City’s pier restrooms: a problem

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Cleanliness an ongoing issue. Renovation project is in the design phase

First in an ongoing series.

No one really likes beach restrooms. They are often dank, humid, and messy. Sheer volume of use complicates keeping them clean.

The Seal Beach Pier restrooms are in poor shape and city officials have been getting complaints about them for years.

 

Photo by Charles M. Kelly
Graffiti and unexpected signage appear on the inside wall of the Seal Beach Pier mens’ room. This photo was taken Sunday, Aug. 22.

 

Recently, there was a lengthy discussion thread on a social media platform concerning the Seal Beach Pier restrooms. No one was happy.

In an Aug. 14, 2021, interview, District One Councilman/Mayor Joe Kalmick said that the pier restrooms are a chronic problem because of their age, the configuration of the restrooms and because they get overwhelmed when Seal Beach sees a lot of visitors.

The Sun had both male and female employees visit the pier restrooms a few times in the last couple of weeks. (Sun staff took photos during some of the visits. One reporter made sure no people were present before taking out a cell phone.) The floors of both the the men’s and women’s restrooms under the Seal Beach Pier are cracked.

During the summer concert series, a Sun employee reported a foul odor so overwhelming that she nearly left the women’s restroom.

A toilet that appeared to be overflowing on Aug. 17, 2021, was apparently fixed by this past weekend.

The male staffer who visited the men’s room did not notice a particularly foul odor.

Water is often on the floor under the urinals. Recently, a yellow plastic cone stood in the restroom warning of a wet spot. The wet spot was dry Sunday morning.

On that day, one of the stainless steel toilets in the men’s room was missing a seat.

Graffiti appeared on the inside door of all three men’s room stalls. One stall has a paper sign on the inside advising users that the door swings inward. The bolt to that door appeared twisted.

The good news: the pier restrooms are scheduled to be remodeled.

The bad news: it isn’t going to happen right away.

In the meantime, the pier restrooms need to be kept clean. And within the city budget.

The renovation project

The renovation project is just starting.

“At this point we are just starting the preliminary design phase,” wrote Public Works Director Steve Myrter in an Aug. 10, 2021, email.

In March of this year, the pier restrooms were one of the priorities discussed during the council/staff strategic planning meeting.

According to the staff presentation at that time, it would cost an estimated $250,000 to repair the pier restrooms. (Construction costs are subject to change.) City Manager Jill Ingram told the council that staff is budgeting the project for Fiscal Year 2021-22.

During a phone interview on Aug. 16 , 2021, Public Works Director Steve Myrter said the city needs to bring in a consultant to develop a design for the project so it can be bid out.

Myrter said the city was currently working with a consultant and expected to have an agreement with them in late September.

A bit of restroom law

Public restrooms are regulated by the California Health and Safety Code. HS Code 118500, for example, requires that public “water closets” be available free of charge.

But for this article, the key law is HS Code 114250: “Clean toilet rooms in good repair shall be provided and conveniently located and accessible for use by employees during all hours of operation. The number of toilet facilities required shall be in accordance with applicable local building and plumbing ordinances. Toilet tissue shall be provided in a permanently installed dispenser at each toilet.”

Keeping restrooms clean

Asked if her office had received comments or complaints about beach area restrooms, District Two Supervisor Katrina Foley wrote on Aug. 16, 2021, that she had not heard any complaints.

“At County-managed beaches such as Aliso, Salt Creek and South Laguna beaches, restrooms are cleaned four times a day by a janitorial contractor,” wrote Marisa O’Neil, public information officer for OC Parks on Aug. 17 , 2021.

“Additionally, OC Parks staff clean and stock the restrooms two additional times per day. OC Parks staff fully disinfect and deep clean all restrooms weekly,” O’Neil wrote.

Huntington Beach has hired Spectrum Facilities Maintenance to clean 15 restroom facilities, according to HB Community Relations Officer Julie Toledo. She put the annual cost at $250,000.

She said the restrooms were cleaned three to seven times daily.

Chamber of Commerce President Rob Jahncke reported he hadn’t heard much on the subject of the Seal Beach Pier restrooms.

“I do know with the extra traffic we have on Main Street this summer I am having trouble keeping the bathroom maintained,” he wrote on Aug. 17 , 2021, apparently referring to the restroom at his business.

“I have already had to replace the toilet flusher twice because someone doesn’t want to touch the handle and uses their foot instead, which break[s] the lever,” Jahnke wrote.

“The City told me that they are planning to spend some money on the bathrooms with their upcoming budget because they recognize the need,” he wrote.

District One Councilman/Mayor Joe Kalmick on Aug. 14, 2021, said the pier and First Street restrooms are cleaned regularly.

How often and

for how much?

“A seven day a week porter service, dedicated to the Pier restrooms and 1st [Street] beach restrooms is included as part of the City’s janitorial contract,” Assistant City Manager Patrick in an email lasgt week. He also wrote that the porter service cleans the restroom five times a day.

Page 10 of Exhibit A of the city’s contract with Golden Touch Cleaning Solutions, Inc., states the pier restrooms will be cleaned seven days a week from May 16 to Sept. 16, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., with a final cleaning and locking of the restrooms at 10 p.m.

From Sept. 17 to May 15, the pier restrooms will be cleaned on Saturdays and Sundays.

According to a chart in Exhibit D of the contract, Golden Touch cleans 12 facilities. However, there was no mention of the First Street restrooms in the chart. Service for those restrooms was apparently included with the monthly cost of cleaning the pier restrooms.

That was City Manager Jill Ingram’s answer to related questions from District Four Councilwoman Schelly Sustarsic in a Sept. 9, 2019 email to the City Council.

“The 1st Street restrooms are included as part of the Pier Restrooms and the supplies scope item which is included in the bid,” Ingram wrote.

According to the contract chart, the annual for cleaning the pier restrooms (and First Street restrooms) will be $56,700.

The maximum cost of having Golden Touch clean all of the city facilities in the contract: a maximum of $171,324. The chart gave the same figure.

Maintenance and use

“It is generally accepted that cleaning frequency should be based on how much foot traffic a particular restroom receives,” Gallegos wrote.

“Given that both the Pier restrooms and 1st [Street] beach restrooms experience relatively high foot traffic, especially right now during the busiest time of year at the beach, the City utilizes a full time janitorial porter service to ensure these restrooms are cleaned multiple times per day,” Gallegos wrote.

According to Kalmick, the problem is not so much a lack of maintenance.

He described the use of the restrooms as overwhelming.

Kalmick said it only takes one person to trash a restroom.

The Sun emailed all five City Council members and other Seal Beach officials last week and asked: “Has there been any discussion about having porter services dedicated all day long specifically to the restrooms under the pier?”

On Aug. 23, Kalmick wrote: “Per Patrick’s report, the 4 restrooms are being cleaned 7 days a week with each restroom getting cleaned 5 times during that time. The only thing that I suggested is that perhaps we could look at upstaffing during the summer weekend. It would be impractical to have a porter standing by at the restrooms at the pier, having to shut down each one while it’s being cleaned more than the current 5 times. We will have additional discussions to see if there is a better plan that would not be prohibitively over budget.”

On Aug. 24, City Manager Ingram wrote: “We are constantly evaluating our facilities, listening to feedback from the public, and making adjustments regularly to improve our services. We currently have porter services dedicated all day long specifically to both the pier and 1st [street] beach restrooms, which is how we’ve budgeted for this service, especially since both restroom locations receive a significant amount of use all day long, every day.”

The Sun will be following this story weekly.

City’s pier  restrooms:  a problem