What’s the dilemma, Boulder City Council?



By Max R. Weller

Read the story in the Daily Camera and see if you scratch your head like I’m doing now: Boulder Creek bathroom dilemma vexes city officials. Copied below in its entirety:

A homeless couple, who gave their names as Saint and Hope, relax between Central Park and Boulder Creek on a warm February day in Boulder.

A homeless couple, who gave their names as Saint and Hope, relax between Central Park and Boulder Creek on a warm February day in Boulder. (Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer)

Responding to concerns from citizens and the City Council about human waste along Boulder Creek downtown, City Manager Jane Brautigam’s staff will investigate a series of possibilities for new bathrooms along the corridor.

Acting on direction from the council during a study session on Tuesday, Brautigam said her office will consider infrastructure ranging from temporary trailers to permanent facilities.

The council is expected to decide among the options during another session in May, at which point city staff will also present a broader set of recommendations for addressing other issues related to homelessness, including daytime services, shelter space, transitional programs and housing.

The problem of human waste left along the creek and in other city parkland is not a new one, but Boulder has seen a rise in citizen complaints in recent months.

Several homeless people interviewed last month said that those who choose to relieve themselves near the waterway— and prompt public health concerns in the process — tend to be younger people less tenured in the community.

Though the city does not tally how many homeless are here long-term versus on a “transient” basis, those testimonials are consistent with the perception of officials and residents who’ve increasingly advocated for a revamped homelessness strategy that does more to separate those who wish to remain in town from those passing through, and perhaps more likely to disrespect public spaces.

Boulder has an urban camping ban in place, and occasionally tickets those who do sleep outside. But many evade the law by sleeping in less visible spots, of which the woods near the creek are a popular spot.

There are few bathroom options for those spending nights in the creek area, which, homeless people say, is a big reason some choose to defecate outside.

A majority of the council believes that new facilities should be part of the solution, but not all were sold.

“I’m strongly against,” Mayor Pro Tem Andrew Shoemaker said. “All we’re doing is facilitating and encouraging illicit and unsupervised and unsafe encampments.”

Shoemaker has on multiple occasions called for a designated campground area away from downtown, but he’s never appeared to have majority support of colleagues for that idea.

“Bathrooms don’t enable illegal behavior; they meet a fundamental human need,” Councilman Aaron Brockett responded. “By putting a bathroom in, you’re helping people out.”

Added Mayor Suzanne Jones, “Nobody should be having to clean up human waste along the creek. … I don’t think we’re facilitating people or attracting them. We’re preventing a hazard.”

Parks and Recreation staff do clean up waste of all kinds, every day, on the 1,500 acres of city parkland, Brautigam said. She suggested that enough trash is collected daily to fill the back of a pickup truck bed.

Additional police patrol began in the Civic Area on Feb. 4, the city manager added, and her staff is expected to recommend expanding service with more trash and waste removal — including, maybe, bins specifically for sharp items — in coming months.

As for the bathrooms, Brautigam said, staff has looked into several different designs.

Temporary trailers, like the one at the Flatirons Golf Course, is estimated to cost the city an estimated $185,000 apiece. Prefabricated permanent restrooms, like the one at Harlow Platts Community Park, would cost an estimated $225,000 each. And permanent, custom-built facilities, like the one at Valmont City Park, would cost an estimated $375,000 each.

Boulder could also consider a mobile bathroom unit, which Denver deploys at a rate of about $16,000 a month.

There was no decisive council direction in favor of any one of those choices, as the members agreed to wait on a staff recommendation in May.

There was action taken, however, to shoot down an idea to put portable toilets along the creek. Shoemaker and members Lisa Morzel, Mary Young and Matt Appelbaum all spoke against the plan, and Brautigam provided a tiebreaking “no” vote since Councilwoman Jan Burton was absent from the meeting.

The four in the minority felt portable units would be a useful short-term solution, and would perhaps be a good fit in the large parking lot of the Boulder County Justice Center.

Brautigam felt strongly they would be a bad fit, for reasons including concern about the fact that the creek is in a high-hazard flood zone, and portable units could be washed away. Councilman Bob Yates said that problem could be solved with bolts.

“We want you to know that Porta Potties are not a solution,” said Brautigam, who half-jokingly went out of her way to avoid giving the thought any legitimacy by uttering the term “Porta Potty.”

Any action to clean up the creek area between now and May is not going to involve “that which shall not be named,” Brautigam said.

Here’s my response: WTF? $185,000 — $225,000 — $375,000? Or $16,000 per month for a Mobile Bathroom Unit like Denver’s (a city which is now in Year 11 of their Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness, with more BUMS on the streets than ever before)?

The Homeless Philosopher has been outspoken against both the worst-behaved transients and the do-gooders who ENABLE these characters. Don’t you get it, City Council? See Antisocial Personality Disorder defined here. It doesn’t matter one bit if you provide more and better sanitary facilities for the likes of “Saint” and “Hope” pictured above; they’ll continue to urinate and defecate in Boulder Creek itself as their figurative way to give society the finger:


(Clean shirt provided by Deacons’ Closet)

What’s the answer? A requirement for valid photo ID with a Boulder County address and proof of at least one year’s residency here for anyone seeking shelter / services from any local nonprofit would cause 90% of the BUMS to move on down the road. The other 10% can be given the choice of either being cited by Boulder Police for the petty offenses they’re sure to commit or getting on the RTD bus bound for Denver (fare paid by the city).

(This blog post will be e-mailed to BCC members, but they apparently think that MORE MONEY will solve the problem . . .)


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