A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Flap over a portable toilet: One question

Written March 27th, 2019 by Hasso Hering

The toilet in back of the Washington Street side of the First Christian Church on March 23.

If Albany does not allow portable toilets except on a temporary basis, how come they are available year-round at some city parks? That’s one of the questions the city council may want to ask when the flap over one downtown outhouse comes before it next month.

Since last fall two churches, United Presbyterian and First Christian, have made available a portable toilet at First Christian as an after-hours service to homeless people. This was in response to problems around the building. There’s a community meal at First Christian on Tuesday evenings for people in need, and some of them stayed on the grounds overnight.

Police had noticed the toilet when they came a few times to roust the campers, and the city’s code compliance officer gave notice in November that it could not stay more than 90 days, until Feb. 14. The city manager denied the churches’ initial appeal because city codes don’t allow for long-term use of chemical toilets.

But the toilet is still there, and the churches now plan to bring their case to the council at a work session on April 8. In one letter in February they said, “We reiterate our intention to offer this service as an outgrowth of our faithful mandate to love our neighbors and community. We’ve had no vandalism, misuse, or complaints about the porta-potty. We ask only for permission to provide an essential service and to address an otherwise unmet need.”

The Democrat-Herald has covered the story from the start. As I’ve read the stories, I’ve been puzzled by the assertion that portable toilets are barred by the municipal code. If that’s the case, I’m wondering, what about the portable toilets at parks such as Gibson Hill, Simpson and Waverly, among others?

When I asked about this, the answer was: “The permanent portable toilets at city parks are placed there for people who use parks and city programs that take place in the parks.”

How is that fundamentally different from the situation at the First Christian Church — unless the implication is that the city can get around the municipal code but churches can’t? (hh)

A permanent portable toilet at Kinder Park on March 24.


Here are the accommodations at Simpson Park near the Talking Water Gardens.


And at Waverly Park.









Posted in: Commentary, News

12 responses to “Flap over a portable toilet: One question”

  1. centrist says:

    Puzzling indeed.
    Is it possible that only dependable, God fearing taxpayers qualify to relieve themselves in a plastic cubicle?

    Likely depends on whose ox is being gored

  2. hj.anony1 says:

    Look at the Hasso pic! That potty is right up next to a structure. No park setting there.

    Surely a clear code violation. What is wrong with the plumbing inside this building? Why do the workers inside have to go out to the potty?

    Much WRONG with this picture.

  3. thomas cordier says:

    The Mayor is quoted as being opposed to permitting long term siting of chem toilet–“it encourages homelessness”. The idea that not having a toilet would encourage folks to not be homeless is nuts. The Churches provide a general benefit to the City–get off their backs–change the arbitrary rule or ignore it.

  4. Ken Walter says:

    “Build it and they will come”, I see infrastructure, a dog friendly area, an area for a tent. San Fran and Portland send their love. Just sayin.

  5. Hasso Hering says:

    Some of the comments on this story — attacking the mayor and council — are irresponsible and more than usually irritating, and I’m going to delete them as soon as I’m through typing this. The city code’s prohibition of privies unconnected to the sewer system is of long standing. It relates to sanitation and the public health and has nothing to do with the current homeless situation, and in any case this council and mayor had nothing to do with it. The council has not even had a chance to deal with this, so give them a chance. (hh)

    • thomas cordier says:

      HH my comment about Mayor’s position was as reported in ADH so it is relevant. Apparently the whole Council has not dealt with it but some members did weigh in at a meeting covered by newspaper.

    • Bob Woods says:

      Thank you.

    • centrist says:

      Thanks for the cleanup. Things were getting out of hand.

  6. Dala Rouse says:

    What about all the parks that have the permanent restrooms closed for the season, like Bowman Park which has a boat ramp used all year?

  7. JD says:

    Having a place for human refuse reduces the burden on local establishments who otherwise have to clean up fecal matter that is often found in lawns, bushes, and even the sides of buildings. It is as much for those in the city who deal with this as it is for the dignity of humans who need a place to go. In an ideal world, the city would provide this, very happy to see an organization stepping up and trying to solve something beyond offering “thoughts and prayers.”

    If it is denied, maybe it could be moved to the nice green lawn across the street that is public property, which would make it similar to being at a park.


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