People living in, working in, and visiting European and Asian capitals take it for granted that, when they need to go, they will find a clean, safe, available public restrooms nearby.
This, unfortunately, is not the case in Washington, DC, our nation’s Capital. If you are in downtown DC and urgently have to go, you will have a hard time finding a public restroom nearby. Even if there is one, the hours are limited and there are no signs to tell you where it is located. Some private restaurants and food chains might let you in. However, increasingly they are limiting access to patrons. And, if you are walking in Washington DC late at night and urgently have to go, you may be in big trouble. Chances are you will have to walk a half-mile to a mile to find a clean, safe, restroom that is open; that is if you know where the few restrooms in DC open 24/7 are located.
The People for Fairness Coalition (PFC) -- established in April 2008 with the objective of finding housing for everyone in Washington DC through advocacy, outreach, and peer mentoring -- has taken up the challenge of ensuring that clean, safe public restrooms are available to everyone 24/7 in downtown areas of Washington DC.
Our overall strategy is to raise consciousness, educate on the problem, and build support through advocacy. To this end, our approach over the coming months is three-pronged: (1) obtain support and buy-in from two areas where we believe there is an immediate need for a public restroom -- the Dupont Circle area and along the K Street corridor between Farragut and Franklin Squares (this includes obtaining support from local ANCs, resident associations, churches, businessmen and business organizations) ; (2) obtain support from DC Council members; and (3) obtain the support of important associations representing businesses, consumers, and associations that represent the homeless, seniors, and individuals with disabilities.
Status of Standalone Public Restroom Pilot:
We understand that sometime in November the Working Group named by the Mayor will be submitting a report identifying the standalone public restroom to be used for the pilot along with one or two locations where it will be installed. Once reviewed and approved by the Mayor, the report will be issued for public comment, we anticipate sometime in December or January.
Status of Community Incentives Pilot
On October 14 the Mayor authorized DSLBD (Department of Small and Local Business Development) to assume responsibility for implementing the pilot. We anticipate that sometime in November DSLBD will be issuing the rules guiding its implementation for public comment..
The next step, once comments are incorporated, will be for DSLBD to enter into an agreement with a BID (Business Investment District) charged with identifying and entering into agreements with businesses within its boundaries that will receive incentives in return for making their restrooms available to the public.
Supporting documentation prepared by PFFC Downtown DC Public Restroom Initiative
On August 19 we delivered a PowerPoint presentation to the Working Group providing relevant information to be used in selecting the standalone restroom model and two possible locations for its installation.
On September 14 we delivered a PowerPoint presentation to the DC BID Council sharing with participating BIDs experiences in Great Britain implementing the Community Toilet Scheme, upon which the Community Incentives Pilot is based.