Sacramento City Council Looks to New Solutions for Homeless Restroom Issue

SACRAMENTO -- The Sacramento City Council will consider putting low maintenance restrooms at Cesar Chavez Park designed with the urban homeless in mind.

The restrooms at the city’s oldest park, where many civic events are held, were closed several years ago after they were continually damaged. Many other parks in the city have suffered the same fate.

But shutting the restrooms have caused other issues. The homeless now use bushes and storefronts to urinate or defecate.

"It’s a public health hazard, there’s no doubt about it,” said Sacramento City Councilman Jeff Harris.

Harris pushed for his "Pit Stop" toilets in 2016, portable flush toilets manned by attendants designed for the homeless to use. That program turned out to be too expensive, costing $175,000 over six months. But they saw over 20,000 uses without any damage, vandalism, drug use or sex in the units.

The city is considering installing Portland Loos, a stainless steel public restroom designed for the city of Portland for use by its homeless population. They are supposedly easy to clean, have anti-vandalism features and have see-through grates at the bottom and top of the small restrooms so they are not entirely private.

But they would be relatively inexpensive considering how much the city must pay for homeless clean-up activities.

The Sacramento Downtown Partnership, which represents 400 businesses in the area, does not want anything that might attract more homeless to the area. They say the Portland Loos were a failure in San Diego where they had to be removed at a big expense after they were vandalized.

The partnership sees the need for public restrooms but is urging the city to look at areas besides parks and says the best bet is to have attendants on hand.

Harris said he is not entirely convinced that the Portland Loos are the solution but says public restrooms in parks are a must for city residents.

"If it doesn’t work without attendants, the council is going to have to come up with the money to make it a workable proposition," Harris said.

A proposal will be considered by the city council in the coming weeks.

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