Ballard residents hope to flush toilet plan
Seattle Times staff reporter
Welcome to Ballard, home of the self-cleaning silver toilet.
That's what some locals fear the community will be known for if Seattle Public Utilities plants a new automatic public toilet at the entrance to Bergen Place Park, the neighborhood's prominent Northwest Market Street gathering spot.
Named after Seattle's Norwegian sister city, Bergen Place Park is the city's pick for the toilet's location, but it's taking comments on the proposed site through today. Some Ballard residents are voicing disgust.
Barbara Simpson, a landscape architect who headed a parks committee during the neighborhood's planning process, is so peeved she wrote directly to the mayor. She wants a design expert to review the idea.
Putting the toilet on the triangular park's "prow," where Leary Avenue Northwest, Northwest Market Street and 22nd Avenue Northwest meet, is an aesthetic nightmare, Simpson said. A lighted fountain was more what planners had in mind.
The park "needs a face-lift, and it needs to be something," Simpson said, adding that the park's royal-blue awnings and thick posts are outdated. "It's been identified in the community plan as the town square."
The other toilets will go in the Chinatown International District's Hing Hay Park, Waterfront Park downtown, Occidental Square in Pioneer Square and Victor Steinbrueck Park near the Pike Place Market.
The spacious, self-cleaning toilets with sinks, hand dryers and mirrors are expected to cost about $625,000 per year to maintain. Former Mayor Paul Schell, who vetoed the City Council's plan to spend $6.5 million on the toilets over 10 years, suggested offsetting their cost through advertisements on city property, but his plan stalled after he was defeated in a re-election bid last fall.
Kraus said many who support the toilets nonetheless fight proposed sites. In Ballard, business owners and historical preservationists opposed many spots.
Other suggested locations — in front of the Neighborhood Service Center on Market Street, in a future civic-center park — are problematic, she said.
People believe public toilets will be an eyesore but are surprised when even portable toilets fade into the background, Kraus said.
She hopes Ballard folks will focus on the upside: having a free, clean restroom for shoppers and tourists. But she's keeping an open mind. "I don't want anybody to get the idea that we're making up our minds before the end of the comment period."
Other Ballard leaders said they'll oppose the toilet's proposed location and how it landed there.
"It just kept getting bounced here and bounced there,'" said Beth Williamson Miller, director of the Ballard Chamber of Commerce.
She's concerned the busy intersection at Bergen Place is not a very private place to enter a public toilet. Despite that, Miller said she'd hate to see the toilet go to another neighborhood.
Kay Ogren, president of the Ballard District Council, doesn't feel that way. Speaking as an individual, she said she'd rather lose the toilet than see it on Bergen Place's corner.
The little park with the colorful mural dedicated by the King of Norway himself deserves better, these locals say.
"In a neighborhood like Fremont, in the center of town, you've got a sign saying, 'This way to the Troll,' " Simpson said. "Poor hapless Ballard, through lack of care, instead of a whimsical sign, we end up with an automatic public toilet as a landmark."
Paysha Stockton can be reached at 206-464-2752 or firstname.lastname@example.org.