WHAT a nice welcome for Southern California's millions of summer visitors. As they made plans to take in tourist destinations like the Hollywood sign and Rodeo Drive, vacationers heard about a new landmark last week: Our famously filthy beach restrooms!
Step right up.
Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky raised a stink when he said he was receiving complaints about unsanitary public restrooms at county beaches. Officials said cleaning has been scaled back as a result of job cuts brought on by tighter budgets and the end of federal stimulus money.
In response, Supervisor Don Knabe claimed beach officials had logged no such complaints. But Knabe said beachgoers were expressing frustration that restrooms are locked until late morning, and he announced plans to add staffers "within 30 days" to get seven facilities working by 7 a.m.
This is a health issue, as Yaroslavsky pointed out. It's also an economic issue.
Tourism represents a huge chunk of the county's economy: More than 25 million tourist and business visitors spent $13 billion here in 2010. A forecast by the L.A. County Economic Development Corp. has "leisure and hospitality" accounting for nearly 400,000 jobs in 2011. That's more than any other private-sector industry.
None of this is news to localofficials.
In the same week the beach-restroom crisis came up, the Los Angeles City Council approved an expansion in the city's tourism-marketing effort, which has been puny compared with many of its rivals'. Los Angeles' new marketing plan will be funded by a hike from 14 percent to 15.5 percent in the bed tax for hotels with 50 or more rooms.
Polishing Los Angeles' image as a tourist lure sounds smart. But scrubbing the toilets would be a good first step.
Otherwise, this is a case of one unwashed hand not knowing what the other is doing.
With fun-seekers looking for relatively inexpensive ways to goof off in a down economy, the county's 25 miles of beaches draw 50 to 70 million users a year, many of whom need a bathroom now and then.
We hope that before would-be visitors get the wrong impression about Los Angeles, the county finds the $300,000 Yaroslavsky says it will take to restore the bathroom cleaning schedule.
If tourists believe they can't go here, they're going to go somewhere else.
A Los Angeles Daily News editorial. To read more editorials from the Daily News, go to www.dailynews.com/opinions.