Letter to the city re: Toilets in Pigeon Park

To the City of Vancouver:

Something has to be done about the toilet at Pigeon Park. The smell from the alley on Carrall street (between Hastings and Cordova) is horrible. It makes my eyes water when I’m in that alley; the smell is overwhelming. And if the city wants to believe it just affects the people “down here”, they are making a mistake. We are now in the tourist season and hundreds of tourists travel between Gastown and Chinatown using Carrall Street.

The Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood Council (DNC) operates a street market every Sunday which attracts hundreds of citizens from all over the Greater Vancouver area. On hot Sundays, the odor drifts out of the alley and assaults anyone nearby. I invite you to come down and smell it yourself, especially on a hot day. You will be appalled.

Who are the offenders? I believe a lot of the problem is people getting out of the Gastown bars late at night. The other offenders are community members. People use the alley out of necessity, because the toilet at Pigeon Park rarely works. Even when it is working, people have come to believe that it never works.

On Sunday June 17, the toilet was working when we arrived in the morning. At approximately 1 pm someone got locked in the toilet and couldn’t get out. Of course the incident created a panic situation and the fire department had to be called. They had to use steel crowbars to open the door and free the user. The toilet was out of order for the rest of the day. And this is not the first time this has happened. People in the community are actually scared to use that toilet. It is poorly designed and cannot and does not meet the needs of the community.

The DNC Street Market has been a huge success for the community and the City of Vancouver. It is the largest weekly event in the Downtown Eastside and is enjoyed by thousands. It has been there for 2 years and the toilet problem has been with us the whole time. I am ashamed of my city and the impression we leave on visitors.

The City has to do something now. The goals of the City to become the greenest city on the planet by 2020 are embraced by the market vendors and shoppers and we see ourselves as on the” front line” of the efforts to recycle and reuse. Our vendors are the citizens who don’t have garages or yards to hold sales in and many have been terrorized and ticketed by the VPD for selling recycled goods on the sidewalks of our community. Every Sunday these “heroes” of the green movement have a safe place to sell their goods.

The Pigeon Park toilet should be removed and replaced with toilets that are reliable. We have to stop thinking that it will ever work in our community. Until we bulldoze it and replace it, portable toilets must be put in Pigeon Park. And this should be and can be done immediately.

Dave Murray
DNC Street Market Volunteer and DTES resident

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