By Breeana Greenberg, Special to the Independent
Laguna Beach unveiled its newly renovated South Main Beach Restroom and water bottle refill station at a ribbon-cutting ceremony on May 4.
The old restroom had five toilet stalls for women and two for men. The Men’s restroom now has two urinals and one toilet stall. The Women’s restroom has four toilet stalls. With summer approaching, the additional commodes will help ease the bathroom traffic for beachgoers.
The city started the design process for the renovation in 2014. Initially, the City council had looked to demolish the 40-year-old restroom and replace it with a slightly larger one in its place. Ultimately, the city decided on internal renovations, energy efficiency upgrades, and ADA improvements of the existing building at a cost of $579,563.
The newly renovated restroom is decorated with tile murals, including one in a public outdoor shower. This colorful element cost $80,000.
“This beautiful artwork, these murals here, the artist is Lynn Basa,” Mayor Bob Whalen said Tuesday. “They’re just spectacular. You know, vibrant and alive and something we’ll all enjoy better than the old concrete wall that used to be here watching people shower.”
The hand-painted, ceramic tile mural is titled “Outburst.” Basa has completed numerous public art commissions around the country, Whalen said, adding the renovation came in “on time and on budget.”
Next to the restroom is a new reusable water bottle filling station—the first of 35 stations to be installed in Laguna Beach public spaces in coming years. The new refill station will help “reduce and discourage single-use plastic water bottles,” a recent press release explained. “Just one reusable water bottle can potentially save over 1,000 plastic bottles per year, and help reduce the number of plastic bottles that end up on Laguna’s beaches and in the ocean.”
“When we first started reaching out to organizations to gauge their interest, we really had no expectations,” said Anne Girtz, civil engineer and member of the Laguna Bluebelt Coalition. “And we were immediately just overwhelmed by the interest and support from almost anyone we talked to. And it really goes to show just the care that the Laguna Beach community has for its beaches and oceans, and that they’ll come together for a project like this. We’re super excited that this can be the first one installed in the city.”
The idea for the bottle refill station originated in the council-appointed Environmental Sustainability Committee, Girtz said. The idea stalled because of the pandemic, but when Bluebelt donated $1,500, other organizations pitched in and they were able to fundraise quickly.
The Laguna Beach County Water District, Waste Management, Pacific Marine Mammal Center, Barbara & Greg MacGillivray, Laguna Beach Garden Club, Debbie Neev, The Laguna Greenbelt, Inc. and Laguna Bluebelt Coalition all donated to the refill station project, according to a recent press release.
“We had some champions at the city that helped us push it through their system as well, because that’s a process too,” Girtz said. “So the city actually paid for the install of it. We provided the unit and then they installed it along with this project. We were amazed at how quickly it actually went, you know, given normal kind of city procedure,”
The Laguna Bluebelt Coalition spearheaded the project, explained Christopher Regan, assistant general manager at the Laguna Beach County Water District.
“It was great because the Bluebelt coalition came in and they had the idea, they had the drive, they came in and picked our brain and we kind of pointed them in the right direction,” Regan said. “And then they picked our pocket for a donation, which we’re happy to do because anytime that we’re using a water bottle rather than just refilling plastic, the district is all about that.”
Regan added that the bottle refilling station aligns with the water district’s mission to conserve water.
“We’re stewards to the environment, especially because we’re in a coastal community,” he said. “We want to make sure that everything that’s being done in town isn’t affecting our ocean.”