SAN DIEGO — Neighbors living next to the downtown library are upset after the city installed rest rooms and a washing station in the area.
News 8 investigated an alleged increase in drug use and homeless activity that the neighbors say put nearby children at risk.
On weekdays, high school students walk past the intersection of 11th avenue and Park Boulevard behind San Diego's Central Library.
And that's a problem, according to neighbors.
“There's a lot of drug use over there. It's a little bit concerning especially since there is a high school right there,” one woman told News 8.
The corner has become a gathering point for transients ever since the city installed rest rooms and a hand wash station in an effort to prevent the spread of Hepatitis A.
Sometimes people undress and use the hand-washing station to launder their shirts.
But it's the drug use that really has people concerned.
Home video taken in the area shows people passing pipes and lighting up with minor children nearby.
The city hired 24-hour security guards and they keep the corner lit up all night long. Still, criminal activity continues.
One of the security guards said he finds syringes in the rest rooms and a man recently overdosed on the sidewalk.
“You will find a lot of needles inside (the restrooms) and people shoot up heroin in there and a lot of people smoke crack in there,” said the guard, who did not want his name used.
“There's children walking by every day from the high school and there’s a danger to society around here. The neighbors around here are polite as heck but they don't want to see a transient around here possessing a drug and using and offering it to a child,” said one male neighbor.
Four hundred students attend E3 Civic High School, a charter school that operates on the 6th floor of the Central Library.
The school's CEO, Dr. Helen Griffith, told News 8 they have security in place at the library and on the street corners.
“We tell the kids if they see something, say something, that those (transients) are people just like them, and to have empathy and compassion and be part of the solution,” said Griffith.
The city told us the security guards and lighting are meant to address problems reported by neighbors and that criminal behavior should be reported to police.
Some neighbors do support the city's efforts to maintain wash stations.
“I don't feel uncomfortable about it. I think it's good for sanitary purposes for the homeless,” said one neighbor.
Other neighbors have started a petition asking the city to move the wash station to another location.