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Providing a new place to do ‘business’ Downtown

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — City Councilor Isaac Benton is making “No. 2” his No. 1 priority.

City Councilor Isaac Benton

City Councilor Isaac Benton

Benton recently used $20,000 of his District 2 set-aside money to purchase at auction what he hopes could be a solution to a burgeoning public bathroom shortage in Downtown Albuquerque.

The slightly used Portland Loo that Benton bought is a one-stall, stainless steel, stand-alone restroom that sells for around $100,000 new.

“It’s almost indestructible,” he said.

I haven’t lived in Albuquerque long, and haven’t experienced firsthand the struggle to find a restroom Downtown, nor have I come across the byproduct left behind by those who couldn’t.

But a co-worker who has lived Downtown for years said it’s a fairly common sight.

Benton said he’s heard from businesses in the area that doo-doo duty is a recurring part of their daily cleanup routine.

And Kelly Ortman, who owns the Silver Street Market grocery store along with her husband, said the bathrooms in their store, intended for customers and generally used, um, appropriately, are also routinely used for everything from bathing to shooting up drugs.

“We would like to not have people parading through our store just to use the restroom and leave,” she said.

Ortman said she’s sympathetic to the plight of the homeless population.

But even if just a few leave behind used needles or other hazardous materials, it’s a risk she can’t expose her employees and customers to.

Around 40 Portland Loos have been deployed around the United States and Canada.

They have louvered panels at the top and bottom, allowing for ventilation and privacy but also allowing passers-by – and law enforcement – to see how many people are inside.

Although it’d be great if the units were used only for their intended purpose, it’s inevitable that some will use them for illicit activities.

The loo that Benton bought, from San Diego, had proved to be a magnet for crime, he said.

The city’s other loo, placed in a more public area of the city, was “a great success,” he said.

The San Diego Union-Tribune reported the problem loo caused a 130 percent increase in police calls around the restroom during its 13-month tenure.

“It’s very important where it’s placed,” Benton said, adding that Albuquerque police will help decide where to locate the facility.

UpFront is a regular Journal news and opinion column. Comment directly to Maddy Hayden at Go to to submit a letter to the editor.