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Laura Lothian, the local realtor who unsuccessfully faced Art Madrid in last year's election, said she fears adding public facilities will attract what she sees as booming homeless population. Lothian said she also has concerns that new public facilities will be tagged with graffitti and will not be properly maintained. "The homeless population is absolutely growing,'' Lothian said. "When word gets out there are bathrooms, we'll see even more.''
Other members of the committee, which would use parking meter funds to pay for proposed "Portland Loos'' (pictured right) that could be erected near the transit station on Allison Avenue and near the trolley museum just off La Mesa Boulevard, didn't agree with Lothian."It is a matter of dignity,'' said Jim Wieboldt, the commission chairman and a downtown merchant, who said he has seen elderly people struggle to find facilities in The Village. "We have signs all over downtown saying 'no public restroom' so the merchants have been asking for this for a long time.''
Lynn Mcrea, another commission member, criticized Lothian for blaming public transportation for bringing unsavory characters to the city.
"My business is right on the boulevard,'' she said. "I'm very close to the buses and I see La Mesans getting off them all day. People going to work, to shop.''
City staff said the new public restrooms could be tagged and would have to be part of a downtown maintenance program if they are to meet the goals.
Wieboldt and Mcrea are both members of the committee trying to establish a downtown Property Based Improvement District to help fund such a maintenance program for the streets, sidewalks, planters and other public amenities and the issue of public restroom maintenance is likely to come up at Wednesday night's PBID meeting.
City staff said they would continue to study the two possible restroom locations, including studying whether underground utilities could make the installation untenable or too expensive at these locations.
Wieboldt said the committee will get full estimates in the coming months and, depending on whether the maintenance issue can be resolved, eventually vote on whether to go ahead with the installations.
Downtown restrooms have been a problem for years because the older buildings along La Mesa Boulevard often had facilities that didn't meet requirements for public use. That has left "no public restroom'' signs in many businesses and left shoppers scrambling at times.