Cal Anderson’s all-gender restrooms part of park’s summer 2017 construction plans

In the summer of 2016, Bobby Morris got a new playfield surface. In 2017, Cal Anderson Park’s notoriously gross restrooms are getting an all-gender, all-ability makeover. Both projects could become models for parks across Seattle.

Plans to redo the park’s bathrooms as an all-gender and mobility-friendly facility have been filed with the city’s Department of Construction and Inspections and are awaiting approval. The project will be paired with infrastructure upgrades for Cal Anderson’s much-loved mountain fountain for another busy summer of construction inside the popular Central Seattle park.

“It’s one of the first ones that we’re doing in the city transforming men’s and women’s restrooms into individual stalls,” Kathleen Conner, planning manager with Seattle Parks and Recreation, told CHS about the bathroom overhaul.

The four, single-occupancy, Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant restrooms will have doors opening from the exterior into the restroom.

According to plans from Young Architecture for the parks department project, direct-entry stalls are the safest, most inclusive option.

This configuration, with the door opening from the exterior directly into the restroom as well as other best practices concepts, has been determined to provide a more safe and welcoming private use of public restroom for the transgender and gender non-conforming community as well as serving caretakers of different genders and family use.

The project design is derived from the parks department’s 2016 study of Cal Anderson’s facilities and the state of the art in all-gender restrooms. The study followed an executive order from Mayor Ed Murray based on a recommendation from the city’s LGBTQ Task Force. Given the mayor’s Capitol Hill residency and his frequent appearances at evens in the park, Murray is likely familiar with the drug use, filth, and garbage problems in the current facility.

“It’s a wide variety of people that use the restroom, and we want them all to feel safe and welcome,” Cheryl Eastberg, project coordinator with the parks department, told CHS in August.screen-shot-2016-08-09-at-3-50-49-pm

The existing bathrooms have problems well beyond sanitation. According to the study, research shows transgender and gender nonconforming people face harassment, verbal attacks, crime and violence in gendered restrooms; semi-private space increases stress; and segregated restrooms make it difficult to participate in society.

Those working on the study spoke with the transgender community and different groups throughout Seattle as well as other cities to reach a recommendation to remodel the multi-stall gendered restrooms into four separate direct-entry restrooms with sinks and toilets that also meet ADA requirements.

A part-time attendant was stationed at the restroom throughout last summer, which was “very successful” Conner said. There was less graffiti, the restrooms were cleaner and people felt safer. She is unsure if a decision about whether or not to have a restroom attendant this summer has been made.

Along with the reconfiguration of the Cal Anderson Park “comfort station,” other improvements including minor changes to the building’s exterior and, likely, lighting right outside of the building.

If funding allows, the park’s department might also widen the path from E Olive St to the park’s wading pool to make it ADA accessible, Conner said. That portion of the project would also require approval from the Landmarks Preservation Board.

Eastberg said the project has been coupled with the fountain drain water retrofit project that will keep the water cleaner and bring the fountain up to code. “To minimize disruption to the park, we’ll be doing both projects together,” Eastberg said.

Two other studies — Cal Anderson Park Lighting Master Plan and Cal Anderson Park Crime Prevention through Environmental Design — have made recommendations for improving safety at the park. Recommendations from these will be considered based on the budget, according to submitted project documents.

Cal Anderson has become a bit of a testing ground for new Seattle Parks initiatives. In 2016, a new cork-filled field surface was installed on Bobby Morris to replace the crumb-rubber-type surface that has become a health concern. Officials said health concerns were secondary to the fact the surface due for replacement. If the new turf proves successful, the pilot program will be extended to artificial turf fields across the city, parks officials said. The all-gender project, too, should be a model for similar projects at parks restrooms in Seattle.

Meanwhile, the construction project will mean yet another summer of fences blocking off portions of the park. In addition to the playfield work in 2016, large areas of Cal Anderson were fenced off in 2010 and 2011 as the parks department executed a $250,000 plan to overhaul areas where grass was struggling to grow in the Olmsted-designed green space.

The parks department has a budget of $300,000 for the design and construction of the new Cal Anderson comfort station. Construction is planned to take place this summer.

Officials plan to hold a public meeting in the coming weeks to discuss the comfort station project.

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15 thoughts on “Cal Anderson’s all-gender restrooms part of park’s summer 2017 construction plans

    • Of course there will be locks on the doors, and of course homeless people and drug addicts will occupy them and trash them for long periods of time…..what’s going to stop them from doing this? The City seems to be ignoring this very real probability as they plan the project. It’s going to be like the automated toilet restrooms all over again….in other words, a disaster!

    • To be fair, most new construction is around $400/sqft in seattle so that’s a cottage size 1 bdrm family home. But yeah, that’s a lot of money for 4 single bathrooms.

    • That’s nothing compared to the $5 million that Seattle spent on automated public restrooms that were turned into filthy drug consumption sites in about a week.

      By the end, even the drug users wouldn’t go in them. They were later removed and sold by the city on eBay for like $12K.

    • Adam, they are not having to include land costs nor any of the fixtures and fittings that make up a home. I think the cost is excessive.

      I shouldn’t be surprised tho. Seattle loves to throw money way then levy homeowners for pet projects.

      Automated toilets are a good example of wasted money, InThe206. And a good point of how these will be used. Part time attendants can’t stop people from going in and trashing the place.

    • You’re ignoring cost to design. And seems like you’ll enjoy this –>
      Cost of Building Public Restrooms

      The lowest cost for a 4-room building was pre-fabricated ROMTEC in Roseburg, Oregon at
      $149,293 while the highest option for a 4-room building was Restroom Facilities in Reno,
      Nevada at $351,483.
      o The average cost was $208,934 and the American Ready Kontainer (re-purposed shipping
      containers) cost for a 4-room facility is $217,750.
      o The City’s 1700 South River Park project cost was $158,264.
      o Projects (1, 4 or 6 room(s) ADA) studied include restroom facilities located in: Oregon – 2
      types/locations, Washington, Kentucky, Nevada – 2 types, and Utah – American Ready
      Kontainer.

    • Timmy, The 400/sqft residential cost is without land cost but would include most designs (unless working with a separate architect/designer, in which it would bump it up a bit more). I’m not arguing it is not expensive because it is. There is a lot of uniformity in those 4 rooms (they’re all mirror images), and all the fixtures should be standard commercial products. This alone should reduce design and fixture costs, not necessarily renovation/build out costs.

    • Cost to design? There are many examples as shown in the link already designed. Why do we need to design ground up instead of purchasing an existing design.

      400/sqft is without land? Actually around 200/sqft without land. These spaces do not require hardwood floors, quartz counters and the like.

      We should be challenging these costs instead of making excuses for them. It’s my money and yours being wasted here.

    • Timmy73, My 400/sqft residential cost was just a response to your statement of building a large home. It wasn’t an excuse.

      What seems more troubling about the numbers is that, unless I’ve missed something (which happens often), they are not building a new structure. It’s all interior renovation. That makes this number extremely expensive.

  1. Maintenance at Cal Anderson Park is abysmal , not just the restrooms,regularly Park Department employees driving around in gas guzzling trucks sitting idling while they play on their phones while the walking surfaces are washed away creating ruts, I mention this to them 6 months ago…they put an orange cone ,still there I believe.
    Graffiti on bulkheads on Denny and water feature, weeds under benches, gravel creating ponds of water to walk around near reflecting pool.
    Really makes me angry, then two people driving in a truck to pull garbage bags.