New bathroom for general public opens in South Berkeley

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Yukun Zhang/Staff

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A new public-use portable bathroom, accessible to people with physical disabilities, was installed in a city parking lot near Alcatraz Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Way on Friday after the city received pressure from a nearby homeless encampment organized by the advocacy group First They Came for the Homeless, along with local neighborhood residents and merchants.

The bathroom is funded and will be maintained by Friends of Adeline, a local activist group focused on advocating for affordable housing and other issues in South Berkeley. Friends of Adeline has been helping the encampment by providing counseling, support and other resources.

Richie Smith, an activist and member of Friends of Adeline, said the bathroom is needed for passersby, nearby farmers’ market customers and local homeless community members especially.

“(The homeless community members) are human beings,” Smith said. “They should be looked after and taken care of until they can get back on their feet.”

Mayor Jesse Arreguín said local community members have requested the bathroom for some time because of the “critical shortage of public restrooms in South Berkeley.”

Homeless community members urinate in public areas after businesses with public restrooms close in the evening, creating a public health hazard, according to Arreguín.

Some businesses along Adeline Street have also had long bathroom lines because of nearby homeless encampment members using business restrooms, according to Lorin Business Association President Heather Haxo Phillips, creating more stress for local businesses.

City Councilmember Ben Bartlett also held a community meeting in July, during which local homeowners and business owners expressed a strong urge to place a portable bathroom near the encampment, according to Arreguín.

Arreguín said despite public support for the new bathroom, city administration was not willing to implement the community’s idea until City Council took action.

Arreguín and Bartlett proposed the authorization of a new public restroom in a South Berkeley parking lot and “Neighborhood Public Toilet Policy” in two emergency items at the council’s July 25 meeting, both of which the council voted to approve.

“It was difficult and time-consuming. There really was no process for allowing something like this so the city staff had to figure out a process,” Arreguín said. “Given this was impacting businesses as well as (being) an issue of health and safety, I feel that we had to take immediate action.”

Homeless community activist Guy “Mike” Lee said the new public bathroom near the First They Came for the Homeless encampment was “a good start” because “bathrooms are non-accessible anywhere in the city of Berkeley” for homeless community members.

He added that Friends of Adeline, the homeless population and the local business community worked together to get the portable bathroom.

It was because of the strength of the partnership that we were able to make this happen,” Lee said. “I think that the solution is the City Council itself has to take a more proactive role. It has to sit down and be willing and open to talking with the community and listening to their ideas and implementing those ideas.”

Some community members, however, have already raised concerns about the new bathroom.

A number of syringes have already been found in the new bathroom, according to city of Berkeley Homeless Commissioner Carole Marasovic and Adam Bredenberg, a member of First They Came for the Homeless.

Marasovic said she believed the homeless encampment should have its own portable bathroom that it would control and pay for, rather than a general public-use bathroom.

Bredenberg said in an email he had concerns about the bathroom’s capacity and security, adding that “two or three toilets can’t serve everybody in South Berkeley.”

He stated in an email that while he believes that the installation of this bathroom is “a major victory,” it still does not grant the encampment members their “natural rights.”

“I want public toilets in Berkeley, but I also want my community to have the right to take care of its own sanitation,” Bredenberg said in an email. “The government will permit sanitation only under their aegis. They will not permit what they cannot control, and therefore we will always be illegal.”

Contact Atira Nair at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @atirastar.a

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  • California Defender

    …“bathrooms are non-accessible anywhere in the city of Berkeley” for homeless community members.

    What about those on the campus of UC Berkeley? Those are public bathrooms on public land paid for with public dollars. Can’t the homeless use those without any trouble?

  • Nunya Beeswax

    Well, if you’re not going to break up the encampment and you don’t want them crapping on the street, I suppose this is the obvious solution.

  • Mike Zint

    So, who left the needles behind? The encampment? No. But its the homeless, so it must be them. Once again, drug use is attached to the homeless encampment. Last time this was tried, it was a diabetic injecting insulin. But, all needles the homeless use have illegal drugs, right? This bathroom is public. A housed person could have left needles behind. Oh, housed don’t do drugs, do they?

    As far as people who speak for First They Came For The Homeless, none were contacted for this article. Why? I’m the founder, with Sarah Menefee. Our attorney, Emily Rose Johns, from Seigal and Yee, can speak. JP Massar and Mike Wilson can also speak. If no quotes from them show in a news article, then the movement is not speaking.

    • Recall Team Arreguin

      Dude, go live with your family.

      • Sam Spade

        Why? We are waiting for your address

    • BerkeleyMews

      Yes, those needles dropped from the sky. Another poor job of damage control.

      • Sam Spade

        No you eft them. I know you did. Of course the moon is made of green cheese and the earth is flat

        • BerkeleyMews

          It’s Mike Lee again.

    • Pietro Gambadilegno

      How about Mike Lee? He was contacted for the article and quoted in it.

      • Sam Spade

        I know this might be a difficult request but please learn how to read. that is when you have conquered the challenge of tying your shoes and not having your mom dress you

      • BerkeleyMews

        Sam Spade is Gary “Mike” Lee.

    • Sam Spade

      That is absoluetly correct. When I speak I always say that I am one of the public voices associated with FTCFTH.
      There are some who got their brains eaten by zombies who can’t understand that. Of course they don’t know how to wear shoes or that its not an acceptable social custom to have bibical realtions with your cousin

  • Disqusted

    –“They should be looked after and taken care of until they can get back on their feet.”

    It won´t happen unless they stop injecting heroin and meth. That will not happen unless the police take away their drugs.

    • Clark Sullivan

      Yes, tell us how successful the War on (some) Drugs has been…

    • Clark Sullivan

      And the homeless activist collective “First They Came for the Homeless” already has a no alcohool or hard drugs policy

  • Sam Spade

    Carole Marasovic and Adam Bredenberg were not part of this process and thus their comments are taken out of context and should be ignored.
    TThank you Friends Of Adeline, Lorin Business Association, LeConte Neighbrhood association Margy Wilkinson and others for all you help. Together we win and are off to a good start

    • Recall Team Arreguin

      All we have established is that if we help one idiot from Las Vegas – looking at you – ten more will follow and the toilets will still draw drug users.

      Go back to Vegas.

      • Sam Spade

        Yo what is your problem? We do something for the community and you arent happy with that. I’m sorry you missed your favorite Leave It To Beaver Re-Run but seriously at least acknowledge we are contributing to the community

        • Sherry

          Who is the “we”, “Sam Spade”, of which you are a part? And I have the feeling that “Sam Spade” is a nom-de-Disqus….

          • BerkeleyMews

            He’s already been outed.

        • Recall Team Arreguin

          You’re a leech. You take and take….

          • Sam Spade

            Take what? Show me one thing that I have taken from the City

          • Recall Team Arreguin

            Who do you think has to clean up after your camps? How about those signs drom your vanity campaign that you won’t take down?

          • Sam Spade

            Once again you are yelling at the wrong person.

            My signs if they exist are a constant reminder of the vote you wasted. Ha Ha

          • Recall Team Arreguin

            Like I said – you’re a leach. Please leave.

        • BerkeleyMews

          You’re the troll on every homeless thread.

          • Sam Spade

            What an insightful comment . this from someone who has no solution except to run people out of town or throw them in jail.
            Even when homeless people do something positive you won’t acknowledge it because it doesn’t fit in your ideal Leave It To Beaver World

          • BerkeleyMews

            Go ahead. All you do is say it is your decision how everyone’s taxes should be spent.

    • BerkeleyMews

      You are ruining Berkeley.

      • Sam Spade

        Another hater. Whats the matter did your favorite soap box charecter get killed off

    • Pietro Gambadilegno

      The article says: A number of syringes have already been found in the new bathroom,
      according to city of Berkeley Homeless Commissioner Carole Marasovic and
      Adam Bredenberg, a member of First They Came for the Homeless.

      It is ludicrous to say that, because they did not take part in the process, we should ignore the factual statement they are making.

      • Sam Spade

        You are mistaken I never denied the problem exisits which I explained very carefully to the city would be the result of their plan.
        Go yell at Council for not listening