Officials with the city’s Park and Recreation Department are confronted with vandalism issues at Robb Field — a popular, versatile public park offering a wealth of recreational opportunities.
The property is also the very first thing one sees as an introduction to Ocean Beach when entering via Sunset Cliffs Boulevard.
The park, built in 1954, offers tennis, racquetball, a gym, a skate park, a playground and picnic tables, as well as grassy areas for soccer and other ballgames. Some park users, however, are critical of the condition of the restrooms, which they believe to be in desperate need of a makeover.
At issue for many users is the lack of cleanliness at the facility, located to the right side of the main south entrance off West Point Loma Boulevard. The rest-rooms are adjacent to the parking lot in front of one of the many ballfields.
Becky Springfield, a teenager from Pacific Beach, plays soccer there.
“It’s bad,” she said. “If you have to ‘go’ during games, we go in groups of two or three. Most stalls won’t lock, so one of us waits outside to make sure nobody walks in on the person using the toilet.”
Some stall doors hang from broken hinges, while others that are intact lack locks for privacy.
The concrete flooring, particularly around the toilet fixtures, is disintegrating, harboring puddles of water, urine and fecal matter from overflowing toilets.
Oftentimes with inadequate lighting, the patchy, slippery floors pose a possible slip-and-fall hazard.
The handwashing station frequently has no soap or paper-towel dispensers, and cold-air hand dryers are oftentimes out of order.
Of the two drinking water stations mounted to the wall outside, one fixture appears to have been removed, and the existing fountain barely flows.
“Creepily, the restrooms have taken on a certain OB shabbiness,” said Ocean Beach resident Susan Pierce. “I’m sure the Park and Rec workers undoubtedly do their best to keep them clean, but that does not fix the nauseating, sad shape those restrooms are in.”
Rick Myers, who drives from Torrey Pines to watch his grandson play soccer at Robb Field, echoed the sentiment.
“Yeah, it’s a great park,” Myers said, questioning the condition of the rest-rooms. “The existing ones are totally uncanny, with broken doors, uneven floors, all in all very unsanitary. I noticed that the city has been doing great improvements everywhere in OB. With plenty of people visiting Robb Field, wouldn’t the city want to make sure the park’s restrooms are presentable and up to par?”
Myers also questions the safety of the restrooms, particularly for the children who use them during games and practices.
Clay Bingham, who oversees the cleanliness and functional comfort stations in Robb Field under the Park and Recreation Department, said officials are also frustrated, especially over the perception city workers are not responsive.
“We answer or return every call,” said Bingham. “I welcome everybody with concerns to call right away. Only then can we take immediate action, inspect the facility and, if needed, correct problems on the spot.”
Bingham said Park and Rec officials promptly went to inspect all comfort stations at Robb Field after viewing pictures of the unflattering condition of some of the restrooms.
“Our frustration grew with every find of a disarrayed restroom,” Bingham said. “I happen to have an excellent, hardworking maintenance staff at this location. It takes major housekeeping around the clock to keep these facilities attractive and presentable for the public.
“I’m tired of being confronted with the words ‘neglect’ and ‘ignorance’ when my staff is doing their very best to keep up with reoccurring problems day after day. Unfortunately, we’re dealing with a certain clientele at Robb Field.”
Bingham’s reference was to groups of transients who appear to live at Robb Field Park. Dealing with this issue requires “major fine-tuning,” he said.
“We do the best we can to work with everybody and address all issues,” said Bingham. “For safety, we lock the restrooms overnight. We used to find damaged and extremely dirty stalls with piles of toilet paper on the floors — apparently used for padding — indicating that people have slept there. Upon our return to unlock the doors in the morning, we found those same individuals left poop on the floors or smeared feces all over the wall out of protest.”
He also pointed to recent vandalism to three mature trees near the skate park as another source of frustration and anger for Park and Rec officials.
“I believe this was a direct payback in response to the locked restrooms and to the skirting [trimming] we did on the surrounding bushes, which were also being used as night-camps by individuals,” he said.
Despite the frustrations, Bingham said he is determined to bring about solutions.
“As part of an immediate solution for the discouraged public, I will pull in extra, temporary staff for Robb Field to address urgent issues,” he said. “Furthermore, we will steamclean doors, walls and floors of the restrooms in need, take care of paint issues, as well as the condition of some floors as quickly as possible. We will definitely repair all doors with broken hinges. There is no excuse for damaged doors.”
Two hotlines have been established to field public complaints at Robb Field: (619) 531-1528 and (619) 221-8901.