As more Hepatitis A cases are reported, the San Diego County Grand Jury says the City of San Diego should come up with a comprehensive plan for additional bathrooms downtown and pay to keep and maintain new and existing facilities.
The 22-page report published Thursday also pointed out that four previous grand juries had reached similar conclusions: San Diego does a poor job of providing clean bathrooms.
Last year, the county grand jury reported that the city had no plan to establish, maintain and fund public restrooms.
“The lack of such facilities downtown and in contiguous areas affects not only homeless people in the city, but also visitors, residents and workers,” the report said.
The grand jury recommends, among other things, that the city develop permanent public restrooms with handwashing access in strategically determined locations, including East Village and Balboa Park.
He said both public and private spaces should be required to have permanent restrooms and the city should prevent permit developers from circumventing restroom requirements.
The jury also recommended that the city develop ways for the public to find and access public restrooms, such as online maps in English and Spanish that list up-to-date opening hours.
Future budgets and expenditures should include toilet-related costs, according to the report, and San Diego should seek best practices in other cities to incorporate effective siting, security, funding and staffing plans.
Adding more toilets downtown is not a new demand, especially among defenders and those living on the streets.
A recent upsurge in hepatitis A cases makes the report even more urgent, since liver infection is spread through the feces, blood and bodily fluids of infected people.
County public health officials say 29 hepatitis A infections have been reported so far This year. One person died and more than two dozen were hospitalized.
The disease does not appear to be spreading as quickly in this population as it did in 2017, when more than 500 people fell ill and 20 died.
At the time, health officials said it was one of the worst outbreaks the country had seen in decades.
The report acknowledges that Mayor Todd Gloria has announced plans to have public restrooms within a five-minute walk of downtown.
But he also said such a goal raises questions and highlights a lack of planning.
“While this may seem reasonable at first, further reflection raises questions including how the metric was determined, how many stalls are needed in this five-minute walk, and who assessed how far different people can walk in five minutes,” the report said.
“THE [grand jury] is aware that forming a group to examine any issue can be perceived as delaying “action”.
Jurors recommended that when San Diego develops future plans, officials work with the county and the Unified Port District of San Diego, as both agencies maintain public restrooms in the city’s downtown area.
Planning and implementation should also include input from business owners, university officials, community planning groups and advocates for homeless people, according to the report.
The findings are the result of 13 interviews with various public agencies and community partners.
The grand jury also reviewed letters to the city, previous grand jury findings, reports from the San Diego State University Health Justice Project, and complaints to the city.
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