About a dozen lakefront residents objected Wednesday to plans for a new restroom facility at Evanston’s Clark Street beach.


About a dozen lakefront residents objected Wednesday to plans for a new restroom facility at Evanston’s Clark Street beach.

The group peppered Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, with questions about the $1.2 million project.

The project would replace the existing half-century-old restroom building with a new handicap-accessible one nearly twice the size. The new building would be constructed at the entrance to the beach so it can have two sets of restrooms — one facing the beach, the other facing the park.

It would also provide an enclosed space for selling beach tokens, a small office for lifeguards on break, a store room and a concession stand to replace the concession truck that now parks at the beach each summer.

The plan also calls for closing the lakefront park entrance drive at Church Street and creating a new drive from Clark Street which would provide a drop-off point and turnaround in front of the restroom building and a new access route for boaters to the launch ramp parking area.

Wynne, who called the Civic Center meeting after requesting that a vote on the project be postponed at last week’s City Council meeting, said the project was developed as part of a nearly year-long lakefront planning process that involved numerous meetings with residents.

But people at Wednesday’s meeting insisted their views about the plans had been ignored.

Katie Stallcup of 144 Greenwood St. said “You’re creating a public traffic space, you’re going to make this spot a hub, just like an airport, with all the traffic coming in you’ll get more cars into the park, more bicycles, more activity and will eliminate green space.”

Beth Steffen of 418 Dempster St. said, “There’ll be a wall of SUVs waiting to drop off. I see it as a disaster.”

Stallcup also objected to the contemporary design of the new building, saying she’d prefer a traditional design — like those of the lagoon building in Dawes Park or the beach office at Dempster Street.

Wynne said the lakefront plan meets goals expressed by neighbors to keep commercial development along the lake to an absolute minimum. The new concession stand will sell no more than what the current truck does, she said.

And she argued that the city is at risk of lawsuits now because its beach facilities are not accessible to the handicapped.

Unlike the current restroom building, which is not winterized, the new building would be equipped with a heating system and could be kept open year-round if the city chose to absorb the extra utility costs.

The neighbors drew support from the new alderman of the 1st Ward, Judy Fiske, who said she doesn’t like the building design or the entrance driveway, but does favor the concept of an expanded restroom accessible from both the beach and the park.

But another new alderman, Don Wilson, 4th Ward, said the city for years neglected its parks and he views the plan as a fair compromise.

“I’m a runner and a bicyclist,” Wilson said, “and I live on Main Street, a long way from the lake. Bathroom access at the lake would be a desirable thing to have.”

Wilson, who said he’s had personal experience with being hit by cars while cycling and running, added that he believes the plan would help reduce such accidents.

He said he’s been talking about the plan to “people living on the other side of Ridge or Asbury, and a lot of them like it.”

The council is scheduled to vote on awarding a contract for the project Monday night.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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16 Comments

  1. Smells like…
    It never ceases to amaze me how residents on or near the lake feel they have special ownership to the lake. In case they are not aware, the lakefront as well as the parks/beaches are public usage entities and as such are required to serve the public. The vast majority of Evanstonians live far enough from the lake that a restroom with up-to-date amenities would not only be appreciated but I would think would be a necessity.

    The neighbors’ warnings of impending doom are merely opinions, based on speculation and not fact.

    People who choose to live in this wonderful part of Evanston don’t have the right to impose their wants and desires on a public amenity.

  2. NIMBYism at its worst
    The Lakefront has been neglected for far too long. The City is finally trying to upgrade our facilities on the lakefront and this is the response we get. Where were these complainers during the months of public hearings on the Lakefront Master Plan? Can’t we do something good for the community without always having to fight over it? Compare our facilities to other lakefront communities. We are currently an embarrassment. Let’s move forward and improve our lakefront, something most communities don’t even have.

  3. the new alderman of the 1st Ward
    “The neighbors drew support from the new alderman of the 1st Ward, Judy Fiske, who said she doesn’t like the building design or the entrance driveway, but does favor the concept of an expanded restroom accessible from both the beach and the park.

    It seems that Judy Fiske is opposed to every construction, development, or renovation proposal that comes along. She reminds me of the Republicans in Congress, who reflexively oppose all of the President’s proposals, without offering any realistic alternatives.

    1. Lake Front Plan
      Judy Fiske is opposed to development that does not make sense for the city or it’s residents–not just for the sake of being opposed! Unlike our former alderman in the first ward, Judy actually listens to her constituents and considers all aspects of an individual project before she makes a decision. This is called good leadership and is why she was elected by a landslide over an incumbent! As the city has a multi-million dollar shortfall in the pension plan, I think a million dollar plus project of this nature is not in the best interest of the city at this time. Thank goodness we now have an alderman who really cares and “who REALLY knows”!

  4. Please don’t let a few
    Please don’t let a few neighbors block this needed improvement. If you live by the lake, as I do, you know that come summer, there is more activity, it goes with the territory. It is a luxury to live by the lake, this building will help everyone enjoy one of our best assests, the lake.
    As for the design, there is nothing wrong with contemporary. If you don’t like the style, that is one thing but don’t dictate historical replication and the cost that goes with it to the rest of the community.

  5. Save Evanston, Stop the BATHROOMS!!!
    Someone suggested that the bathrooms would increase traffic, and compared the driveway to an airport? This was a joke, right?!

    Sadly, I am not at all surprised that a group of neighbors showed up to protest this. When can I buy a lawn sign?

  6. New Lakefront Restroom Facility
    If the objecting residents are so offended by the improvement in the general facilities for all of Evanston’s citizens then they should move to another locale where their desire for personal needs and privacy may be better accomodated.

    Bravo for the Lakefornt Plan and a modern (in design and function) new facility!

  7. What’s the problem?
    I think this sounds like a great proposal. The current facilities all need upgrades and Clark Street is a great place to start. My family uses several beaches very frequently all summer long and the availability of a nice bathroom facility would be great. Last summer the bathroom near Greenwood (which isn’t that near to begin with) was out of order more than a few times, and that walk to Dempster and back was pretty long in flip flops.

  8. Not just toilets
    I am Beth Steffen who WAS present at the meeting last night which took place because Alderman Melissa Wynne was kind enough to grant another discussion of the Lakefront plan.

    The article seen here is NOT a report of the complete thrust of what was said at the meeting. In addition, the article is inaccurate in designating who said what. I am responsible for both statements which are reported here which are more of a synopsis of what I said, NOT exact quotes.

    Those who attended the meeting were for the most part, people who were present during the city process that provided venus for resident’s input. That process was seriously flawed and as a result, most of those who attended the meeting felt they were not being heard.

    Much to the surprize of many who did not attend the meetings to develop the lakefront plan (and who are not fully informed of many costly, needless flaws in the overall design which will be voted on this coming Monday night), the group critical of the proposed plan last night are wanting to actually reduce the overall cost of the project which will be taken from the City’s general capital fund.

    The above quotation, taken out of context, was refering to the design’s greatest flaw, that which will involve all traffic (beach attendees with cars for drop off, people with boats+trailers approaching harbor, handicapped access , bicyle crossing and traffic light at beach entrance. All this will converge in a very short driveway and be entering the park at the north end. I said, “Like an airport hub, this creates a vortex of traffic coming into an area which would be a disaster in terms of congestion.”

    My view is, it will not meet the goals of the over-all plan to create passive space for all to enjoy as it will eliminate part of that space with congestion, nor will it improve the problem of overall traffic flow through the park for various users, ie. bicylers, pedestrians, roller-skaters etc.

    This is an expensive project, people should pay attention to the details.

    Beth Steffen

  9. Evanston Is Going Bankrupt…
    …and yet all you folks want to waste $1 MILLION DOLLARS (more actually) on a toilet when the same goals — better washroom, disability access — can be achieved far more simply and affordably? Thank heavens we have an alderman now in Judy Fiske who listens to her residents and isn’t bamboozled by every grandiose plan the city officials try to foist onto the public. Don’t come crying here when it’s all the city can afford to do this year and everything else crumbles or gets cut from the budget.

    1. you folks want to waste $1 MILLION DOLLARS
      Pablo says:
      ” all you folks want to waste $1 MILLION DOLLARS (more actually) on a toilet”

      No, Pablo, it isn’t just a toilet…see the article:

      “The project would replace the existing half-century-old restroom building with a new handicap-accessible one nearly twice the size.”

      “It would also provide an enclosed space for selling beach tokens, a small office for lifeguards on break, a store room and a concession stand to replace the concession truck that now parks at the beach each summer.

      The plan also calls for closing the lakefront park entrance drive at Church Street and creating a new drive from Clark Street which would provide a drop-off point and turnaround in front of the restroom building and a new access route for boaters to the launch ramp parking area.

      So, $1.2 Million for a new building with restroom facilities, concession stand, office for lifeguards, space for selling permits, storage space, etc.

      It is dishonest to claim that it is $1million for a toilet. If all of the above can be accomplished with less money, let’s see your plan. I think that you are using the same tactics that the Civic Center NIMBYs used: “We can repair the current building for a lot less money..” Of course, details are never provided.

  10. NIMBY behavior defined
    We see it time and time again. When an opinion, although valid but not in the majority, doesn’t get their way the following occurs:

    BLAME THE PROCESS
    We spend way too much time in this community blaming the process. The Lakefront master plan was discussed openly for months. Public forums were held and additional ones were added to hear diverse community-wide opinions. The process started with wide visions and then narrowed based on comments, desires and costs. In no way was it “flawed”, and I hear no evidence to support this claim.

    USE COST AS AN EXCUSE
    “It’s too expensive”, “we’re going bankrupt”, “my way would save us money”. All easy comments, again supported with no facts. The reality is that the bid for the project came in $200K under estimate. The reality is that if we don’t continue to invest in our city, our housing values, shopping and restaurant spending and overall desirability will decrease.

    This is an investment in our community, all of our community, and must be viewed long term. The current facility was built in the 1940s, with some renovations. It has exceeded its useful life. We must rebuild.

  11. $1.2 Million Bathroom
    The cost of this bathroom is quite minor when one considers that the school board just contracted with a consulting firm to measure the physical class room sizes at the Evanston schools for $55,000.

    The emperor has no clothes on.

  12. This is not the year to spend extra $$$$
    As a Third Ward resident since 1995, I use the lake front beaches and facilities a lot. While the plan for Clark Street sounds great, this is not the year to spend a million dollars on park facilities. Let’s hold off until the economy (and Evanston’s city budget) is in better shape. We’re all tightening our belts on the home front, and Evanston should not be so cavalier with our tax dollars right now.

    1. When is the year?
      This is not the year? We should wait until the pension problem is solved, and we have enough money for cops and schools and paving all the roads? When will that be?

      When has the city ever had enough money?

      The argument that ‘this is not the year’ makes no sense. If a project is worthwhile, and our credit rating is good, then it be done. If a project is not worthwhile, it should not be done in any year. NPV should be the deciding factor!

      My guess is that we can get some low bids this year for infrastructure improvement. Why wait until the economy heats up?

      Think of all the good infrastructure projects that were done by Roosevelt in the Depression. Now is the time for MORE investment, not less.

      1. Agreed. And legal
        Agreed. And legal complications (with Amer.w/Disabilities Act) is real, not imagined. As economy worsens, more and more of our citizens will go fishing for ‘settlements’. Better to bit the bullet now and remove the threat.

        It is a pity the drop-off sounds so problematic. Perhaps it was deliberately ‘undersized’, to integrate with the neighborhood better. Perhaps a larger version would have taken out trees, necessitated 1/4 acre of concrete, etc. I cringe when suburban amenities/accomodations are transported into an urban setting, but what else can planners do? People drive. People stop at curbs. Not much will change that.

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