What looks like a metal beach towel that hides your naughty bits when you want to take a poop, has its own Facebook page and is coming to downtown Salt Lake City? Plop, it’s the infamous PORTLAND LOO!

This sustainable urban outdoor toilet is a brand of a public toilet designed to stand up to the worst weather and the most public abuse while offering a clean alternative to taking a shat on the sidewalk. Let me get down to the dirty basics here: 1) if you’re homeless and you look sketchy, no small business is going to let you use their rest room; 2) if you don’t have access to a rest room, you’ll do your business in an alleyway; or 3) if you’re psychotic and suffering the ill effects of Bath Salts or Meth, you may have lost your personal boundaries and will crap right in the middle of the street.

Salt Lake City will be getting its first two public toilets soon, one at 500 West and Rio Grande and the other in the sidewalk between Toasters and the Shilo Inn on 200 South. Up until recently there were no public toilets around the homeless shelters downtown. Spyhop Productions is located directly across the street from one of the shelters and has too many experiences to recount about fecal and urinary behavior around them. Four Port-O-Potties were set up this past year on 500 West and 200 South but you can’t see what’s going on inside the plastic outhouses. Thank goodness they were installed but they have also become a nasty place for more drugs, sex and bad behavior in the neighborhood. The option of a Portland Loo is so fantastic because you can see the person in the stall from the outside (18″ from the ground up). Your bits are protected from view but everyone can see who’s in the toilet. As their Facebook page says, “We can see your trunk, but not your junk.”

What’s really great about these toilets is that they have been tried out and are hugely successful. They are easy to maintain with little visible plumbing and a faucet on the exterior. There are no mirrors, no paper towel holders, and no sinks inside. The steel construction is prison-grade metal and the power for lighting at night is via solar cells above it. They will be ‘open’ 24 hours a day.

Give it up to Salt Lake City officials always looking to Portland, Oregon … lusting endlessly to be our own ‘Saltlandia’. We need these toilets now as badly as P-Town did back in 2008 when they first installed this airy alternative near the Greyhound bus station in the Old Town-Chinatown neighborhood. Their fine city had been spending $200,000 a year to keep one bathroom open 24/7 in City Hall for the homeless to do their business. A Portland Loo reportedly costs less than $2000 a month to maintain. They are manually cleaned twice a day and the finish on the steel makes it easy for workers to remove graffiti with simple cleansers. Some other designs of this urban outdoor facility are self-cleaning but these new ones about to come to Utah are not of that ilk.

Don’t be scared. When you gotta go, you gotta go. Our conventioneers from out of state will know what this loo is all about and they’ll use it to and from events and their hotels. The homeless shelter area further west will hear grumbles that has been taken away but our police force will be happy to see two legs instead of six in the crappers by the shelters on 200 South.

Groovy, Baby


I know this will date me as two years older than a pterodactyl, but I remember when the coolest thing in college that you could own was a waterbed. If you’ve never seen a waterbed, it’s like a giant pillow made of thick vinyl, full of hose water and held in a clunky wooden bed frame. Think air mattress, only full of water. The only way you could get the water into the bed ‘bladder’ was to use a hose and hope you would have the proper attachment to get the water in the bulky thing. The bigger the bed, the longer it took to fill. You were totally screwed if you got a new bed in the dead of winter, your outside water spigot wouldn’t work and your hose was frozen.

Then again, everyone always wanted to get sleep in a water bed and it was the mandatory piece of furniture for the sexual revolution that took place at the end of the last century. If you got the ‘waves’ moving in sync together in the bed, you’d have a swell time. If you didn’t figure out the water movement in the big bladder the two of you would be bounced out of the bed with the backlash wave. Anybody that was cool in the 70’s and 80’s had a waterbed. The place in Utah to buy water beds during those avocado and gold tinted years was at the Stone Balloon waterbed store in the 9th and 9th neighborhood in Salt Lake City. The owner had the grooviest headboards and Naugahyde-lined bed boxes in town. I never owned one although I remember going in and coveting the beds on a monthly basis after shopping trips to another neighborhood store-Mother’s Earth Things.

Waterbeds went out of style when foam, cloud, pillow top and dial-your-own-number beds started appearing. By then renters and homeowners were fed up with having to drain them and patch them when they sprung leaks. I can remember making every excuse in the book to avoid helping friends move the beasts from apartment to apartment. Landlords began not allowing them after a decade of popularity because of the water disasters they could cause to floors and ceilings. You can still buy them for special needs though, but Stone Balloon and waterbed stores a thing of the past.

Flip ahead 30 years. The 9th and 9th neighborhood is no longer a bastion of hippie shops and small stores where you could by tickets to a night in heaven. Gone are far out concerts at the Terrace Ballroom on Main Street with groups coming into town like Lydia Pense and Cold Blood, Frank Zappa, the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane. Man, even the Doors played that venue with the faux-star lit ceiling. You’d spark a few from your dime bag, dance in your platform shoes all night and then crash at someone’s pad on their waterbed in the wee hours of the morning. You’d hope the heating coils under the bladder had been left on during a cold January night and that you wouldn’t get too nauseous riding the waves-because those beds were next to impossible to get out of quickly.

Sigh. Don’t read me wrong. I love the 9th and 9th hood and all its quirky local shops these days just as I did back then. Standing outside of the Tower Theater and reading the weathered ‘bark’ of music posters for local bands and venues that are stapled or taped to the utility box and light poles just takes me way back to memory lane.

Condo Sales Recap for 2013


Condominium owners in Utah and Salt Lake County saw increasing values in 2013, just as single family homeowners enjoyed last year. I think the condo market is back to damn healthy levels and we’ve now leaped over that ugly abyss of the crash. For some reason condos here were not initially affected by the tumbling economy in 2008 but they soon caught up with all the bad short sales and foreclosures losses along with single family properties. Most condo owners who didn’t lose their homes are seeing equity come back – enough to sell if they want to or need to now.

There were 1267 condos sold in 2012 in Salt Lake County at an average price of $153,000. In 2013, there were 1600 condo sales at an average $176,880. That is an average increase of 16% in values in one year and 26% more sales in just twelve months. Currently there are 506 condos for sale in the County at an average asking price of $263,725 and 106 units with sales pending at an average asking price of $178,840.

Right now the condos that have sales pending show a lower than average asking price probably because the data represents the final big shakeout of condominiums with owners under financial distress facing short sale or foreclosure from the crash. We won’t be seeing so many of those bargain hunter deals in this 2014 recovery unless random banks decide to release hidden inventories we don’t know about. In the downtown area I watch there were 175 condos that changed hands in 2013 and 136 in 2012, a rise of 28% in sales. Prices jumped up almost 19% from an average sale of $205,200 to $243,000 in one year.

The Metro condominiums at 350 South 200 East were one of the last, large, high rise projects built before the economy tanked. In 2012 and 2013 the number of sales there were 9 and 8 respectively but prices jumped in that one year from an average sales price of $260,000 to $299,000. The Parc at Gateway which saw a large number of Asian investors buy-in during the Olympics when they were put on the market had only three sales in 2012 at an average sales price of $206,000 but 11 sales in 2013 with boost in closing prices to $248,000. The Dakota Lofts, one of the first modern urban conversions in the city had no sales in 2012 but four in 2013. The huge American Towers condominium project that opened in the 1980’s during that’s decade’s economic crash saw 6 sales in 2012 at an average of $285,000 and then 18 sales last year with a bump in the average sales price to $306,000.

Around the state, St. George condominiums increased the most in value in the last year, albeit sales volume wasn’t that much higher. According to WFRMLS web data 34 units were sold in 2013, 5 over the year before. St. George was hit hard by the recession as so many of its condo inventory there is second home business. When a family is in financial trouble, a second home is the first to go into foreclosure. Prices jumped from and average sale in of $101,000 in 2012 to $150,000 in 2013. That’s proving to me we’ve bottomed out in real estate values here in Utah.

The highest reported sales prices of condominiums in Utah in 2013 were: $1,249,000 at the Village at Sugarplum at Alta; $1,250,000 at the Chateaux on the Green (at the north of Bonneville Golf Course) and $2,650,000 at Silver Star in Park City. All three luxury condos sold for more than offering price.