Practical local park politics on the day after the mid-terms: Larry Wilson
|November 4, 2014 - Larry Wilson opines on bathrooms in parks, particularly in the new Desiderio Park under the Colorado Street Bridge.|
|Wednesday columnists with an early deadline don’t get into the election results we don’t yet have.|
But I’ve been thinking this week about a local-local political issue that’s as neighborhoody as they get — and yet applies to all of us no matter where we live.
The question that came before the Pasadena City Council last week was seemingly simple, with a seemingly simple answer. With the disappearance of the Desiderio Army Reserve base beneath the Colorado Street Bridge in the Arroyo Seco, and the city’s decision to put some low-cost housing and a small park down there, should the park have a restroom?
Easy reply: All parks should have restrooms. If you’re going to take your kid there for an afternoon romp, and there’s no place to relieve oneself, well, are you really going to take your kid there? And, yes, the council voted for a restroom, over the objection of West Pasadena representatives Mayor Bill Bogaard and Councilman Steve Madison.
But, as (West Pasadena’s) Diamond David Lee Roth so memorably howls, I found the simple life ain’t so simple. First call on the subject I got was from a political observer who sees in this yet another important defeat for the rich and formerly all-powerful “West Pasadena political machine,” which formerly but clearly no more could deliver a council majority. It was just like in April, when “the Arroyo Protection Ordinance that protected West Pasadena residents from an excessive amount of Rose Bowl events was thrown out the window in favor of Eminem.”
Second call I got was from West Pasadena Residents Association President Geoff Baum, whose letter on the subject we ran on the Opinion page. It wasn’t just the WPRA that objected to restrooms. City planning staff recommended a “neighborhood park characterized as a passive retreat.” A similar park on Colorado east of Avenue 64 has no restrooms. And you know what a park restroom costs? Like $600,000. I’d rather see six large go into trees.
Looming over this is a larger unspoken issue, the real one here. You know who really uses park restrooms in West Pasadena? The homeless. I drive past them every morning near the bridges over the Arroyo, walking out of the brush toward breakfast. Some would rather sleep there than in a shop doorway or in a shelter. And if I were homeless and saw a park restroom, I’d use it to freshen up. For a sink-fed sponge bath using paper towels. Wouldn’t you? That’s who uses the restrooms in the city’s Central Park — the homeless guys who hang out there at night. Far as I can tell, the only people who use the men’s room in the Central Library on Walnut are homeless guys and me. Staff had to remove the mirrors over the sinks to make it harder to shave. It always stinks in there. You stink, when you’re homeless.
Have Art Center students design, and Habitat for Humanity volunteers build, cheap good public showers for homeless guys. Somewhere close, though not under the bridge. Put porta-potties in Desiderio Park and spend the restroom money more wisely. That’s politics made practical.
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