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San Diego city councilman proposes locking Sixth Ave restrooms at night

Overnight vandalism closes bathrooms near Balboa Park playground.

SAN DIEGO — Every morning, city crews clean up the restrooms at the Sixth Avenue playground in Balboa Bark. And, almost every night, the bathrooms get trashed and vandalized again.

“They're disgusting. They're so unsanitary. My feet are disgusting. There's pee and other stuff,” said a grandmother from Georgia, visiting the playground with her grandson.

On Tuesday morning, only two of the five restrooms were open. The rest were 'out of order' because of broken locks and clogged toilets.

“There have been a lot of hypodermic needles flushed down the toilet and now, they're blocking the pipes,” said neighbor Sarah Hernholm.

Hernholm contacted CBS 8 weeks ago, asking for help. 

We’ve aired several reports showing the problem and the efforts to fix it, including an online petition to get the restrooms locked at night.

San Diego City Councilman Stephen Whitburn (District 3) responded with a proposal Tuesday, emailing CBS 8 the following statement:

“After meeting with concerned neighborhood residents who have shared stories, pictures, and videos, I have requested that the bathrooms at the 6th Ave playground be closed from 8 pm- 6 am. When bathrooms are left in unusable condition, they don’t benefit park visitors, neighborhood children, unhoused individuals, or anyone else.”

Not everyone is happy about the proposal to lock the restrooms overnight.

Chris Hinojosa, 61, is disabled and lives in a downtown hotel shelter for the homeless. He said he occasionally uses the restroom in the evening hours.

Hinojosa said he does not condone vandalism to the restrooms but believes they should stay open 24 hours.

“There isn't any public bathrooms hardly anywhere that you can use. In case of an emergency, it's good to know that there's a bathroom that's open,” he said.

Mayor Todd Gloria’s office confirmed he is working on the issue, in the following statement to CBS 8.

“Mayor Gloria recognizes the serious security issues surrounding the public restrooms along Sixth Avenue.  He appreciates Councilmember Whitburn’s leadership on this issue and is working closely with him to find a solution that strikes an appropriate balance between providing public access to bathrooms and protecting public facilities and public safety."

A final decision on the issue does not need to go before the San Diego City Council.  

The city’s Parks and Recreation department can decide whether to lock the restrooms overnight with direction from the mayor and council member.

WATCH RELATED: Volunteers return to clean up filthy Balboa Park playground (May 2022)

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