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Pioneer Square plagued by potty problem

Pioneer Square leaders point to Portland's popular "Loo" program as one solution to a growing problem of people relieving themselves in public around the neighborhood. (City of Portland image)

All that green beer, corned beef and cabbage from the weekend's St. Patrick's Day celebrations is making for a disgusting day of cleanup in Pioneer Square. Businesses and residents alike say they're sick of dealing with the growing problem around the neighborhood.

"When there are major events in the square and around weekends, it's pretty obvious that we have vomit, we have urination, we have defecation," complains public affairs consultant Anne Fennessy, who's lived in Pioneer Square on and off for the last 15 years.

She is part of a group of locals working with the city to come up with ways to help keep the streets and alleys from turning into toilets.

The Metropolitan Improvement District reports crews had to clean 1,211 instances of human waste in February 2012, up from 744 the month before. It also reported seeing 36 instances of public urination in February, compared to 15 in January.

But Fennessy says while it would be easy to blame the homeless, it's actually people from all walks of life.

"I have seen people in business suits, I have seen people that you think are on the breadline and the boardroom," Fennessy says.

The Pioneer Square Alliance, a neighborhood coalition of residents and businesses, is pushing for more public toilets. They've asked the city to reopen restrooms in a historic fire station and install new public toilets modeled on a successful program in Portland (which in turn was designed with the failings of Seattle's ill- fated multi-million dollar debacle with self-cleaning toilets.)

The Alliance has also published a map identifying the locations of public toilets around the neighborhood.

Ultimately, Fennessy says the city and visitors alike need to take a much greater interest in the issue.

"So I think we need say to people this is not acceptable. You wouldn't accept this kind of behavior in Wallingford," she says.


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