Charlottesville City government has taken bold and costly action to combat the unspoken phenomenon of public defecation and urination on its once beautiful Downtown Mall.

In response to the appropriation of that space as an open cesspool, the city’s Economic Development Authority has leased two bathrooms in York Place at a cost of $5,000 per month.

The lease details the following responsibilities for the Landlord, York Property:

  • York Property will provide and maintain two public restrooms (one male and one female) for the benefit of the City of Charlottesville and the general public at The Shops at York Place (112 West Main Street, Charlottesville, VA 22902).
  • York Property will regularly clean and keep the restrooms in good condition and supply all necessary sanitary supplies.
  • York Property will make restrooms available for public use daily during regular business hours of at The Shops at York Place. Regular business hours are typically 8 AM to 8 PM, seven days a week. Landlord must notify tenant of any substantial change in regular business hours.
  • York Property will provide and maintain two exterior signs (one at the Water Street entrance and one at the Main Street entrance) and at least one interior sign indicating public restroom. Tenant shall approve graphic design for exterior signage.

Notably, and likely problematic for the Tenant (Charlottesville City), are certain “rules and regulations” appurtenant to the lease:

  • The bathroom apparatus installed shall not be used for any purpose other than that for which they were constructed, and no foreign substance of any kind whatsoever shall be thrown there in, and the expense of any breakage, stoppage, or damage resulting from the violation of this rule shall be borne by tenant who, or whose employees or invitees shall have caused it.
  • Tenant shall not use, keep or permit to be used or kept any foul or noxious gas or substance in the Premises, or permit or suffer the Premises to be occupied or used in a manner offensive or objectionable to landlord or other occupants of the building by reason of noise, odors, and or vibrations, or interfere in anyway with other tenants or those having business here in, nor shall any animals, reptiles or birds be brought in or kept about the Premises.
  • Landlord reserves the right to exclude or expel from the Project any person who, in the judgment of landlord, is intoxicated or under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or who shall in any manner do any act in violation of any of the rules and regulations of the Project.

York Place is clearly and rightly concerned about the use of its restroom facilities by drunks and drug users, but given the daily population of such on the Downtown Mall, those will be a substantial component of bathroom traffic.

And what about the likely adoption of these public bathrooms as surrogate hotel rooms for quickie sex hookups or even preferred “safe spaces” for sexual assaults? While not referenced directly in the lease, that use is a near certainty and should be of utmost concern.

Vandalism is another ongoing issue for proprietors of bathrooms on or near the Downtown Mall, as referenced in a recent Charlottesville Tomorrow story:

CVS Pharmacy frequently opens its bathrooms to the public, but both John and Chris, another community member waiting for the bus who did not wish to give his last name, say that they’re frequently closed for major cleaning. “The vandalism is really bad,” John said as Chris nodded in agreement.

Vandalism is a problem in the CVS bathrooms, said an employee who asked to remain anonymous. People do “all kinds of things in there,” she said, and the worst was a few years ago, when someone smeared blood all over the walls. She hopes that people treat the York Place bathrooms with respect so that they won’t have to constantly close for cleaning — or close permanently.

At one time, Charlottesville City’s addition of public bathrooms to the Downtown Mall might have been beneficial to the community at-large and Mall patrons and business owners alike. But in today’s lawless, anything-goes society, no existent problems will be solved, and new problems will be created.

Contrary to marketing efforts depicting otherwise, Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall is not clean.

Contrary to marketing efforts depicting otherwise, Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall is not safe.

Public bathrooms will not change that reality.

With this initiative, rather than solutions, the Charlottesville City and York Place are asking for trouble—and they will get it.

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