As a veteran of the sixties I’ve worked on a few petition campaigns. I’ve never been behind one that has the instant appeal of the Petition for Better Bathrooms. Yesterday I parked my ironing board a few feet upwind from the first set of porta-potties on Spinnaker Way (across from the hotel) and in about an hour I had 84 signatures.
The words “Petition for better bathrooms,” stopped the average park visitor in their tracks. “Yes!” “About time!” “I support that!” Sometimes I had people piled up six deep waiting to add their names to this cause. It’s been the easiest petition to get signatures on, ever.
Today I put up an online version of the petition on the home page of this website. If you miss me and my ironing board in the park, please sign the petition online. I could also use a volunteer or two to staff a second ironing board and raise the profile of the petition campaign in the park.
Here are some of the things people told me.
- One man said he preferred to “go” in the bushes rather than in the porta-potties because of the stink and filth.
- Quite a few women said they refused to use the porta-potties at all, and would cut their park visits short if necessary.
- Lots of people made faces of disgust at the condition of the porta-potties.
- A woman said she thought the maintenance people signed the sweep sheet inside the units for two days in a row even though they only cleaned once.
- A number of people said it would be nice to have a way to wash their hands after using the facilities.
- A man said he had voted more money for the parks and he expected improvements.
- A woman said that using the porta-potties was not only unsanitary but it made her dizzy because they swayed and rocked.
- Another man said the park has been here for years, why are there still temporary bathrooms?
- A woman said that the park had become much more popular than it used to be and the plastic bathrooms were just not adequate any more.
- Several people pointed out that users of the yacht basin had permanent bathrooms with flush toilets and sinks; why not park users?
- A couple of visitors were also users of Aquatic Park and pointed to the contrast between the permanent bathrooms with flush toilets there, and the porta-potties here; they asked, why is that?
- One couple mentioned the really good, modern and clean bathrooms just built in a shoreline park in Richmond that they often visited.
One frequently asked question was whether you had to be a registered voter in Berkeley to sign the petition. I replied by asking, do you have to be a registered voter in Berkeley to use the bathrooms? The petition signatures I’ve collected so far demonstrate that Cesar Chavez Park has become a regional attraction. People come here not only from Berkeley and from nearby Albany, Kensington, and Emeryville. The petition signatures show that they also drive here from El Cerrito, San Pablo, San Francisco, Oakland, Alameda, Walnut Creek, Mill Valley, San Ramon, Richmond, Palo Alto, San Leandro, Pleasant Hill, Danville, Martinez, El Sobrante, Castro Valley, and other towns.
Improving the bathrooms at Cesar Chavez Park is a matter of public sanitation and gender equity. It is also a matter of civic pride. Cesar Chavez Park has developed into a showcase for the city. Visitors from other towns form their impression of the City of Berkeley in part from the welcome that the City extends in this park. They compare the facilities with other cities. Is this really the best face that the City of Berkeley is able to put forward to visitors from all over the region?