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San Diego leaders looking to lift state ban on 'pay toilets'

A new proposal could have people paying for some public restrooms in San Diego.

SAN DIEGO — The proposal coming from San Diego city leaders could overturn a nearly 50-year-old ban that prohibits cities from charging people for public restroom access.

Free access to public restrooms has been a law in California, but soon San Diegans could find themselves paying a quarter to use some public restrooms and not everyone is happy about it.

The city included a proposal in their list of this year's lobbying priorities in Sacramento, hoping to overturn the ban on pay toilets. 

“The conversation started actually at MTS, as a board member there–I wanted to increase access to restrooms for our transit riders. We heard repeatedly that that was important to them. We kept running into the barrier of operational cost,” said Council President Sean Elo Rivera, who is pushing for a possible amendment. 

For him, the goal is to increase access to public restrooms and the charge would cover the costs to install additional restrooms. 

“It’s about establishing a network, the need is more established downtown but not exclusively just in this area,” said Elo-Rivera.

However, homeless advocates criticize the idea and say it’s inhumane. They add that homeless people have already been grappling with the issues of not having enough public restrooms.

“It will improve the faster that there’s more out there. I'm not sure it's going to improve access for people who are homeless who won't be able to afford to get into the restroom,” said homeless advocate Michael McConnell.

In Downtown San Diego, there are only two public restrooms and several homeless people tell CBS 8 they are poorly maintained and stocked. 

“I would pop a squat in that restroom, where is the money going?” said Maria, who is unsheltered and lives near the MTS station in downtown.

Elo-Rivera says homeless people could be given special tokens to let them use the restrooms for free and will continue to support those in need. 

A new session of the state legislature just began, and as of right now this is just a proposal.

Legislation would still need to be written up and then work its way through a committee system before it would be considered by the assembly and senate.

WATCH RELATED: San Diego's homeless community struggles to find shelter from storms (Jan. 2023).


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