Residents oppose proposed bathroom at Carmel Mission Park

A comfort station was approved for Carmel Mission Park back in 2015.
(Karen Billing)

A group of neighbors is pushing back against the city’s plan to install a new comfort station at Carmel Mission Park in Carmel Valley. Several residents attended the July 28 Carmel Valley Community Planning Board meeting to make a request that the public restroom project be abandoned and the funds used elsewhere.

Carmel Mission Park is located off Carmel Country Road, a long linear park under the power lines, across from the Bay Club Carmel Valley. The park is split in half by Carmel Center Road with sidewalks traversing the loop around the grassy open space, frequented by dogs.

The Carmel Valley planning board approved funding for the comfort station project back in 2015, one of $18 million worth of local park improvements tapping Developer Impact Fees (then known as Facilities Benefit Assessment funds) paid into by local developers. The project then went through the approval process with the San Diego Park and Recreation Council in 2018.

A 350-square foot structure has been designed and an estimated $1.4 million construction contract is slated to be awarded this year. According to the city’s capital improvement program schedule, it is anticipated the work would be completed by mid-2023.

At the July 28 meeting, neighbor Jan Caldwell spoke on behalf of several residents who live near the park and oppose a public restroom.

“There are no picnic tables, no soccer field, no playgrounds and no parking lot that would make this any sort of a destination park. It’s simply a greenbelt area where we walk through and children occasionally play,” said Caldwell, who noted none of the neighbors recall being surveyed about the need for a bathroom. “If it is wanted by the residents, I haven’t heard of any.”

Caldwell said the park is primarily utilized by those who live in the area and if a restroom is needed, they walk home, “People don’t plan to go to this park for hours and if a bathroom was constructed, people still wouldn’t go for hours.”

Discussions back in 2015 included that the comfort station could serve as pit stop for those who hike the trail system that has a trailhead at the park, connecting with Gonzales Canyon.

Caldwell said a big concern for the neighbors is that public bathrooms can be an appealing venue for teens to loiter, smoke, do drugs and the structure’s walls might become a target for graffiti. The bathroom could also invite homeless people and criminal activity. Residents questioned how often it would be cleaned and whether it would be locked at night.

“There’s simply no community benefit for a bathroom in Carmel Mission Park,” Caldwell said.

CV Planning Board Chair Frisco White said the planning board would have discussions with the city about the project details and whether or not they should do the improvement. He said he would keep neighbors in the loop about any developments.

Board member Michelle Strauss agreed with the neighbors’ assessment that it seems like a strange location for a comfort station, especially where there are parks in Carmel Valley that don’t have them.

Back in 2015, the board also approved comfort stations for Solana Highlands Neighborhood Park, Carmel Knolls Neighborhood Park, Carmel Grove Neighborhood Park, and the demolition and replacement of the existing comfort station at Carmel Del Mar Neighborhood Park, next to the elementary school.

Other park improvements included a concession building with a restroom at Sage Canyon Neighborhood Park and the replacement of natural turf with synthetic turf at Carmel Valley Community Park.

Those projects have been given estimated completion timelines of mid-2023.

Additional parking, two new picnic tables, two new shade structures and a drinking fountain were also approved for Torrey Highlands Neighborhood Park and are expected to be completed by the end of the year, per the capital improvement list.