On January 10, 2018 the Committee on Transportation & Environment, Chaired by Councilmember Mary Cheh, held a hearing on Bill 22-0223, Public Restroom Facilities Installation & Promotion Act of 2017 which was inspired by and whose content reflected lessons learned and best practices elsewhere identified by PFFCs DowntownDC Public Restroom Initiative.
Bill 22-0223 directs the DC government to establish a working group consisting of the Department of Public Works, DC Water, the Department of Transportation, the Department of General Services, the Department of Human Services, and the Department of Recreation to:
- Identify, with ANC & BID participation, up to 10 sites in areas of the District with limited access to public restroom facilities that are appropriate for installing a stand alone public restroom;
- Authorize the creation of a subsidy program for private entities to open their restrooms to the public.
Fourteen people, representing organizations or themselves, testified at the January 10 hearing.
Their testimonies touched on a wide arrange of topics:
- How the guidelines for identifying sites for stand-alone public restrooms and for selecting stand-along public restrooms reflect best practices from other cities in the US that have recently been successful in installing and maintaining clean, safe, available public restrooms.
- Availability of public restrooms, open during the day and 24/7, in downtown DC
- Trends among private facilities in closing their restrooms to the public.
- Options for clean, safe, available public restrooms: the Portland Loo, Automated Public Toilets, and the London Community Toilet Scheme.
- That the United Nations has declared that access to clean and safe water and sanitation is a “human right fundamental to the enjoyment of all human rights”.
- That access to clean, safe restrooms is critical for both personal and public health.
- That individuals who have high blood pressure and suffer from other diseases often will not take their medications, which have a diuretic effect, because they can’t rely on finding a restroom when they need it.
- Benefits to seniors and others who are restroom challenged to having ready access to clean, safe restrooms when they urgently have to go.
- Benefits to bikers, joggers, walkers of knowing that they have access to a clean, safe restroom.
- Challenges to DC’s some 20,000 million tourists a year when they need to go and can’t find a clean, safe restrooms
- Challenges parents with small children face when their children have to go and there is no where to go.
- That women who carry too much urine in their bladders run the risk of getting Urinary Track Infections (UTI) which can in some cases lead to kidney failure.
- The plight of the homeless who often suffer the indignity of having to urinate and defecate in public and in the process risk getting a fine, jail term, or both.
- Benefits to businesses of having clean, safe restrooms.