There Will Be Money for Better Restrooms

Two of the park porta-potties, 9/14/2016
Two of the park porta-potties, 9/14/2016

Berkeley voters passed Measure T1 by a whopping 86.46 per cent in yesterday’s election.  It only needed two thirds to pass.  The measure authorizes the city to float a $100 million bond for repair and renovation of Berkeley’s infrastructure, including parks, streets, storm drains, recreation centers, senior centers, and other facilities.  

Passage of T1 means that the game of pleading “no money” when it comes to better restrooms in Cesar Chavez Park is over.  There will be money.  (Actually, there has always been money but it has been wasted on providing redundant restrooms for boat owners in the Marina.)  Now the task is to convince the people who control the money to spend just a little of it to improve Berkeley’s largest, most visited, and most neglected public park.  

Measure T1 requires “public input” to decide how the funds will be spent.  At this early date there are no specifics about the input process.  Last year, I collected and presented to City Council more than 700 signatures on a petition for better bathrooms in this park.  I’m prepared to resume that drive, and I invite you to join me in the effort. 

Better park bathrooms, as I’ve pointed out repeatedly on this website, need not be expensive.  Last year the boater-biased Marina management proposed to spend $650,000 for one bathroom to serve the windsurfers on the south side of the Marina.  That was crazy.  Their design called for a hugely expensive 250-foot sewer connection.  That would have been a gross waste of money.  Excellent sanitary park bathrooms with flush toilets, urinals, sinks for handwashing, and solar power, requiring no sewer connection, can be installed for $50,000 apiece.  That’s almost dust in a $100 million budget.  There’s just no excuse for continuing to inflict porta-potties on the thousands of visitors from all over the region who visit Cesar Chavez Park.  

The old City Council majority run by Tom Bates is no more.  Bates was an important progressive force for Berkeley’s parks in past decades, but in recent years forgot about Berkeley’s infrastructure and ceased to push park development forward.  What he mainly cared about was high-rise luxury housing downtown.  Laurie Capitelli, Bates’ lieutenant, was well aware of the deplorable condition of the porta-potties in the park, but showed no leadership in making improvements.  Now Bates has retired and voters sank Capitelli’s bid for the mayor’s post.  We have a new mayor and a new progressive city council majority.  Now there is a good chance that the park named for Cesar Chavez will at long last get bathrooms better than those provided for farmworkers in the fields.  

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