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Pee & Poo Protest: Reopen Essential Bathrooms for the Public and the Poor

Tuesday, July 17, 2018
1:30 PM - 3:00 PM
Event Type:
Robert Norse
Location Details:
At the edge of Louden Nelson (Laurel) Park where the Park meets the porch of the Louden Nelson Center.

However, the Louden Nelson bathrooms remain closed to the poor unless they can prove to the satisfaction of the staff there that they are "part of a program" there--something that has never been required in the decades long history of the Center.

Alarmed visitors have suggested this results in discriminatory action against poor people, particularly impacting the most needy--those outside without shelter, the disabled, and the elderly.

The closure prompted the local ACLU (never the most forthcoming in opposing anti-homeless measures) to publicly denounce the bathroom and other recently-instituted abusive policies there (like the iron fence, new "unattended property" rules, and roaming "security" guards). And to move its meetings to the Resource Center for Nonviolence.

See "ACLU Statement of Opposition to Anti-Homeless Measures at Louden Nelson Center and Park" at

Absurdly and abusively, an elderly woman forced to pee outside because denied access prompted six police officers to arrive.


(For those unable to access this article, see the comment following this story for its full text.)

HUFF (Homeless United for Friendship and Freedom) voted to begin tabling at Louden Nelson to maintain the focus on the original focus of Conscience and Action's first series of protests.

Our goal: to sample public opinion, determine Louden Nelson exclusionary policy in action, gather signatures opposing the closing of the Louden Nelson bathrooms, and alert the community to the situation and possible alternative solutions...

We'll be tabling at 1:30 PM Tuesday July 17th in back of the Louden Nelson Center (and registering voters as well). Anyone interested can join us.

Recently, after four delays, Parks and Recreation finally forwarded a mass of e-mails, which I'm beginning to go through to determine what the justification (other than prejudice and gentrification) is for closing the bathrooms.

Folks who want to check through these documents on their own can go to
Added to the calendar on Sat, Jul 14, 2018 11:14AM

Comments (Hide Comments)
by Jessica York (posted by Norse)

Louden Nelson Community Center is now opening their restrooms only to people participating in classes or programs at the center.

By Jessica A. York, Santa Cruz Sentinel

Posted: 05/30/18, 7:59 PM PDT | Updated: on 05/30/2018

Wendell Burgess is a frequent participant in the Meals On Wheels weekday lunch program for seniors at the Louden Nelson Community Center and doesn’t like the new restroom policy. (Dan Coyro -- Santa Cruz Sentinel)
Wendell Burgess is a frequent participant in the Meals On Wheels weekday lunch program for seniors at the Louden Nelson Community Center and doesn’t like the new restroom policy. (Dan Coyro -- Santa Cruz Sentinel)

SANTA CRUZ >> Cooper DeAngelo has never seen anything quite like it in her five years playing piano for seniors at Louden Nelson Community Center’s weekday lunch program.

DeAngelo, a retired nurse, said she witnessed a young woman denied entry to the Santa Cruz city-owned community center’s bathroom a couple of weeks ago. In recent months, the community center instituted a rule that bars restroom use for members of the public who are not taking part in a community center program, or unless they are a child using the adjacent Laurel Park grounds.

“She came out here, she couldn’t hold it and she urinated on the grass,” DeAngelo said of the woman. “Immediately, the ranger called 911, six cops show up, they humiliate her, they took her to jail.”

The decision to lock the bathrooms, said acting Parks and Recreation Director Carol Scurich, came after it became “really unsafe for our use and our patrons to use the restrooms there” and is primarily designed as a safety measure to protect visiting children. In a similar vein, the city approved installation of a 6-foot wrought iron fence and locking gates around the adjacent Laurel Park late last year, with city leaders citing neighbor and staff concerns about overnight disturbances and the homeless population that frequents the park. A shortage of public bathrooms in Santa Cruz often has served as a linchpin for local debate.

“Unfortunately, we’re finding people that are doing really, really unsafe and illegal activity in the restrooms,” Scurich said.

DeAngelo, who is homeless herself, estimated that hundreds of people had used the center’s bathrooms each day — from those stopping by for a quick pit stop to seniors with bladder control issues to parents and their children. She said she it was unfair to institute such a tough policy due to a few bad actors.

Santa Cruz mother Sonja Tyesi also spoke out about the change in bathroom use policy, calling it demoralizing for everyone, including the center’s staff who have to deny users’ access. Tyesi reacted in particular to an online Facebook post by community activist Brent Adams on his Downtown Santa Cruz Bathroom Task Force page. Adams told of three homeless elderly women on waiting lists for local shelter beds who are regulars at Laurel Park and can no longer use the bathrooms.

“Now when I frequent the park with my three children all under 7 we ask the women if they’d like to use the restroom with us,” Tyesi wrote. “Connectivity is key. My children will not be shielded from what plagues humanity. When we shield our children we are only insuring these problems will continue to be systemic and be greater. We must connect on a basic level.”

Scurich said the city is looking to install combination locks on the bathrooms’ outer doors so that users will not have to keep asking center staff to escort them and unlock the door. The city may opt to begin keeping the doors unlocked again in the future, she said.

During a Meals on Wheels lunch program Wednesday, the center’s bathrooms were left unlocked for a period, with staff monitors standing outside their doors.

“We want to wait and see how challenging this is for people,” Scurich said. “What we’re doing by putting in these new mechanism, it will be a lot easier on the public. But if people have concerns, if it’s really hard for people, we might go ahead and open up the restrooms and give it a chance and see if we don’t have issues.”

In protesting the latest steps, both DeAngelo and Wendell Burgess, a regular at the lunch program, cited the story of London Nelson, a freed slave who donated his estate to the Santa Cruz school district for public benefit. Burgess said it is up to the community to take a public stand on this issue.

“The bottom line is, the Louden Nelson center functions on a mission statement. Their mission statement is they are for the community,” DeAngelo said. “So the fact that these guys don’t pay any taxes — they’re running it like a business, and yet they not paying like a business.”

The Louden Nelson Community Center, converted from an elementary school in 1978, is designed to seek balance “between social, recreational and cultural services,” according to its mission statement.

“The Center strives to create a space that feels welcoming, comfortable, safe and accessible to all who use it,” the mission statement — posted on the city’s website, at, reads, in part.

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