The city admits that there are not enough 24/7 toilets in the city center

SAN DIEGO – Monday’s vote was to approve the San Diego City Council’s joint response to the grand jury report titled “Public Restrooms in Downtown San Diego: Stop Kicking the Can down the road.” to approve.

“It’s a big class issue,” said Council President Sean Elo-Rivera. “This is a universal need and something we just have to get right.”

The city council acknowledged that the current number of 24-hour toilets in the city center is not enough. However, the city said the restrooms primarily served the homeless and believed there should be additional housing.

The grand jury filed the report on May 24, 2023, and the city is given a deadline of November 10, 2023 to submit a response to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Volunteers from the community form the grand jury and investigate certain facts.

The report contains eight findings and eight recommendations, to each of which the city expressed different reactions.

Overall, the city agreed that adequate public restrooms could help curb outbreaks of hepatitis A and COVID-19. The council did not agree that open, clean and safe public toilets were difficult to find. The council said it had since addressed the problem by setting up kiosks with information and creating a website to help people find toilets:

Some city leaders said they believe this report should also be handled by the county.

“I agree with the proposed responses to the grand jury’s findings and recommendations and, in particular, with the City’s proposal that a comprehensive plan and budget be reviewed and considered by San Diego County, as the county is the sole health and human services site.” Service agency,” Councilwoman Jennifer Campbell said before Monday’s vote.

The city has stated that the majority of people who use public restrooms are homeless people, but one person who spoke during public comment disagreed.

“I realize it is being pointed out that the majority of people who use the restrooms, especially the 24-hour restrooms, are unsheltered people, but as more and more late night events and venues pop up in San Diego “That’s not entirely true,” she said.

Findings from the grand jury report and cities’ responses to it:

  1. Current restroom facilities in downtown San Diego are inadequate to ensure 24-hour public access.
    • The city agreed that the current number of 24-hour restrooms is not enough. The city said it is “committed to addressing the core problem of homelessness by providing more housing options….”
  2. “There is no comprehensive plan for restroom placement or ensuring best practices for current and future restroom facilities in downtown San Diego.”
  3. “The city has not recently brought together partners such as academics, private business groups, community associations, or homeless/advocates to explore solutions to improve access to public restrooms.”
    • The city said it partially disagreed. “The City has continually worked with service providers, community stakeholders, other government agencies and academic institutions to establish temporary restrooms and develop permanent restrooms in downtown San Diego.”
  4. “Adequate public toilets can help contain outbreaks such as hepatitis A, Shigella and COVID-19.”
  5. “Open, clean and safe public restrooms are difficult to find throughout downtown San Diego.”
    • The city stated that it partially disagreed with this finding. It said it had city maps with information about public restrooms downtown, and it created a page on its website to allow people to find open restrooms:
  6. “The city encountered obstacles in implementing its 1987 policy to locate and promote public restrooms in certain types of downtown facilities.”
    • The city said it partially disagreed.
    • “Council Policy 800-07 states that the City will encourage non-residential developers to provide public restrooms in each project where appropriate.” The City said it has proposed additional incentives and recognizes there are limitations.
  7. “City policies and agreements must be followed and enforced to ensure accessible and appropriate public restrooms.”
  8. “The City has not conducted a comprehensive economic analysis of the costs of constructing, securing, and maintaining public restrooms, which would include current costs attributable to the lack of adequate restrooms (e.g., sidewalk cleaning, municipal code enforcement).”
    • The city said it partially disagreed. The city said it had information on the costs but had not conducted an analysis.

Below are recommendations from the report and suggested responses from the city:

  1. “Assemble a team of government officials that includes the county, the Port District, MTS, as well as homeless service providers, representatives of downtown residents and businesses, academic institutions, and concerned members of the public during the first half of fiscal year 2024,” a comprehensive plan and develop a budget for the siting, security, maintenance and financing of permanent public restrooms with handwashing access in downtown and adjacent areas of the City of San Diego.”
    • The city will not implement this recommendation because it is not justified.
  2. “Develop a cost tracking system for public restroom-related expenses, including contracts, maintenance, city staff, security and capital expenditures.”
    • The city said it had implemented this recommendation.
  3. “All agreements with developers in downtown and adjacent areas shall include and enforce policies consistent with relevant community plans and city policies, including City Policy 800-07, for siting and long-term safety and maintenance of public restrooms.”
    • The city said it had implemented this recommendation.
  4. “Examine public toilet programs in other U.S. cities and in other countries to provide best practices and lessons learned for planning and implementation in San Diego, including the introduction of new toilet designs and innovative technologies.”
    • The city said it has not implemented that recommendation but will do so in the future.
  5. “Develop or improve physical signage to alert the public to available restrooms….”
    • The city said this recommendation has already been implemented.
  6. “Improve the city restroom/handwashing facility signage system to direct the public to available restrooms….”
    • The city said it had implemented this recommendation.
  7. “Explore and create financial incentives or other innovative mechanisms for business owners to make their restroom facilities available to all people upon request.”
    • The city said this recommendation has already been implemented.
  8. “Explore mechanisms for funding public toilet infrastructure, including development impact fees.”
    • The city said this recommendation has already been implemented.

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