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‘It smells like a dirty bathroom’: Stench in Vancouver parkades prompts calls for relief

WATCH: If you've visited a City of Vancouver parkade, you may have been overwhelmed by the stench. As Kristen Robinson reports, it's now prompting calls for more public washrooms.

A Vancouver businessman says a city-owned parking corporation isn’t living up to its mission to provide “safe, clean, friendly, convenient and affordable parking.”

“I’d like to give EasyPark a ticket for keeping a filthy parkade,” Michael Geller said.

Geller — who works as an architect, planner, real estate consultant and property developer — travels around the city for meetings and is a frequent parkade user.

WATCH: (Aired Aug. 15, 2018) Public urination pushes Paris to an extreme plan

Public urination pushes Paris to an extreme plan
Public urination pushes Paris to an extreme plan

On a recent visit to Gastown, Geller parked in the EasyPark lot at 150 West Pender Street, where he says the stench was overpowering and unbearable.

“It actually makes me sick,” he said. “It smells like a dirty bathroom.”

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The parkade is one of approximately 80 public use parking lots owned by the City of Vancouver. Its stairwells are frequently lined with ingrained urine and littered with drug use debris.

READ MORE: Grandmother frustrated with lack of washrooms at Vancouver playground

“It smelt funky,” one male customer told a Global News crew Friday. “You noticed it right when you opened the door on the stairs.”

One woman who parks in the lot five days a week said she picked up “a strong scent of urine.”

“I had to actually hold my jacket over my nose as I went down the stairs.”

Geller tweeted about his experience at the “filthy, urine soaked … parking garage,” saying he will be writing the corporation’s president and board of directors to join him on a tour of the lot and other Gastown parkades.

The City of Vancouver says the majority of its public use parking lots are operated, managed, and enforced by EasyPark.

The corporation runs as a non-profit public authority, and is wholly responsible for the maintenance of the lots.

In a statement, EasyPark spokesperson Linda Bui apologized for the “unsatisfactory experience the customer was subject to during their last visit.”

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READ MORE: City of Edmonton taking another look at public washrooms

The corporation said its third-party maintenance contractor provides on-site janitorial services six days a week.

A 24/7 porter service responds to cleaning requests called in by its quality assurance and security teams, which are also “trained and equipped to pick up sharps and other drug use indicators.”

While EasyPark said it’s a “challenge” to maintain a lot like the one Geller visited that’s open 24 hours, Bui said the corporation “will review its janitorial and security procedures with its contractors and continue to strive for a seamless parking experience.”

READ MORE: Montreal prepares to unveil new high-tech, self-cleaning public bathrooms

Geller believes the problem is a reflection of diminishing civic pride, combined with the lack of public washrooms.

Vancouver Coun. Sarah Kirby-Yung agrees more public washrooms could help alleviate public urination, and also assist the city’s homeless and senior population.

“We don’t have enough,” she said. “We do have a growing seniors’ population and when people are out and about and they need to go, they need to go.”

WATCH: (Aired Sept. 27, 2013) Dirty streets concern Vancouver business community

A handful of self-cleaning washrooms are scattered throughout the downtown core, but Kirby-Yung said more relief is needed.

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London and many other European cities are curbing street urination with cutting-edge pop-up toilets.

The UriLift, a self-cleaning retractable urinal, discreetly rises from the street late at night and disappears into the ground again at dawn.

READ MORE: Technical glitch makes self-cleaning public toilet near Papineau inaccessible

“I’d like to see Vancouver grow the use of technology and the number of public washrooms that we have,” Kirby-Yung said.

For now, Geller said it’s up to Vancouver residents to take care of their city.

“I actually feel a bit ashamed,” he said. “I’d like to see Vancouverites get their civic pride back.”

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