Schuylkill River Park Community Garden                                                                             CCRA Green Committee           

Letter regarding Portland Loos

16 Feb 2022 2:16 PM | Travis Oliver (Administrator)

From: Richard Gross <RGross@bwra.com>
Sent: Tuesday, January 18, 2022 10:23 PM
To: Kathleen Grady <Kathleen.Grady@Phila.gov>; Lauren Hoffarth <Lauren.Hoffarth@phila.gov>
Cc: Eva Gladstein <Eva.Gladstein@phila.gov>; Jane Green <jane@jmgcomm.com>; Dennis Boylan <dj.boylan2@gmail.com>
Subject: Portland Loos Follow-up

I want to follow up on the session on the Portland Loos you conducted last Thursday.  While I appreciate the time you have devoted to this project, I did not get the feeling that anyone from the City was really open to hearing the concerns expressed by some of us who have reservations.  Those concerns may be summarized as a criticism of the due diligence you have conducted before deciding to launch this program.

As I mentioned, the experience with a strikingly similar program concerning Big Belly trash cans in center city has been abysmal.  Despite specific assurances as to regular maintenance from the responsible department, the trash cans overflow regularly and result in worse trash accumulation than if they were never installed.  Years of complaints from CCRA about the failed maintenance problem have gone unresolved.  In light of this history, you can surely understand our reluctance to have the City embark on another street

“amenity” program without understanding the past failures.  Overflowing garbage cans are unsightly; overflowing and unmaintained bathrooms are a problem of a different magnitude altogether.

The next topic of inadequate due diligence has to do with your survey of other cities’ experience with the Portland Loos.  Ms. Gladstein reported that you had thoroughly surveyed this and concluded that they are uniformly well received.  Of course, that is not the case as a cursory internet search produced the report of an entirely unsatisfactory experience in San Diego, where the cost ballooned 300% over estimate, the facilities attracted crime and were so unsatisfactory in general that they were removed.  A reasonable observer would have to conclude that you did not look for, or perhaps report on, the decidedly mixed history of these facilities elsewhere in your desire to proceed with the project here.  I hope you would agree that the public is entitled to a fair summary of the nationwide experience with Portland Loos.

In the same vein,  you admittedly did not conduct outreach to large segments of the community likely to be affected by the installation.  Talking with hotel operators and office building owners in the vicinity of the proposed center city locations would be a minimum condition for a fair survey of the affected community.  Advocates for the homeless are not the only people with relevant opinions on this topic, but you seemed to have overlooked anyone else completely.

Dennis Boylan has shared with me his email to you on this topic and I endorse his concerns as well.  So far, the communities most likely to be affected by this proposal have been ill-served by the failures in the process he and I and Jane Green have identified to you.  CCRA would be willing to engage in a fair process to consider this proposal if you would adopt one.  To date, we have not seen evidence that this has been the case.  I trust it is not too late for all of you to take a step back, recalibrate your thinking, and embark on a thorough and fair assessment of whether Portland Loos are appropriate for Philadelphia.

Sincerely,

Rick Gross


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