SEATTLE — In these coarse times, it costs money to keep the appearance of a civilized society.
At the Ballard Commons, in the heart of Seattle’s historic Scandinavian neighborhood, that cost is $550,000 for one outdoor public restroom and its installation.
But the “Portland Loo” is advertised as the best way to deal with drug use, prostitution and vandalism. Seattle already has two, at the Rainier Beach Playfield. Although there are no plans for additional loos in Seattle, according to a parks spokeswoman, more are coming to the region.
“It’s not supposed to be a comfortable place,” said Evan Madden, sales manager for the Portland Loo, named for the city where it was patented in 2010 after officials decided to design a better outdoor toilet.
The toilet has one purpose: Allow the user to do their hygienic business and leave as quickly as possible. It’s been described as looking “like a cage for a gorilla.”
The door to the Portland Loo public toilet is manually operated, unlike the ones the city sold off 11 years ago after they became favorites for drug use and prostitution. This loo is at Rainier Beach Playfield.
Users are greeted by a cage-like structure, made out of heavy-gauge stainless steel. The exterior is painted in an uninviting gray.
The toilet bowl is made out of “prison grade” stainless steel, perched above a concrete slab floor. One amenity is the toilet seat. It’s made out of fiberglass, said Madden, because stainless steel can stick to skin in freezing weather.
There’s no sink, to prevent users from washing clothes. Outside the loo, there is a spigot that dispenses only cold water.
The interior has no mirror nor a sink.
The paint has anti-graffiti powder in it so that, say, a citrus-based cleaner will easily wipe off a Sharpie marking.
And the blue lighting that’s bathing the inside of the loo as if you’re in sci-fi movie? It makes it difficult for intravenous drug users to spot their veins.
The loo in Ballard, currently surrounded by chain-link fencing, is set to open later this month.
You can thank the Seattle public toilet debacle of 2004 for helping design the Portland Loo.
The loo has steel bars at the top and bottom of the structure. Cops can look inside to make sure there’s only one person inside.