Hot Tub Hobo Machine

The new look for downtown's waterfront includes one really bad idea.

Earlier this week, famed urban designer James Corner unveiled his version of a Viaduct-less downtown waterfront to the public. The plans included, among other ideas, the notion of "thermal pools" down by Puget Sound—public hot tubs, essentially. But lest you think this will spawn some sort of sexy Spring Break scene on the piers, consider how attractive a bathing option those warm baths will be for people whose access to bathing facilities is limited at best. We're talking, of course, about the homeless citizens of Seattle, the greatest concentration of whom can be found a stone's throw from Corner's envisioned mimicry of idyllic (if you can forget about the Icelandic fiscal meltdown, anyway) Reykjavik. Public means public, which is another way of saying it'd be pretty difficult, if not impossible, to institute some sort of hygienic litmus test for who's permitted to come splashing in. We put the question of how to prevent the thermal pools from becoming a homeless hot-tub party point- blank to Steve Pierce, the city's waterfront project manager. He chuckled at the notion before conceding that he didn't yet know how to contend with it. "How you would actually implement that idea, there's a lot of work to do," says Pierce, carefully noting that no part of Corner's concept is set in stone at this point. "You'd need changing rooms, and there are a lot of details to be worked out." Indeed.

 
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