Seattle’s budget includes roughly $320,000 that will go toward the acquisition and installation of a public bathroom in the bustling Pioneer Square neighborhood. The estimated cost of a unit is roughly $100,000, with installation and maintenance making up a variable cost depending on its site.
The toilet will be modeled after the Portland Loo, a proprietary design with louvered panels at top and bottom that allow passers-by to see the activity of the occupant without necessarily disturbing their privacy. The Loo is constructed from graffiti-resistant stainless steel and has an attachment for a hose for easy cleaning. An exterior sink is meant to promote shorter uses and discourage bathing.
Lit by motion-sensitive LED panels that can be powered by batteries charged from solar panels and using only 1.28 gallons of water per flush, the Loo is remarkably environmentally efficient.
It gets its name because of its installation in Portland in 2008. The Loo has had great success and six additional units have been installed. Similar units are planned or in use in at least seven cities, including cities in Alaska and British Columbia.
Seattle has had a contentious public restroom history and pulled the plug on earlier self-cleaning toilets due to prostitution and drug use within the confines.
The Loo has a history with Seattle as well. An earlier proposal called on developer Urban Visions to pay for installation in exchange for an extra 30 feet of vertical space on an apartment building. After the housing crash, the deal fell through.
The estimated costs of the new proposal will be covered by real-estate excise taxes instead of the general fund, as was initially planned.
For the most part, the public seems in favor of the Loo coming to Seattle, especially in Pioneer Square. While there is some fear, especially from nearby businesses, that the toilets will still be used for illegal activity, most recognize that free 24-hour toilets are an essential human right.
“This is a badly needed project,” said Bryan Stevens of the Department of Planning and Development. “I’m excited to see it moving forward.” Stevens also noted the success of the Loo in Portland, where it has become destigmatized from a bathroom for homeless people to one for everyone.