Merchant Installs Outhouse In Pioneer Square

Jul 10, 2013

They can arrest her — but she’s not going to put up with the stink.

A Pioneer Square business owner built her own outhouses and put them up last week to cut down on restaurant goers, sports fans and homeless people urinating in the alleys.

“Pioneer Square has always been a salty part of town, but recently it’s become very, very bad,” said Joanna Urrego who owns the Klondike Penny’s Old Portrait Gallery in Pioneer Square and was the driving force for the outhouse.

“The outer wall that abuts the alley of our business — the bricks in that wall date back to 1881, they are very porous. People use the alley by the hundreds outside our shop every day,” she explained. “The brick wicks that waste material up and provides us with an unique experience inside the shop. Unique in a bad way.”

Urrego knows the city doesn’t want her unauthorized toilets — she got handcuffed for putting up the outhouses on July 4. The city says it plans to set up new public restrooms based on the Portland Loo, but Urrego isn’t waiting.

Using mostly re-purposed or found materials such as pallets, Urrego constructed the outhouses with a portable design for stealthy delivery and removal.

Urrego also helped maintain the outhouses. She estimated that they were used by about 80 people. The excrement was dumped every hour and cleaned between uses.

The city has tried in the past to install public toilets, but it ran into problems with drug deals and sex acts that forced their removal. Urrego isn’t giving up so easily.

“We feel like other cities in other countries have solutions for these problems that are not rocket science,” she said. “If I can come up with a solution that cost $32, then the city can tackle this problem too.”

Urrego spoke with KUOW’s Ross Reynolds on The Conversation, July 9.