Richmond City Council considers plan to reopen park bathrooms

Richmond City Council considers plan to reopen park bathrooms
Public restroom at Nicholl Park (Photo credit: Mike Kinney).

By Kathy Chouteau

Tonight, the Richmond City Council is scheduled to review a report from Public Works Director Daniel Chavarria, Deputy Director, Community Services LaShonda White and other City staff surrounding a plan to reopen public bathrooms at City-owned parks previously closed due to illicit activities.

City staff noted in the Agenda Report that the City maintains 14 public restrooms at parks and trails that have not been consistently open due to illicit activities such as “drug use, vandalism and sex work.” Even though most restrooms are locked, recurring break-ins (and attempts) have plagued them, causing “permanent closures of some facilities and costs to the General Fund for repair.”

As part of its report to the City Council, City staff provided an overview of all the public restroom facilities and their current status, with some like Nevin Park and 6th Street at the Richmond Greenway being permanently closed due to illegal activities.

The overview also touched on the restrooms cleaning schedules.

The City staff indicated that while a previous decision was made limiting the use of most restrooms to the public, it “fully understands that parks are critical to the health and wellbeing of residents and community members, providing a space for exercise, relaxation and social activities.”

Nicholl Park public restroom (Photo credit: Mike Kinney)

The group noted in the Agenda Report that regularly accessible restrooms encourage longer visits to the parks and, thus, they are “exploring ways to provide increased access to park restrooms to improve park user satisfaction.”

City staff contacted nearby cities and investigated the costs associated with various options for reopening the restrooms at City owned parks and aims to have its report received at tonight’s City Council meeting. Based on its research findings, the group looks to have the City Council authorize the City Manager to go to contract with Allied Security Services or a new security firm to open/close/monitor park restrooms, for an amount not to exceed $180,000.

The City staff also would like City Council to negotiate and approve a contract amendment with Enviro Clean Maintenance, LLC to clean additional park restrooms, for an amount not to exceed $70,000.

City staff said in the Agenda Report that it additionally reviewed past efforts to keep the restrooms open such as the Park Stewards Program, timed electronic locks and Adopt-a-Spot for restrooms. The efforts were deemed largely unsuccessful, often resulting in service interruptions, leading to the group’s current recommendation of hiring security guards with a cleaning option.

City staff added that it will “prioritize the opening and cleaning of restrooms at parks based on usage” and “will work expeditiously to put the necessary contracts in place to provide this important amenity at our local parks as soon as possible.”