Facing the Pacific Ocean at night, the new structure at the end of Brighton Street in Ocean Beach looks more like a community shrine than a public restroom; its under-lit, v-shaped roof forms the definitive seagull wings found on various insignia throughout the coastal enclave. But the "comfort station," as the city calls its bathrooms, represents more than a pretty place for people to do their business—it's telling of the commitment to keep O.B. weird, or at least distinct from the rest of San Diego, and not just where brown brick-hut bathrooms are concerned.
Two years ago, when the 1960s-era, dingy bathroom at the end of Brighton was condemned by the city, OBecians united and presented a plan to have its replacement be a meaningful one—designed by O.B. or Point Loma locals only, and expressive of the funky neighborhood's anti-establishment, environmentally concerned values. Another requirement was that it had to feature art.
Architect Kevin deFreitas won the bid. With comfort and his community in mind, he designed a visually stunning, "net zero" green structure that's naturally lit and ventilated, with a bench around it shaded by its roof. Bike racks speak to O.B.'s cycle culture, and there's even a large, orange "OB" on one of its sides.
"I really wanted to nail this—my kids would be using it. It's in our backyard," deFreitas says. "I did a lot of research; this is a coastal community that doesn't want to be like La Jolla or Del Mar."
Shinpei Takeda won the bid to create a mural on the restroom's ceiling.
"My work has to do with memory," Takeda says. "I wanted to talk about what was here when O.B. was founded."
His research started with Wonderland, the beachfront amusement park in O.B. that was supposed to rival Coney Island but only lasted for two years; coincidentally, setbacks pushed the opening date of the comfort station to July 4, 2012, 99 years after Wonderland debuted.
"I enlarged an old photograph of Wonderland [for the mural] for its base layer," Takeda explains. He then created circles of text from the writers that some of O.B.'s streets are named after. With ripples around each swirl of quotes, the ceiling represents moments in time.
Both deFreitas and Takeda commended the city and, more specifically, its Arts and Culture Commission, for making an otherwise utilitarian structure a public work of art.