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Downtown wants to be a place where people can get out of their cars and go for long walks — tourists, office workers, residents. But if they walk, they’ll need restrooms. And for years, there’s been a conflicting urge: Let’s not make the homeless too comfortable by installing easy-to-access public restrooms.
Now city officials are scrambling to address a problem they have acknowledged for years: We don’t have enough bathrooms. A deadly outbreak of hepatitis A has them panicked. It is said to be the second-largest outbreak in the United States. since a vaccination became available 22 years ago. The outbreak, which has killed 16 and sickened hundreds, is linked to poor hygiene and lack of restrooms.
Meanwhile, the city’s new bleach-enhanced cleaning of “fecally contaminated” streets and sidewalks is garnering unwanted national and international attention.
County officials warned patrons of a Pacific Beach restaurant they might have been exposed. It may not be long until late-night hosts hear about this and give us a new motto.
New portable restrooms and hand-washing stations are appearing downtown. But what happened, or failed to happen, earlier? The city “hit debacle after debacle even in far less urgent attempts to add them,” reports our Lisa Halverstadt in a new story.
The glitches continue, she notes. A high-profile “Portland Loo” at Park Boulevard and Market Street, near the downtown library, vanished earlier this month. Meanwhile, some of the homeless say they avoid 10 toilets at Father Joe’s Villages because they’re filthy. “I’d rather use a bucket,” one said.
• Hepatitis A is actually quite rare, with an estimated 2,500 cases a year in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. “Keep in mind that most people do not get sick when someone at a restaurant has Hepatitis A,” cautions the CDC. “However, if an infected food handler is infectious and has poor hygiene, the risk goes up for patrons of that restaurant.”
• L.A. is worried that San Diego’s outbreak will spread there. Why hasn’t it already? Possibly because the city has been cleaning certain streets and sidewalks with bleach solutions for years. Officials in both L.A. and Orange counties have begun vaccinating the homeless against hepatitis A.
To provide some perspective about how big our outbreak is, L.A. County — more than three times our county’s size — hasn’t had more than 60 annual cases of the disease in the past five years. (L.A. Times, KPCC) We are marching toward 500 cases in the last year.
• A U-T reporter visits the edges of the Santa Ana River in Orange County, where “tent cities along the river offer a level of comfort and perhaps sophistication unparalleled by any prominent homeless camps in the San Diego region. Many people control a relatively stable piece of real estate, complete with couches, beds, small refrigerators powered by gas generators, cook stoves, even amenities such weight benches and a communal bike shop.”
But there aren’t any restrooms.
In a commentary, our Kinsee Morlan notes that the state’s transitional kindergarten program, designed for 4 year olds, only benefits those of a certain specific age: Those who’ll turn 5 between Sept. 2 and Dec. 2.
“Those lucky kids effectively get an extra year of public school at no cost, and start kindergarten with a huge, unfair advantage,” she writes. “The program is brazen age discrimination and provides inequitable opportunities.”
We’ve reported about how a North County program to help the homeless called Solutions for Change doesn’t want to comply with federal rules that would forbid them from drug-testing clients. Now, the program wants local cities to pitch in with $140,000 to make up the gap.
“One city said yes, two said no and two others are thinking about it,” the U-T reports. The dilemma of Solutions for Change has become a conservative cause célèbre.
• Lori Saldaña, a former legislator and failed candidate for mayor, has joined the packed race to replace a termed-out Ron Roberts as county supervisor in a district that covers much of the city of San Diego. Meanwhile, there’s consternation over an expected Democratic Party endorsement of former legislator Nathan Fletcher, reports Times of S.D.
• The U-T digs into who gets free passes to the city’s luxury suites at the local football stadium and ballpark. For some reason, a third of the city box passes go to the city attorney’s office.
• The rise of Uber and Lyft is destroying the local taxi industry, which can’t compete on price, comfort or convenience. The U-T checks in with what’s left of the industry. It finds that ride-sharing services are its Public Enemy No. 1, and taxi advocates say they’re burdened by too many rules.
• inewsource explores the final demise of San Diego Hospice, whose “decades-long reputation couldn’t endure the beating it took when federal auditors began to ask whether the people it cared for were actually dying.”
• Mission Valley’s Town & Country Resort and Convention Center is seeking an $80 million facelift. (City News Service)
• “San Diegans for Open Government attorney Cory Briggs has threatened to sue San Ysidro School District if district officials do not recover the $400,000 in severance pay it awarded to former superintendent Julio Fonseca after he resigned last month amid a personnel scandal,” the Reader reports.
• San Diego has had plenty of debates over body-baring, from the 1970s-era ballot-box fight over the skinny dippers at Black’s Beach to a 2010 lawsuit by cyclists who wanted to bike naked to protest oil dependency to the ultimately tragic 2011 legal fight over a man’s right to wear a thong in public.
San Diego’s century of nudity wars began 100 years ago this summer when the city ordered La Jolla bathers to cover up their bathing suits — and their legs and arms — whenever they left the water. No bare ankles, no bare elbows, no bare anything except head and hands.
La Jollans chafed at the rules and ignored them at their peril. By the 1930s the City Council found itself debating decency at the water’s edge and beyond.
One newspaper writer mocked the puritans at the La Jolla Women’s Club who pushed for the 1917 law — “none of whom wear bathing suits.”
Oof. Take that, snooty La Jolla ladies!
Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. He is also immediate past president of the 1,200-member American Society of Journalists and Authors (asja.org). Please contact him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/rdotinga.