Portland Loo used with permission.

We are thrilled to report that on Tuesday, December 18 at 2:45 pm the DC Council passed Bill 22-0223, Public Restroom Facilities Installation & Promotion Act of 2018. This a major step forward in addressing the lack of publicly available restrooms in our downtown area.

Thank your councilmember!

What’s in Bill 22-0223?

Bill 22-0223 creates a DC Interagency Working Group that, with the participation of four non-profit organizations and an expert in urban planning, will determine the feasibility of two pilot programs.

One will propose locations and a design for a clean, safe stand-alone public restrooms available 24/7. The second will be a program that provides incentives to private businesses to open their restrooms to the public.

If successful, the latter will be the first time in the United States that this program will have been put in place. The original Community Toilet Scheme was first introduced in England, and it can serve as a model for other cities in the United States who wish to expand restroom access to the public by partnering with private businesses.

Bill 22-0223 invites the participation of Business Improvement Districts (BIDs), ANCs, and other community organizations in identifying areas in the District where clean, safe restrooms open to the public are needed. It also calls for a period for public comment once the sites for the two pilots are identified along with a vote from the ANCs where the pilots will be located. A BID will be selected to implement the pilot to provide incentives to businesses to open their restrooms to the public.

Anticipating a possible expansion of both programs, Bill 22-0223 contains rigorous tracking requirements including incidences and types of police reports at and near where the pilots are located and costs of installing, maintaining, policing, and repairing the public restroom facilities. With this information, after one year, the DC Council and government will decide whether to continue and/or expand one or both programs.

How this bill began

Four years ago, following a research-based approach, the People for Fairness Coalition launched its Downtown DC Public Restroom Initiative of which we are members. We decided to launch a campaign to raise consciousness of the need for clean, safe public restrooms in needed areas of DC; educate residents on why they are important and who benefits; and advocate for increasing the number of available public restrooms in needed areas of the District. A DC-based public relations firm provided assistance pro-bono to us as we prepared a presentation, which we delivered to Councilmember Brianne Nadeau in November 2016.

Nadeau directed her staff to prepare a bill that incorporated findings from our research on lessons learned and best practices of other cities in the US and elsewhere that have been successful in recent years in installing and maintaining clean, safe public restrooms.

On April 3, 2017 Bill 22-0223, Public Restroom Installation and Promotion Act of 2017, was co-introduced by Councilmembers David Grosso, Nadeau, Elissa Silverman, and Robert White. Bill 22-0223 was assigned to the Committee on Transportation & Environment followed by the Committee on Health.

The first hearing didn’t take place until January 2018, and then there was little movement in the Council for months, which made us worried that the bill would expire and need to be reintroduced in 2019. However, in the last few months both committee marked up the bill voted in favor of it, leading to its eventual passing today.

A lot of people and groups came out to support this bill

We would like to take this opportunity to thank Nadeau and her staff for both drafting the Bill and marshalling it along the approval process. Our thanks also to Councilmember Mary Cheh and her staff and Councilmember Vincent Gray for supporting Bill 22-0223 and for the hard work and thought put into improving its contents as it moved forward.

Along the way 13 ANCs in Wards 1, 2, 3, 5, and 8 sent resolutions to the DC Council supporting clean, safe public restrooms and Bill 22-0223. Beyond that, 24 organizations from a variety of sectors in DC sent a letter to the DC Council supporting Bill 22-0223; and over 2,000 individuals who signed petitions supporting clean, safe public restrooms and urging the DC Council to vote for Bill 22-0223 before the end of this year.

We also received a lot of positive media coverage: Channels 5, 7, and 9 reported on Bill 22-0223; the Kojo Nnamdi Show invited us to appear (twice), and the Behind the Mind Show of We Act Radio also brought us on. Finally, Street Sense wrote four articles on our work, and many other great articles came from The Current, Hill Rag, DC Line, WTOP, and Curbed DC for their reporting.

Finally, our sincere thanks to Greater Greater Washington for issuing two articles on our Initiative and Bill 22-0223 on September 4 and September 14, and for joining us in advocating for clean, safe public restrooms in DC by jointly issuing a petition in October urging the DC Council to vote on Bill 22-0223 and for issuing several calls to action.

We look forward to meeting with Mayor Bowser and her staff to share the research behind the bill, and are available to assist the working group that she will be forming in any way we can over the coming months.

Thank your councilmember!

Marcia Bernbaum, retired from a 20-year career in international development with the US Agency for International Development (USAID), is a proud member of the People for Fairness Coalition (PFFC). Since 2014 she has been Mentor and Advisor to PFFC's Downtown DC Public Restroom Initiative which advocates for clean, safe, public restrooms available for everyone in needed areas of Washington, DC. You can email her questions about the initiative at marcy@pffcdc.org.

George Olivar is a Buddhist Monk who came to DC in 2014 after spending 20 years in monasteries in Asia to study Buddhist texts in the Library of Congress. He unexpectedly found himself homeless because he couldn’t live on his social security. Now housed, George has been a member of PFFC for four years and is an active participant in PFFC's Downtown DC Public Restroom Initiative.

John McDermott is formerly homeless and now has his own apartment. He was a founder of the People for Fairness Coalition in 2008, where he has worked tirelessly on advocating for housing for the less fortunate. John believes that it is important that people know how critical it is for everyone to have ready access to a clean, safe public restroom when they need it.

Janet Sharp has been an activist since 2012 at the age of 65 when she started applying for housing and finding that the District doesn’t have enough housing for everyone and no clean safe public restrooms available 24/7 downtown. She been a member of PFFC for four years, and will continue to be involved in all issues that PFFC is working on.