Within the next three weeks, the California State Legislature will decide whether to place an unfunded mandate on every local public agency in the state, including special districts, to report information about their restrooms on their website to enable access for the homeless population. AB 1017 (Quirk-Silva), is currently awaiting action at the suspense hearing on Thursday, August 26 in the State Senate Appropriations Committee.
While the goal of ensuring all members of the public have a place “to go” rather than using streets, alleyways, walkways, and bushes is laudable, AB 1017 does not create a single additional bathroom for the public to use. Instead, this bill places a new burden on local public agencies, including those agencies located in the most remote areas of the state with little to no homeless population.
Specifically, AB 1017, known as the Right to Restrooms Act of 2021, will require every local public agency to:
- Complete an inventory of public restrooms owned and maintained by the agency, directly or by contract, that are available to the general population in its jurisdiction;
- Provide their report to the State Department of Public Health (CDPH) not later than July 1, 2022. The report shall include all of the following:
- A map of the locations of public restrooms available for use by the jurisdiction's general population;
- A list of the inventory of public restrooms available for use by the jurisdiction's general population, which shall include the hours of operation, basic maintenance practices, security presence, and any applicable use fee for each public restroom included in the inventory;
- Short-term and long-term strategies for ensuring general and homeless populations have adequate access to restrooms. Requires a local government to make its inventory available to agencies and service providers that work directly with homeless populations within the local government's jurisdiction.
- Make the restroom data in their inventories available to the public on their internet websites (if they have one), and to disseminate and make available the data in user friendly formats including paper pamphlet, downloadable portable document format (PDF), and the complete data in a binder, for individual, service provider, and local official use.
Once the reports are submitted, the State will compile the information into a single report and submit that report to the State Legislature.
Again, while the goal of providing the State’s growing homeless population with access to restrooms is laudable, the goal doesn’t appear to match the functions of the legislation and leaves numerous questions as to why all local public agencies should be mandated to comply with this legislation.
Below are a few of the known concerns with AB 1017 and CSDA would appreciate hearing your thoughts on this legislation as well:
- Applies to every special district whether they have paid staff or not, whether their community has a homeless population or not, whether they have publicly available restrooms or not.
- If a district does not have any publicly available restrooms they are still required to produce a report to the state, post that information on their website, create a PDF and other materials saying they don’t have any restrooms, and disseminate that information.
- Does not require a single new restroom to become available.
- Does not provide any funding for local agencies to comply with this new mandate.
- Is the expectation that when a homeless person needs to use the restroom they will search through the websites of their local city, county, and each special district in the surrounding areas to find restroom locations?
- This is a one-time mandate and will be out of date almost as soon as it is created. Unfortunately, as currently drafted the bill appears to require the information to remain on local agency websites in perpetuity.
- What happens if a restroom listed as available is closed when a member of the public shows up to use it.
If you have additional thoughts, concerns, or questions about this legislations CSDA would greatly appreciate hearing from you. Please email your comments to CSDA’s senior Legislative Representative, Dillon Gibbons, at Dillong@csda.net.#AdvocacyNews#FeatureNews#Mandates#TransparencyandAccountability