Where should D.C. install new public restrooms? A new report offers many suggestions.
After D.C. lawmakers approved legislation paving the way for more public restrooms in the city, a newly released report indicates where those facilities could go.
The Public Restrooms Act, which the D.C. Council passed in April 2019, directs Mayor Muriel Bowser to create a pilot program that would establish two public toilets in high-need areas.
Ward 1 Councilmember Brianne Nadeau sponsored the bill. "Lack of access to public restrooms is an issue which affects many residents, but its effects are particularly felt by residents experiencing homeless and people with unique restroom needs such as pregnant women, people with disabilities and the elderly," Nadeau wrote in a statement at the time.
The report, which is required under the legislation, was submitted to D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson by the Department of General Services last week. It identifies potential locations recommended by D.C. police, Business Improvement Districts, ANCs, and Clean Teams funded by the city's Department of Small and Local Business Development.
Residents, police and government agencies made dozens of suggestions, but only six areas were identified by both agencies and other groups as prime locations for public bathrooms:
- 27th and K streets NW
- 3rd Street and Virginia Avenue SE
- Gallery Place
- Dupont Circle
- Union Station
- 17th Street and Benning Road NE
At least one location was identified based on evidence that it's already a popular location for public defecation or urination: A biohazard company contracted by the city's Department of Public Works reported that it made "multiple emergency visits" to 27th and K streets NW last summer, though it doesn't detail the nature of the emergencies (i.e. poop, pee, or other).
The city's Department of Human Services installed a temporary restroom there at the start of the pandemic, along with eight other locations frequented by people experiencing homelessness.
Other popular suggestions from the public include the Reeves Center at 14th and U streets NW; 8th and H streets NE; and Garfield Park near the I-695 overpass.
The report includes a map of additional potential sites, below. Blue dots represent places where DPW has performed emergency cleanings; purple dots represent other DPW sites served by its biohazard contractor; yellow dots represent temporary bathrooms set up by DHS; green dots are locations recommended by MPD; and pink dots show where the Department of Recreation plans to install standalone public restrooms in the future.
Many of the recommendations aren't based on hard data, the report notes. Complaints about public defecation and urination aren't specifically tracked by D.C.'s 311 service or the Metropolitan Police Department.
After the city distributed a public bathroom survey to ANCs, BIDs, and Clean Teams last year, more than 80% of respondents reported witnessing incidents of public defecation and/or urination at least once a year, the report says. Residents of Ward 6 reported the highest number of incidents. Residents of Ward 3 reported the lowest number and "indicated the desire to place public restrooms in other areas of the District, or near Metro stations," the report says.
The Public Restrooms Act also called for a new program providing financial incentives to businesses that open their restrooms to the public, but those funds were put on hold due to the pandemic.
After the mayor comes up with a name for the city's public restroom group — your suggestions are welcome, readers! — it will have to convene its initial meeting, then get to work establishing the public facilities pilot program.
This story is from DCist.com, the local news website of WAMU.