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Exeloo public restroom

The design of this Exeloo Jupiter Platinum Twin Toilet received strong criticism from St. Helena planning commissioners, who reluctantly approved it.

With great reluctance, the St. Helena Planning Commission has endorsed the design of a new “smart toilet” near Money Way – but not without withering criticism.

The City Council agreed in August to buy a modular Exeloo Jupiter Platinum Twin Toilet for $183,600. After years of trying to design a stick-built structure, bids came in at $500,000 and more, so the council agreed that the talking, self-cleaning Exeloo would be more economical.

Asked Tuesday to consider design review for the Exeloo, planning commissioners didn’t sugarcoat their opinions.

“This is a stinker,” said Commissioner Daniel Hale.

Commissioners also derided it as “pretty ugly” (Autumn Anderson), “a big outhouse” (Bobbi Monnette), “a shoebox with a lid” (John Ponte), “plain jane” (Ponte again) and “plain john” (Hale).

“But at this point I’d rather have a shoebox with a lid than nothing at all,” Ponte said.

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Acknowledging that the city has gone through a long process to get this far, the commission voted 3-1 to approve design review, with the recommendation that it be painted rather than “wrapped.” Hale cast the only dissenting vote, noting that other public restrooms have opened recently, including new ones at the St. Helena Chamber of Commerce and refurbished restrooms at Lyman Park.

“Number one, is it necessary?” Hale asked. “Number two, is this the best we can do?”

Public Works Director Erica Ahmann Smithies said the photos of the Exeloo received positive feedback during public workshops on the downtown streetscape. The Exeloos in downtown Napa have also won praise.

Ponte said the building can be painted according to whatever color palette the city chooses during its streetscape design process. Commissioners also said local artists or kids could participate.

The Exeloo will be installed in the city parking lot near Money Way. It will not eliminate any parking spaces.

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