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Seattle to give outdoor bathrooms another shot in Ballard

Portland Loo toilets are specifically designed to be an improvement on Seattle’s imperfect potty past

A promotional video for the Portland Loo.

Ballard Commons Park is on-deck to get a state-of-the-art public restroom—and it could be a vast improvement over Seattle’s previous attempts. The facility is scheduled to be installed in the southeast corner of the park in Summer 2019.

As we noted recently in a story of another ill-fated public restroom, Seattle has a complicated history with public toilets. In 2003, the city bought five, self-cleaning, automated public toilets, but they lasted only a few years before literally being sold on eBay.

A few years ago, the city announced it’d be trying again—and this time, the model would be new, improved, and cheaper. Portland Loo is specifically designed to succeed where others have failed; “We really looked at Seattle as what not to do,” said one Portland city staffer to CityLab.

Already beloved in its namesake city, where they’ve been up and operational since 2006, the loos have what CityLab called a “defense-first design”: walls and doors made of heavy-gauge stainless steel, graffiti-resistant coating, no mirrors inside, and open space at the top and bottom for just enough privacy to do your business—but not any funny business.

There’s also no running water inside—hand-washing facilities are on the exterior—so nobody feels tempted to linger for extra washing time.

While the space toilets of yore cost about $1 million apiece—$5 million for all five—these models are about $100,000, although that doesn’t include installation and maintenance. (We’ve seen reported estimates for total cost around $230,000 for one or $550,000 for two, but we’ve reached out for confirmation.)

While the city tried to install one in Pioneer Square at first, ultimately Ballard got the honors. Not only is there a critical need of a place for people to relieve themselves in that location, but health regulations dictate that in order to operate the splash pad, there needs to be a place for people to go to the bathroom that is not the splash pad.

Parks and Recreation will be holding an open house about the toilet on Saturday, along with the Mobile Incubator, a pop-up where artists, writers, and other creatives can get free business advice.

Ballard Commons Park

5701 22nd Ave. NW, Seattle, WA 98107 Visit Website