Couple's complaints flush Arta Pottie away from Oregon City home
One of Oregon City's six Arta Potties is no longer available as a 24-hour public restroom due to complaints from a neighbor.
Jay Pearce and his wife own a 0.64-acre property between John Adams and Washington streets valued at $576,000 that borders the site leased by Father's Heart Street Ministry. The couple had complained repeatedly to the Oregon City Police Department since the city placed an Arta Pottie on the public right-of-way near the homeless shelter and Barclay Park in September 2018.
"I'm not against the program, but it's got to be intelligently applied," Pearce said. "It was a trash heap, and people were camping in it."
Complaints from the Pearces led to the city's removal of the toilet this month, said Mike Day, the Oregon City police officer who's the official liaison to the local homeless population. Day said he had found support from many local business owners, including former Mayor Dan Fowler who owns the nearby Abernethy Center, for keeping that Arta Pottie in its location.
"I haven't found a new place for it, but I intend to get it out there," Day said. "It's at the police station right now until I get a better spot for it."
Day said he had been attempting to work with the Pearces to address complaints. He met with the city's Public Works Department to locate a trash can near the toilet and locked the toilet for a few weeks over the winter. Meanwhile, Pearce hired a company to build a retaining wall on the side of his property that faces John Adams Street.
Oregon City's sixth Arta Pottie is out of service at the police station despite the general popularity of the program, as reported in the city's survey of 40 people last year. According to the survey, 95 percent of people associated with downtown businesses support the Arta Potties program, and 73 percent of the people reported a decrease in feces/urine found outside during the past year compared to previous years.
Robin Schmidt, executive director of Father's Heart, said her nonprofit organization's board decided against having an Arta Pottie placed on its property because of a "Good Neighbor" policy to enforce hours of operation. She believes that Arta Potties better serve those experiencing homelessness in commercial areas rather than in residential areas where most pedestrians also live in the area and would use their residential restrooms.
"We have guidelines that being on our property before or after hours, or loitering in the near surrounding areas to the property, could jeopardize receiving services," Schmidt said. "We respect the homeowners in the area and because of that, we believe that placing an Arta Pottie on our property for use before or after our hours of operation is not in the best interest of our neighbors, or consistent with our guidelines to receive services."
Schmidt says Arta Potties generally are a "wonderful way" to meet the need for a public restroom.
Pearce applied to be selected as an Oregon City commissioner after Nancy Ide's retirement from the City Commission, but was not appointed from among nine applicants earlier this year. He was an early member of the Homeless Solutions Coalition of Clackamas County and served on its executive committee. The organization will meet 2-4 p.m. Tuesday, June 11, at the Providence Community Center, 519 15th St., Oregon City.