restrooms will attract the wrong element.

Most park restrooms are locked after daylight hours and neither woman has felt unsafe at other parks with toilets, they said.

The prefabricated rest rooms are planned for installation at Pardee and Seale parks this year; for Cubberley Community Center in 2009-10; Juana Briones Park in 2010-11; Don Jesus Ramos Park in 2011-12; and Boulware Park in 2012-13, according to Elizabeth Ames, senior public works engineer for the City of Palo Alto.

The rest rooms will carry a $200,000 price tag each, which includes landscaping, she said. They will be the same as those installed in Mitchell Park. The buildings will have automatic, timed locks that will close at night.

The city is trying to buy the Eleanor and Seale restrooms concurrently at a discount price, she added.

The decision to add toilets is based on feedback the parks department received from residents, she added.

Ames said the Pardee Park restrooms would probably be located near the street on Center Drive and near the picnic area. A pathway would lead from the sidewalk and would be wheelchair accessible, she added.

The restrooms must have approval from the city's Architectural Review Board before the project goes out to bid in October or November, she said.

Staff Writer Sue Dremann can be e-mailed at


Posted by sally, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 25, 2008 at 7:19 pm

Toilets in public parks frequented by children is just common sense. Kids have to go when they have to go. If there is a problem with crime, then have park employees or police monitor the parks more closely.

Posted by Mom of 3, a resident of Duveneck School
on Sep 25, 2008 at 8:07 pm

As long as the bathrooms are closed after a certain hour, as the article notes, there should be no problems. If they closed at 7:00 (and had a large sign stating this so parents know), it should be used for its intended purposes.

Posted by Parents, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 25, 2008 at 8:43 pm

Most if not all of these parks are used for soccer or tball practices and games. Toilets are a necessity when the kids get hot and drink all that water or gatorade, as well as parents and grandparents, whose need is more urgent.

Posted by registered user, Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 26, 2008 at 2:08 am

An architect submitted plans to the Pope for a Vatican City office - they were returned with the Pope's comment - "We are not angels."
After much discussion the architects surmised, correctly that the comment dealt with the lack of toilets.
It is malpractice to not provide accommodation to the needs of facility users. As a child's book says, people poop. Get over it.

Posted by More complainers, a resident of Stanford
on Sep 26, 2008 at 8:20 am

This is another "important" issue that our city council can spend time on--some neighbors are opposed, now they must be appeased. Maybe the real solution is to just close the park--then you won't have anybody "hanging around".

Posted by bedwetter, a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 26, 2008 at 8:51 am

These parks are for the pleasure of the local residents only! They paid extra to be near them and other Palo Alto and, God forbid, non Palo Alto residents should be banned.
Any amenity that encourages use of the parks by non-locals should be denied and removed. Therefore: no parking, no toilets, no drinking fountains. We should instigate the same approach as foothills and only allow the local residents into the park with appropriate identification. Only then will we be safe.

Posted by sally, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 26, 2008 at 12:35 pm

Most Palo Alto parks are unlit, so they are essentially closed after dark. I don't think anyone will complain if the bathrooms are locked between sunset and sunrise.

Posted by registered user, Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 26, 2008 at 12:51 pm

We use toilets in jails that challenge any vandal not equipped with a cutting torch. Some roadside rests are so equipped. One way to pay for upkeep is to franchise snack shacks with cleanup a part of the rent. As for illicit activity, there is very little you can do in a toilet that cannot be done more comfortably behind the bushes.

Posted by Outside Observer, a resident of another community
on Sep 26, 2008 at 5:56 pm


You hit the nail on the head re: public bathrooms and rest stops. I recently returned from a road trip in North Carolina. There are rest stops every 50 miles on the main highways. They are beautifully landscaped, include picnic facilities, a "snack shed" with 2 rows of fully stocked vending machines. The toilet facilities are air conditioned, and antiseptically clean.

All the public areas in the rest stops are under video surveillance. Nothing is broken or vandalized, and there is no graffiti or "hangers-on" in the parking areas.

If a poor state like North Carolina can do this why can't we have decent public bathrooms in the Palo Alto parks?

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 26, 2008 at 6:42 pm

I see no reason why improving bathroom facilities would increase the numbers of out of towners coming here for recreation. People from some areas (which I won't mention by name) come here anyway because they feel safer than in their own parks and bathrooms are not going to make very much difference to how long they stay. It just may make them more hygienic. And as for other residents, well I have been to Mountain View or Sunnyvale parks on many occasions with friends who live there, so why shouldn't we get the same thing. It possibly may make the choice of park different to what it may have been, but in my view they would have come here anyway. In fact, it may make more space in places like Mitchell Park and Greer Park because families can choose other parks for their parties.

If you don't like the noise, then why did you choose to live near a park in the first place. And for those nannies whose charges have accidents in their parks, I ask why they are driving to parks and not taking the kids by foot to the parks. The whole point of neighborhood parks is that the great majority of young kids being taken there should be from the neighborhood and are able to walk there anyway.

Posted by Ungrateful, a resident of Community Center
on Sep 28, 2008 at 1:07 pm

Look folks everyone needs to "P" once in awhile, lets give them the facilities to do so. If my little grandson wants to P in Eleanor Pardee park and there are no toilets he'll just do it behind a tree, and that's not very hygenic. Also, if there are no toilets available gangs will also do it wherever they want!!

If the resident near Eleanor Pardee park don't want toilets, don't waste the budgeted $200,000 on them. Pick another park that really wants them.

Posted by anil, a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 28, 2008 at 5:51 pm

nice headline ... weekly, you stay classy!

Posted by Eleanor Parks Residents are Nasty!, a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 29, 2008 at 9:44 am

They have always been horribly NIMBY about everything. Of course a park the size of Eleanor should have restrooms. I frequently use restrooms at Byxbee, Rinconada and the softball fields. All are reasonable clean and I am so appreciative of the facilities. I don't see people hanging around them, and they all close at different times.

Posted by Cubberley, a resident of Ventura
on Sep 29, 2008 at 11:40 am

Cubberley has bathrooms already, save $200K and keep them unlocked during the hours Cubberley has activities (including sports on weekends).

Posted by narnia, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 29, 2008 at 4:04 pm

Bedwetter says:"Any amenity that encourages use of the parks by non-locals should be denied and removed. Therefore: no parking, no toilets, no drinking fountains. We should instigate the same approach as foothills and only allow the local residents into the park with appropriate identification. Only then will we be safe"

Bedwetter has a great solution for Palo Alto: ban everybody who does not live here. I suspect that for her the right color is incredibly important, otherwise how would she claim to know who is and who isn't from here?
It's a pitty that Bedwetter is late to enjoy the "amenities" provided by communist Russia which included not being able to enter cities if you didn't live there. Had she experienced
it she might have concluded that "we the people" includes the right to all to all public facilities- toilets and running water only makes such facilities civilized....imagine a handicapped person not being able to drive to a park because there is no parking...Should
a frail person have to walk?

So, let's put guards at the properly fenced parks. I am not sure Bedwetter means for South Palo altans not to set foot in North Parks or if bedwetter thinks that guards should also be
placed at street corners barring all but those who live there. Let us put aside the fact that PUBLIC facilities are public , not private. And how to deal with those near whom we don't feel safe and who happen to live here? Should we pen them at Rinconada?

Incidently, the foothills park legal charter is not the same as the public parks in PA so bedwetter's divisive and ethically repugnant idea is not going to work, fortunately.
Maybe Alaska would suit Bedwetter...

Posted by craig, a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 30, 2008 at 2:47 am

The weekly needs to check its facts. Too many people are upset over something that isn't going to happen. My bet is that the weekly is just riling up people in order to stimulate interest in their paper.

Posted by bedwetter, a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 30, 2008 at 8:35 am

Narnia, you mean we should provide amenities that allow everyone to enjoy our parks and not only the residents with properties bordering the parks? What an interesting and novel idea!

Posted by Policy Watcher, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 30, 2008 at 10:17 am


This restroom is in the approved City budget. I assume you are referring to a report in the Daily Past yesterday. That paper should do a little more research before they publish mistakes.