Hiding the Albatross

albatrossNo, I didn’t spot an albatross at the park.  This is about a political albatross.  At the most recent session of the Parks and Waterfront Commission, I submitted a statement:

The $600,000 Windsurfer Bathroom

The proposed $600,000 windsurfer bathroom, if built, would become an albatross around the neck of any future parks tax or park bond measure.  The response of practically every Berkeley citizen confronted with this proposal is “graft, waste, corruption, and mismanagement.”  This expenditure will be lampooned from one end of town to the other and will bring the whole Parks management into disrepute. 

There are vendors of park restrooms who build and install prefab conventional units at prices that would fit three bathrooms into the proposed budget. See http://www.publicrestroomcompany.com/ and http://www.romtec.com/standard_restrooms/ .  There are vendors of ecological alternative flushing units that require no sewer hookups, five or six of which could be bought for the money available.  See http://greenflushrestrooms.com/  .  Berkeley will be watching. 

As if to validate my point, Parks Director Scott Ferris submitted a list of projects at the meeting from which the $600,000 windsurfer bathroom was conspicuously missing.  Dozens of projects, not one of them captioned “South Cove restroom.”  It was there, plainly visible, on the list that Ferris submitted to City Council a couple of months earlier.  Now it was gone.   See the packet.

No, the Parks Department hadn’t rethought the project.  They decided instead to conceal it.  In the Q&A period after the meeting, it turned out that the $600,000 windsurfer bathroom was silently folded into two items named “Bay Trail Segment Three” and “South Cove Access.”

Don’t look for transparency in the Parks and Waterfront Department.  Instead of standing up and trying to make a case why more than half a million dollars had to be spent to build a bathroom for the windsurfing crowd, in an area already well served by other public bathrooms, Parks management is hoping to slide the project past the public gaze.   For shame.  And good luck with that!

Separately, I’m posting details about the alternative restroom construction vendors that I’ve located with a web search.  Each of the alternatives would allow two, three, or more park restrooms to be built within that $600,000 budget.  With a little openness, initiative, and market research, the City could have a new windsurfer bathroom and better bathrooms in Cesar Chavez Park, where they’re sorely needed, for the same money.

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