Public grant may bring public restroom to the U-District

By Kate Clark The Daily

Employees of University Heights Center, like Deputy Director Ray Munger, have arrived to work on countless mornings to find an unfortunate mess.

“We have a lot of situations of people urinating and defecating on the building,” Munger said. “As much as I don’t appreciate it, I fully understand they have nowhere else to go.”

Munger said because it is not well-lit and is away from traffic, those in need of a restroom have come to frequent the University Heights building on Northeast 50th Street and University Way Northeast.

“We have gloves, we get the stuff, throw it away, we power wash, we bleach it, we do what we gotta do,” Munger said.

Fortunately, a $22,000 grant from the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods might eliminate this nuisance. The U-District Partnership (UDP) in collaboration with the U-District Conversation on Homelessness (UDCH) have initiated the U-LOO Public Restroom Project with the goal of having one public restroom installed in the U-District early next year.

Ruedi Risler, co-chair of the U-District Partnership’s clean and safe committee, spearheaded this initiative. His co-chair is Sally Clark, the UW’s director of regional and community relations.

“If you’ve been around the U-District, you know it’s obvious we need something like this,” Risler said.

Risler said the number of official public restrooms is limited because most businesses say it isn’t their problem. He has walked through what he calls the core of the U-District, the area surrounding the UW, counting the number of “sort of” public restrooms.

He’s talking about the restrooms in the University Book Store and the UW School of Social Work. Though not technically public restrooms, they are easily accessible during the day.

The committee will continue to do similar research: walking from 15th Avenue Northeast to Roosevelt Way Northeast and from Campus Parkway to Northeast 52nd Street to determine which businesses make their restrooms available to the public.

They will then develop a list and map of these existing facilities. This list will play a key role in determining the best location for a new restroom.

Risler said a public restroom will become an even greater necessity when the University Link Light Rail station arrives, as it will increase foot traffic in the area, and may not have its own public restroom.

The UDCH works to positively impact the homeless in the area and the UDP strives “to make the U-District a better place to live, work and play for our whole community,” according to their website.

The U-LOO project will determine locations, identify stakeholders, collect input from stakeholders, explore maintenance procedures, and compose a final report stating the feasibility of the project. The report will also determine the project’s next steps.

The UDP will match the $22,000 grant through volunteer labor. They’ve used some of the funds to hire a consulting firm to assist with planning and outreach.

Krystal Koop, director of University District Street Medicine, a UW student-run organization aimed at improving the quality of health care available to homeless individuals, said it’s about more than convenience, it’s about human decency.

“More public bathrooms in the U-District would provide dignity around a basic human need and be a practical example of addressing public health concerns,” Koop said in an email.

Reach News Editor Kate Clark at Twitter: @KateClarkUW

Rent stabilization discussed as U-District rents rise

By Kate Clark

Discussion surrounding rent control — a particularly polarizing issue in Seattle — culminated in a debate Monday night at Town Hall.

Pro-rent control Seattle City Councilmembers Kshama Sawant and Nick Licata quarreled with anti-rent control development lobbyist Roger Valdez and Washington State Rep. Matt Manweller (R-Ellensburg). The debate followed the release of Mayor Ed Murray’s affordable housing plan, which included 65 recommendations, none of which involved rent control or stabilization.

The U-District is composed of primarily renters, given that a large majority of its residents are UW students who live off-campus. A study done by KUOW said the average U-District rent for a one-bedroom unit in a larger apartment complex is $1,215, $200 below the city average, but a 30 percent increase from 1998. Rents increased most dramatically from 2013 to 2014 and continue to rise.

Most community and city leaders are in favor of rent stabilization, which caps rent hikes and is often indexed with inflation, making rent hikes more predictable and justified. Rent control, on the other hand, strictly limits rent. With both policies, rent can be raised to market rate, or the amount a person of median income can afford, when tenants vacate the space.

City breaks ground on University Commons

By Kate Clark

It’s 80 degrees and 200 people have cycled through the University District Food Bank’s 800-square foot space. This is a typical summer day.

“It gets really hot,” said Julia Taylor, the University District Food Bank’s volunteer coordinator. “It’s just cramped.”

Since 1983, the food bank has been housed in the basement of the University Christian Church on Northeast 50th Street. As the fourth busiest food bank in the city, more space has become a necessity.

Last month, the city broke ground on the University Commons, an affordable housing apartment complex on Roosevelt Way Northeast and Northeast 50th Street. The space will also become the new home of the food bank, granting it three times as much space as its current location does.

“We want to feed as many people as possible in a more timely manner,” Taylor said. “There are many people in need and so much waste. I think it’s up to us to repurpose that waste and give it to people in need.”

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