A public restroom in Mission Bay on Nov. 1, 2021. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

This post originally appeared in the Dec. 13 Morning Report. Sign up for the daily newsletter here.

A new analysis by San Diego State researchers documents lacking public restroom access downtown and how it’s impacting the area’s growing unsheltered population.

The results: Research by SDSU’s Project for Sanitation Justice found less than half of the city’s permanent restroom facilities could be considered “truly open access” and that just two permanent facilities were available around the clock seven days a week.

Researchers’ survey of more than 50 unhoused residents revealed that half reported experiencing discrimination while trying to access a restroom and 44 percent described practicing open defecation on a typical day, a practice that fueled past public health crises.

“When we dig into reasons why people practice open defecation, nearly three quarters identify ‘no bathroom nearby/too far away’ as a reason, with others identifying ‘safety concerns’ and ‘too dark at night’ as other reasons,” the researchers wrote.  

It’s important to note: The city has long struggled over restroom access. Last year, Mayor Todd Gloria set a goal to have public restrooms within a five-minute walk of all areas downtown. Gloria has since acknowledged that even maintaining restrooms is a continuing challenge, which he blamed on us:

“I just need to ask folks to quit acting a fool in these bathrooms. I mean, it’s not just the homeless population. It’s everybody,” he said.

The writers of the Morning Report always act appropriately in public bathrooms. We don’t know about you.

A Gloria spokeswoman declined to comment on the SDSU report, but said the city is still working to achieve the target set last year.

Lisa Halverstadt

Lisa is a senior investigative reporter who digs into some of San Diego's biggest challenges including homelessness, city real estate debacles, the region's...

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