“When you have to go, you have to go”. We've all been there, and, for sure, we'll all be there again. Nature calls, and you can't wait! You have to go to the bathroom, but you're not at home. Oh no! Where do you go? IT'S AN EMERGENCY! The answer is: You find the nearest public toilet (or risk an internal accident). What kind of public toilets can you expect?
In this week's The Poorman's OC '4 Under $6', I give you a sneak peak at ten OC Public Restrooms and rate them. Each restroom was visited just once. We utilize The Poorman's very own zero to five Poorstars sliding scale of inexpensive excellence, with five being the best. Ratings were based on cleanliness, smell, ambience, and the toilet/restroom itself on a normal day of operation. So, let's get started and take a look at public toilets of the OC!
Bringing you this informative “journalism” involved considerable risk to life, limb, and my arrest record. I had to secretly shoot these facilities when no one else was in the bathroom. The photo shoot involved a very small window of time during a lull in latrine traffic. That meant hanging in the toilet for quite a while pretending to be “busy” while soaking up the sight, smell, and ambience.
On an even more personal note, whenever I go into a public restroom, I'll try not to touch anything. Many times, I open the door with my shirt or a paper towel and flush with my shoe. When it's time for number two, I'll put down two toilet seat paper linings after 1st wiping the seat with TP numerous times along with several pre flutings. By the way, I'll only go number two in a public restroom if it's absolutely necessary. There's nothing worse than doing it in a row of stalls and hearing the “plop, plop” and farting next door. Gross!
Before we actually get down and dirty with the toilet reviews themselves, a few overall
observations: Every public restroom that I visited was 'freeeeee' to use. There were no encounters with dreaded 'pay toilets'. Obviously, being male, I did not review any women's rooms (no, I didn't dress in drag and sneak in). Most of these restrooms did not stink. Only one had a horrific, overpowering skunk odor. The architectural style of many of the toilets was a cold and austere metal, similar to what you'd find in a prison cell. Many were co-ed, of the single occupancy variety. Toilet paper and paper towels, when provided, were at least adequate.
1. Newport Beach Pier
The outside is the most amazing looking restroom building you've ever seen, while the inside reminds one of a cold, austere, prison toilet. What were they thinking when they built this? This is Newport Beach, not San Quentin! There are millions of residents and tourists who visit the Newport Pier each year. There are no doors when you take a dump! Just what I want to do, sit on the toilet and wave to everybody in mid-BM. What a horrible planning decision. Disgusting. Unacceptable. Aren't there enough city funds to build doors? In addition, it looked like they forgot to hire a cleaning person (see the picture above). This toilet is a huge embarrassment to the city of Newport Beach.
Cleanliness: Disgusting. I even found floating doo doo. Smell: Stinks. Ambience: No stall doors ruins everything. I'd rather use the ocean. Toilet/Restroom Itself: Outside is beautiful, but the inside looks like a prison restroom.
RATING: 0 Poorstars.
My next toilet destination was the Brea Mall. I visited the restroom right next to the Food Court, a very busy facility given that thousands of people eat their meals there all day long. It was a clean, smell-good facility.
I was there during a week day lunch hour. It looked like the cleanup crew may have been distracted during their “cleanup mission”. There was a lonely orange cone sitting in the middle of the floor (see pic). Why? Did the cleanup guy forget to take it with him, or was he setting up a traffic detour? Maybe they were turning the restroom into a 'Drive Thru'. Also, one of the urinals sat wrapped up in plastic surrounded by several 'Out Of Order' signs (see pic). You'd think they'd want to have all this cleaned up and repaired prior to a busy lunch hour. It kind of ruined the entire bathroom experience.
Cleanliness: Very clean. Smell: Good, no lingering toilet odor. Ambience: The cone and the wrapped urinal ruined the experience. Toilet/Restroom Itself: Decent, not spectacular.
RATING: 3 Poorstars.
3. Balboa Island Fire Station Four toilets
If you are visiting beautiful Balboa Island, you can't go wrong using the Fire Station Four toilets. They are located at 124 Marine Ave, Newport Beach, CA 92662. There are only two public restrooms, but they are part of a very scenic building. They are co-ed, clean, individual, pleasant smelling, and private. My guess is they are maintained by the firefighters themselves. That explains the extra cleanliness that I witnessed. All the amenities of your home bathroom are there including something you don't have! This bathroom has new age custom hand blow dryers. You dry your hands by placing them in a blow drying slot.
There are only two drawbacks: the first is that there are only two toilets. The second is, and this might just be a personal preference, the entire bathroom with the exception of the toilet seat is made of stainless steel. I find that ugly, cold, uncomfortable, and unpleasant.
Cleanliness: Very clean. Smell: Good and fresh. Ambience: The stainless steel kind of ruins what otherwise would be an awesome toilet experience. Toilet/Restroom Itself: Individual and private. Can't beat that! But then, there's all that stainless steel. Ughhh!
RATING: 3 Poorstars.
4. McDonald's in Huntington Beach
Fast food restrooms are usually pretty gross. If you find one that isn't, consider yourself lucky! In the case of McDonald's near the corner of Beach and Warner in Huntington Beach, the restroom was pretty typical during my 5 PM weekday visit. It wasn't horrible, but it wasn't nice either. It was, at best, usable. There was a steady stream of customers going in and out during my 15 minute visit. I had to wait that long for the restroom to be deserted so I could snap these pics. As you can see, the urinal was very gross, and there were graffiti etchings on the sink. The interesting thing that I noticed was how clean the food area was verses the toilet. It makes you wonder who washes their hands…
Cleanliness: Dirty, needed cleaning. Smell: Definitely smelled like a toilet, but didn't stink. Ambience: Not a place you want to hang out in for more than the minute it takes to do your "business”. Toilet/Restroom Itself: Small and adequate, but very dirty. The floor, stalls, and urinal needed scrubbing!
RATING: 1 Poorstar.
5. Mile Square Park
If you haven't been to Mile Square Park, it's definitely worth a visit. Located in Fountain Valley just north of the 405 Freeway at 16801 Euclid Street, it is one square mile in size (640 acres)–just as the name implies. There are two lakes, three golf courses, an archery range, baseball and softball fields, basketball and tennis courts and tons of picnic space. It costs $5 to enter (Fits nicely within the Poorman's Under $6 budget). Visiting on a Saturday afternoon, I fully expected to encounter some very gross public park bathrooms. Quite the opposite! They were actually some of the cleanest I visited! Attractive, stand-alone brick buildings house 10 individual co-ed private toilets (see pic). I checked out three of them at the Euclid entrance restrooms and all were clean, odorless, and simple, featuring a toilet and several rolls of TP (see pic). Nothing fancy, but adequate and clean, clean, clean!
Cleanliness: Very clean. Smell: Good and fresh. The 'Smell Good Plumber' would approve. Ambience: You're not going to 'kick it' in 1 of these or lick the floor, but I like the privacy factor. Toilet/Restroom Itself: Just a toilet, TP, and brick. Simple, but effective.
RATING: 3 Poorstars.
6. South Coast Plaza
This was, hands down, the Best Public Toilet I Visited; not perfect, but Number One from this group. It was super clean, no bathroom smell, marble countertops, spacious, and even nice architecture. My visit was to the downstairs toilet down the hallway from the Christmas exhibit. This is an area of heavy foot-traffic. Given the non-stop volume of people I observed visiting that men's room, kudos to the staff at South Coast Plaza for their restroom upkeep! The most difficult aspect of the visit was waiting for the moment when the bathroom was deserted so I could snap this pic!
Cleanliness: Top notch! Smell: Great. Ambience: Awesome! Toilet/Restroom Itself: Nice modern architecture. Marble. Great facility. Better than my home toilet (but then that's not saying much if you saw the Poor Throne).
RATING: 4 Poorstars.
7. Carl's Jr. in Stanton
SHOCKING! DISGUSTING! HORRIFIC! Words honestly can't describe the condition of the Carl's Jr. mens room on Beach and Chapman in Stanton. It was almost surreal to see the super-clean food order area and kitchen as you walked in, and then head down the small side corridor a mere 15 feet away to be confronted by what you see in their toilet. Absolutely appalling! Unbelievable!
What jumps out at you is the filthy dirty cone on it's side that looks like it could have been urinated on 10 years ago positioned in-between the urinal and toilet stall. Then go to wash your hands and you can't, because the soap dispenser has been ripped off the wall. As bad as this looks inside the men's room, you have to wonder about the hygiene of the people preparing and serving your food. The point of this column is not to ruin anybody's business, but to point out problem areas. I honestly believe fast food establishments such as Carl's Jr. and McDonald's may need to look into creating a new employee position entitled "Bathroom Attendant”.
Cleanliness: Filthy! The worst! Smell: Awful–a urine and doo doo mix. Ambience: I'd rather squat in a dumpster. Toilet/Restroom Itself: Indescribably neglected.
RATING: 0 Poorstars.
8. Huntington Beach Pier
I honestly thought the HB Pier would have the most hideous toilets of any place I visited. Instead, a pleasant surprise awaited! The restroom building just south of the HB Pier (See Pic) had 14 super clean, individualized, co-ed private restrooms in obviously an awesome setting. They were very similar to those at Mile Square Park: Clean, odorless, and simple, featuring a toilet, several rolls of TP, and an automatic flusher (See pic). Nothing fancy, but very functional! There was only one disappointment: notice in the pic, there's a satellite dish on the roof of the building, but there was no satellite TV in my brick stall. What does it do?
Cleanliness: Very Clean! Smell: The ocean. Perfect.Ambience: Fantastic. You're taking care of a "nature call” on the beach.Toilet/Restroom Itself: Simple but spotless. Just a toilet, TP, automatic flusher, and you.
RATING: 3 Poorstars.
9. The Outlets At Orange
This was the only one I visited where there was an attendant cleaning up at the time I entered. It's obvious they are very hands-on with cleanliness. The bathroom itself isn't pretty, but there's no smell; solid, but unspectacular. This toilet is all about getting the "job” done, no frills.
Cleanliness: Very clean! Smell: There isn't one; a good thing. Ambience: Pretty drab, but built to take on any "nature call”. Toilet/Restroom Itself: Very functional. Toilets and urinals. Get it done and get back to shopping!
RATING: 3 Poorstars.
10. Starbucks in Newport Beach
My concluding review is of Starbucks in Newport Beach near the corner of Bristol and Jamboree. The nice thing about Starbucks is you always know what you're getting. This was a nice clean spacious co-ed toilet. It's always part of their equation.
Cleanliness: Clean! Smell: Not much of any smell. Ambience: There isn't much. Toilet/Restroom Itself: It's a solid, spacious, useful toilet. If you face an 'emergency' situation, the tip is "find the nearest Starbucks”.
RATING: 3 Poorstars.
When I began researching this article, it was my intention to do a fun little piece on free public restrooms. Two weeks later, I now realize there are serious potential health issues. It's not my intention to bash people who maintain unclean restrooms. It's more about solutions. Here are three possible suggestions:
1. Rate restrooms similarly to the way restaurants are rated with public inspectors requiring a posted A, B, or C sign on the doorway.
2. Require public restroom owners to hire a full-time restroom attendant.
3. Look into ordering the portable, self-cleaning restrooms that the people of France use. Quoting from Wikipedia "Sanisette (French pronunciation: [saniˈzɛt]) is a registered trademark for a self-contained, self-cleaning, unisex, public toilet pioneered by the French company JCDecaux. These toilets (and other similar toilets) are a common sight in several major cities of the world, but they are perhaps most closely associated with the city of Paris. The Sanisette contains a toilet hidden behind a door that opens when a button is pressed or, in the case of a pay toilet, a coin inserted into a control panel on the outside of the toilet. A washbasin is provided as well (the style varies with the model of Sanisette). When a user enters the toilet, the door closes to provide privacy. After the user has finished using the toilet, he exits and the door closes again. A wash cycle then begins inside the toilet, and the toilet fixture itself is scrubbed and disinfected automatically. After about sixty seconds, the toilet is again ready for use.”
Anyhow, these are just a few suggestions on improving our quality of living. Feel free to leave your comments or contact me directly by phone, text, email, Facebook, or Twitter.
Contact The Poorman! Phone or Text: (949) 870-6155 (It's my only phone. I do answer) Email: email@example.com Facebook: Jim Poorman Trenton Twitter: @Poorman1.