Other B.C. municipalities have installed a similar outdoor public toilet for a third of the cost

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With a $645,000 price tag, the outdoor public toilet planned for Vancouver’s Coopers’ Park might be the Cadillac of loos.

It has critics wondering how a single public toilet could rival a small home in terms of building costs, particularly since other B.C. municipalities have installed similar facilities for a third of the price.

The prefabricated toilet, built by an Oregon-based company called Portland Loo, only costs $150,000, according to the Vancouver park board, which oversees Coopers’ Park under the Cambie Bridge.

The rest of the money will pay for sanitary and water connections into the park, and structural pad installation and landscaping, according to park board spokeswoman Daria Wojnarski.

Wojnarski couldn’t provide a further breakdown of the installation costs as she said contracts haven’t yet been awarded.

The funding comes from the NDP government’s Community Economic Recovery Infrastructure Program, which provides $100 million in funding for such projects.


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Ken Sim, who is planning to challenge Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart in the 2022 election, questioned how a single public toilet could run taxpayers more than half-a-million dollars.

“You could build a laneway house for less money. It’s crazy,” he said. Sim said this money could be used to support non-profit agencies that are struggling amid the COVID-19 pandemic such as Science World, the Vancouver Aquarium or the Vancouver Public Library.

Sim said he supports public toilets, which provide dignity to vulnerable people who would otherwise have nowhere to go, but questioned whether it could be done for less. According to other municipalities, it can be done for a fraction of the price.

A similar Portland Loo public toilet will cost the City of Prince Rupert $200,000, money that is being provided by the federal government to support communities dealing with homelessness. Prince Rupert councillors were told at a February city council meeting that the loo will cost around $30,000 a year to maintain. The Township of Esquimalt installed the toilet in Memorial Park in 2019 for $237,000, which included the concrete pad, plumbing and installation.

The Portland Loo company boasts that its toilets provide a “durable and inexpensive” way to keep streets clean with graffiti-proof walls and open grating to prevent crime.

Vancouver city Coun. Melissa De Genova said Monday that she’s asked city and park board staff for a reason for the $645,000 price tag, especially since other municipalities have installed the same structure for hundreds-of-thousands-of-dollars less. She’s waiting for an explanation.


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De Genova strongly supports public toilets but said more could be built if the provincial funding could be stretched further.

“I would really hope that money could be spread further to provide more washrooms across Vancouver parks, especially considering the dire need for public washrooms during the pandemic,” she said.

Todd Stone, the B.C. Liberals’ jobs critic, called the expense “outrageous”, especially considering many non-profit agencies are ineligible for the NDP government’s business recovery grant program.

“To add insult to injury, while we all agree that public washrooms are important, the NDP are out of their mind to think allocating more than half-a-million-dollars for Vancouver to build a toilet is an appropriate use of government relief funds,” Stone said in a statement. “With the (recovery infrastructure program) now closed, many struggling performing arts venues are barely hanging on, while the NDP spent half-a-million-dollars on a toilet.”

The toilet has yet to be shipped from Portland, and it’s likely to be installed by the fall.



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