By Kelly Goff, October 31, 2013
In this Oct. 22, 2013 file photo, a Metro bus leaves the Canoga Park Orange Line Station.
A lack of restrooms along the Metro Orange Line has homeowners who live on the bustling bus route seeing red.
say the shortage of toilets has led some riders to create their own
bathrooms in the alleys and narrow walkways that separate their
backyards from the concrete thoroughfare. In Winnetka, homeowners near
the Pierce College stop say they frequently find human excrement and can
smell the stench of urine. Even dirty diapers are not uncommon.
a huge problem. And it isn’t getting cleaned up,” said Eric Lewis,
president of the Winnetka Neighborhood Council. “And these aren’t just
homeless people. There are well-dressed younger people that we think are
As it sought a solution, the council found that while the
offenders often come from the bus line, because the makeshift bathroom
is an alleyway one house length north of the stop, just which entities
are responsible for cleanup or enforcement is unclear.
the council fired off a letter to Pierce, asking the school to install
portable bathrooms at the nearby 394-spot Park & Ride.
officials said that letter was forwarded to offices of the Los Angeles
Community College District but were quick to point to Metro as the
agency the neighbors should be addressing.
“That land is leased to Metro, and their lease includes sewage
and utilities,” said Pierce College President Kathleen Burke-Kelly. The
land is leased to the agency under a 40-year agreement.
She dismissed the idea that Pierce students were part of the problem.
“There are bathrooms throughout the campus. There are some in the
village and some in both of the gyms,” she said. “I have a hard time
believing that students wouldn’t make the walk to a bathroom.”
sentiment was echoed by district officials. “To the best of my
understanding, the alleyway where most of this is happening is the
city’s land,” said Leila Menzies, vice president of administration for
risk management and health for the L.A. Community College District. “And
in their response, they point out that they only have three public
restrooms in the whole system. Basically, they don’t do bathrooms.”
Rick Jager, a Metro spokesman, confirmed that. “We have received
the neighborhood council’s letter, as well as requests from residents
through our customer service number,” he said. “The land at the Park
& Ride is owned by Pierce College. We have no jurisdiction to
install a bathroom, and we made a decision long ago not to install
restrooms except at three major transportation hubs. The obvious reason
is the maintenance costs involved, and they are also magnets for crime.”
said the 3- to 6-foot area separating homes from a noise-abatement wall
along the line does belong to Metro, and maintenance would be asked to
clean up the area, but that the alleyway on the other side belongs to
The Department of Public Works’ Bureau of Street Services, in an
Oct. 30, 2012, report on the issue, said its workers wouldn’t clean up
most of the messes on that stretch because the problem is considered
hazardous waste — and that the area behind the noise-abatement wall
belongs to Metro, not city.
Though the act of doing your business
in public is a crime, the responsibility for penal-code enforcement
along the Orange Line is also tricky, with the Sheriff’s Department
contracted to patrol the line itself and the Los Angeles Police
Department responsible for nearby alleys.
Still, residents and riders say the underlying issue isn’t
enforcement or cleanup — it’s that there are only two usable restrooms
along the Orange Line’s 14-mile stretch. One green-domed self-cleaning
facility is at the North Hollywood stop, the other is in Van Nuys, both
far from the Chatsworth terminus.
“I go to the bathroom before I leave, because I know there isn’t anywhere to go,” said Pierce College student Maria Salvador.
isn’t alone in limiting restrooms on its line. The Chicago Transit
System closed its facilities to the public in the 1970s, while the
Washington, D.C., Metro has one self-cleaning toilet in the whole
system. Bay Area Rapid Transit has 44 bathrooms open to the public,
though it closed its downtown facilities after 9/11, citing terrorism
Jason Levin, spokesman for City Councilman Bob Blumenfield, whose
district includes the Winnetka stop, said the office is seeking a
solution. “We are working with Metro to address the concerns of the
residents and would like to work with Metro to ensure they are good
neighbors,” he said.
In the meantime, the situation continues to
affect neighbors’ standard of living. “It’s a huge problem, and we’re
not going to give up on fixing it,” said Neighborhood Council President
Lewis. “This is our issue. We will go in halves with Pierce or Metro or
the city or whoever it is to get Porta-Potties in there. We’ll pitch in
money. We just want people to stop going to the bathroom where they