No plans afoot for public restrooms in Chinatown
Fort Street to Chinatown is one of our favorite destinations to take out-of-town guests. But finding a public bathroom in this area is harder to find than a genuine piece of jade. What does one do if a toilet is needed? We did go to the police substation recently but found an out-of-order sign posted. McDonald's and Ross had facilities open to the public in the past, but no more. Thank goodness for Macy's. Can you provide a list of bathrooms, where you don't have to be a customer, so we know where to go the next time we are in the downtown area?
Answer: The best we can do is to give you a list of public restrooms, but that "list," for now, has only one location: the Chinatown Police Substation at Hotel and Maunakea streets.
That one unisex restroom is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. But even though officers can monitor who uses the facility by buzzing the public in, on the day you arrived, the last person to use the restroom left it in shambles.
"It was very unsanitary and unusable," said Honolulu Police Department spokesman Capt. Frank Fujii.
The lack of public restrooms in the downtown/Chinatown area has been an unresolved issue for years.
We addressed the subject five years ago ("Kokua Line," July 13, 2003). At that time we were told the lack of public restrooms prompted the HPD to include toilet facilities in the design of the Chinatown substation.
The nearest public restrooms are in Aala Park, on the Ewa side of Nuuanu Stream and River Street. There also are restrooms in the River of Life Mission, but that's more for the homeless people who gather there, said Tom Smyth, chairman of the Downtown Neighborhood Board.
The lack of restrooms for the general public is the "longest recurring issue the board faces, and we just don't see a solution" because of costs and finding a suitable, acceptable location, he said.
The board has talked to the business association for Fort Street Mall, but it doesn't own any space there and isn't keen on assuming maintenance responsibilities, he said.
In the past, the board also has suggested bringing in trailer-mounted toilet facilities, larger than portable toilet facilities, at Kamalii Park, next to the Central Fire Station, but that never went anywhere. Another suggested location was Wilcox Park, at Fort Street Mall and King Street.
"It's been a real challenge for us," Smyth said. One problem is the "significant maintenance and upkeep and security issues" involved, and the other is that no one, businesses or residents, wants the restrooms to be next door to where they are.
"Right now there isn't anything going on" in terms of restrooms for the public.
However, the neighborhood board is hopeful that restrooms for the homeless might be made available in a small apartment project proposed on city property on River Street, near Vineyard Boulevard.
Got a question or complaint?
Call 529-4773, fax 529-4750, or write to Kokua Line, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210, Honolulu 96813. As many as possible will be answered. E-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
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