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Santa Rosa decides against Old Courthouse Square for new all-hours public restroom

Santa Rosa will have a new round-the-clock public restroom downtown, but it won’t be on Old Courthouse Square.

The City Council picked a patch of sidewalk a few blocks south of the square outside the City Hall annex at 90 Santa Rosa Ave. as the site of an all-hours prefabricated single-stall toilet.

The recommendation to place the restroom, known as a Portland Loo, at the annex came from Ernesto Olivares and John Sawyer, two of three City Council members serving on a downtown-focused subcommittee.

Downtown business owners had pushed strongly against installing the restroom on the square.

“It was a little bit of a hot topic early on,” said Olivares, who chairs the downtown subcommittee. He added that if he had his way, “we wouldn’t have this,” but he said he thought the annex site was “suitable.”

The third member of that panel, Vice Mayor Victoria Fleming, said she preferred putting the restroom on the square, partially because of safety concerns.

“I’m thinking that, (being) on the smaller side and being female, I would feel safer if this were on the square,” she said, “and I would feel safer taking my small child there if it were on the square, rather than walking down Santa Rosa Avenue.”

The council appropriated $250,000 to buy and install an all-hours public restroom downtown in June 2018.

Council members earlier this year agreed to spend half of that money to buy a Portland Loo, with the other half going toward installation and utility hook-ups.

Though there are several public restrooms in downtown Santa Rosa, none are open around the clock.

The absence of a full-time restroom on the square can pose problems for families with small children and for people living on the streets in central Santa Rosa, who don’t have reliable access to toilets at night.

“We know who’s going to be using this after hours,” Olivares said. “It’s not moms and children who are going to be using this restroom after hours, that is clear.”

Fleming supported the proposal as part of a unanimous vote Dec. 17, calling it a “fair compromise,” while noting that “our downtown businesses are one wonderful and essential part of our constituency downtown, but they are not the majority of the individuals who need to use restrooms downtown.”

You can reach Staff Writer Will Schmitt at 707-521-5207 or will.schmitt@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @wsreports.

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