September 20th, 2013 | by AARON MESH News | Posted In: City Hall, Health, Business

Seattle's Purchase of a Portland Loo Is Getting Flushed

UPDATE: But Seattle mayor plans to rescue public toilet with public money.

lede_3928(dirty)DIRTY DEEDS: The city pays a contractor $14,566 annually to clean each loo, like this one at Southwest Naito Parkway and Taylor Street. - IMAGE: Anna Jaye Goellner

Why does Washington keep rejecting Oregon's gifts?

First, the state refused our bridge-and-light rail overture. And now Seattle is on the verge of spurning the Portland Loo.

Seattle's possible purchase of a loo for its downtown Pioneer Square got plenty of media attention this spring. But the sale is falling apart.

The real-estate developer who was supposed to buy the $90,000 stainless-steel toilet from Portland—as part of a complicated trade-off to get immunity from city rules about the height of his nearby construction project—says he's backing out of the deal.

The exchange had the support of Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn and downtown residents advocating for public toilets—though at least one Seattlite described the transaction as "a rapacious bribe."

No matter: Greg Smith now tells the Puget Sound Business Journal that Seattle City Council's process took too long

So now it appears that Pioneer Square will get neither the apartments nor the loo. And what would Smith say to community supporters of his earlier plan?

“Talk to the city,” he said, explaining the city of Seattle has been looking at the 130-foot-tall building and Portland Loo proposal for 24 months. In the meantime, thousands of downtown residential units have been built or are planned, so the ship has sailed on the opportunity for him to include residential units because so many are already on the market.

“These kinds of things should not take two years to get done in the city. It’s paralysis by analysis,” Smith said.

UPDATE, 12:48 pm: Seattle might not be so stingy after all. Seattle Weekly reports Mayor Mike McGinn plans to include money for a public-toilet purchase for Pioneer Square in his 2014 proposed budget.

Reporter Matt Driscoll asked the mayor's office this morning if that toilet would be a Portland Loo. "You got it," the mayor's spokesman replied.

ORIGINAL POST, 11:57 am: Portland has been selling its patented street toilet since 2010 in an effort to raise money to clean the six it has already installed. It has sold four in three years.

But that fifth sale continues to be slippery.

A two-loo deal with San Diego was delayed by cleaning costs, and talks with Cincinnati broke down when the buyer discovered a Roseburg company selling a similar toilet at half the price.

The city sued that company, Romtec, Inc., for copyright infringement last month.

As WW reported this spring, the city would need to sell eight loos a year to break even on the loo project as it's currently structured. Portland officials say they plan to quietly abandon the Bureau of Environmental Services' loo-sales program at the year's end, letting the toilet manufacturer take over sales.

 
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