As far as John Gasparotti is concerned, you can tell a lot about a city by how far its residents have to walk to find a public toilet.
In his hometown of Laguna Beach, he says, it can be a long walk indeed.
Between the public toilet at Main Beach and the next privy at Aliso Pier is a 2.7-mile stretch of sand, Gasparotti points out. Under the wrong circumstances, he says, that can be quite a hike.
So Gasparotti, who is a member of the city's Design Review Board, has formed a three-member group to do something about it. For the past couple months, the members have been scanning the city for the perfect spot to plant another seaside toilet.
The new facility would be donated to the city, they say, with proponents supplying materials and labor.
So far, the group has narrowed its search to three possible beach sites, at Anita, Brooks and Pearl streets. On Tuesday, , the group will ask the City Council for tentative approval so they can proceed with their plan.
"If they wish to go ahead, we will provide them with the complete, hooked-up, ready-to-flush toilets," Gasparotti said.
The idea has generated a groundswell of support, Gasparotti said. Residents have volunteered to design the restroom, do the tile work and landscape its exterior. Artists have even offered to adorn the privy with artwork as related in the city's "Art in Public Places" policy.
"Everyone I've run into wants to help," he said. "It's a chance for people who live in a small town to contribute to that town. (The enthusiasm) probably has to do with bonding with your hometown."
Even with the support, however, proponents are aware they may face opposition when a site is chosen. Twice in the past, plans to add toilets in Laguna Beach were scuttled after residents near the proposed sites balked, City Clerk Verna L. Rollinger said.
"I think it's really going to be an uphill battle," Rollinger said. "The need is real, but the neighbors don't want it in their neighborhood. And in this town, the neighbors usually get their way."
But Joe Jahraus, president of Laguna Beach Lumber and one of project's proponents, said he thinks the town will support the restroom.
"We think the City Council is going to go for it because we're going to donate it to them, no money, free of charge," Jahraus said. "We're going to listen to the concerns of the neighbors and we're not going to shove it down anybody's throat. We're trying to get everybody involved in this project."
In an effort to be a "good example all the way around," Gasparotti said backers will make sure the toilet is accessible to the handicapped and is not placed on the sand. The plan will not violate bluff-area regulations, block views or be troublesome for police, he said.
"You can just well imagine all the things we don't want to do," he said. "There's a lot of talk about how impossible it is to do anything. . . . Being a member of the Design Review (Board), I thought it would be interesting to try to do this."