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Religious Group Sues Over Open-Air Urinal At San Francisco's Dolores Park

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS / AP) — A religious organization has filed a lawsuit against the city of San Francisco to remove an open-air urinal it calls unsanitary and indecent from a popular park.

The Chinese Christian Union of San Francisco filed a civil complaint last week demanding the city remove the concrete circular urinal from the iconic Dolores Park.

The group and its legal representatives, Pacific Justice Institute, say the urinal, which is out in the open and screened only with plants for privacy, "emanates offensive odors," ''has no hand-washing facilities" and "it's offensive to manners and morals."

"It's just like a sex party," said the Pacific Justice Institute's Frank Lee. "You know they have a lot of places they can have a sex party, but not in a public park!"

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The lawsuit further alleges that the facility installed in February discriminates against women and the disabled and exposes those who use it to "shame and embarrassment."

"The open-air urination hole violates the privacy of those who need to use the restroom but would be required to expose their bodies and suffer shame and degradation of urinating in public view," it says.

Dr. Brad Dacus, President of the Pacific Justice Institute, said the open air urinal exposes those who use it to shame and embarrassment and discriminates against women and the disabled.

"This blatantly violates the Unruh Act, the Restoration act of 1973, and of course the American Disabilities Act," said Dr. Dacus.

Supervisor Scott Wiener disagreed with the statement.

"The claim that this discriminates on based on gender, disability doesn't make much sense to me because we have two beautiful restroom buildings in this same park that are accessible to everyone," said Wiener.

Wiener said it was Dolores Park neighbors who asked and approved the open air urinal to keep people from doing their business in public places.

"They would just pee in the bushes. Drop their pants -- men and women -- and go wherever," said park goer Chuck Louden. "The alternative is worse. The alternative is unsightly; it's unsanitary."

But not all park users agree this is the right solution to that problem.

"There's enough public toilets around. Put it somewhere where you don't have to watch people go for a pee," said park goer Gwen Jones. "I'm here to enjoy the park and better things than that."

The City Attorney's office said in a statement that it will defend against the litigation and pointed out the 16-acre park is well-known for its "counter culture, immodest sunbathers, pot brownie vendors, spectacular city views, and famously irreverent 'Hunky Jesus' contest."

The office said residents advocated for the facility, called a "pissoir" (pronounced piss-WAH), to stop people from urinating on walls, bushes and sidewalks.

"If I had to predict the top 100 things in Dolores Park likely to offend these plaintiffs, I wouldn't have guessed that this would make the cut," City Attorney spokesman Matt Dorsey said in the statement.

The urinal is part of a $20 million renovation plan that now has put more than two dozen toilets in Dolores Park along with other upgrades.

San Francisco has a long, sometimes creative, history of dealing with public urination. Last summer, the city painted nearly 30 walls with a repellant paint that makes urine spray back on the offender. In 2002, the city increased the possible fine for the crime up to $500, but that did little to deter the practice.

TM and © Copyright 2016 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2016 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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