by Lauren Hoffarth, Project Manager, Health and Human Services
Public restrooms serve all members of the community and help make public spaces accessible to all. And like many U.S. cities, Philadelphia doesn’t have enough public restrooms.
The need for public restrooms in Philadelphia is currently being addressed with portable restrooms in key areas. The goal of the public restroom pilot is to provide a permanent option that is more attractive to a broad group of people – including families, tourists, businesses, and underserved individuals.
We selected the “Portland Loo” as the stand-alone restroom model for this pilot. The Portland Loo has been installed in over 20 cities, including Hoboken where Public Health staff visited to learn more about the operations of the Loo. The Portland Loo model is known for being durable, easy to clean, and having a crime prevention design features like graffiti-proof wall panels. The unit is ADA accessible, and it can fit a bicycle, a stroller, or two adults and a child.
The current Public Restroom Specialists working in Public Health’s Substance Use and Harm Reduction division, who are already cleaning the porta potties and engaging with folks who are accessing the restrooms, will support this pilot.
The City’s five-year budget includes funding for six units, each in a different neighborhood. A community engagement process is planned to give residents the opportunity to weigh in on locations and share any concerns. The City will update this page with updates on the pilot’s progress and future opportunities to get involved as the pilot expands.
Center City Updates
We are excited to share that Center City will be the first neighborhood for the pilot! Since January 2021, the City has engaged civic and community leaders, unhoused Philadelphians, businesses, and the general public to gather feedback, concerns, and recommendations for location, operations, and maintenance of a public restroom in Center City.
We held pop up events in both Love Park and at the Municipal Services Building to get feedback and used art activities facilitated by Mural Arts to engage people in a conversation about public restrooms.
We also created a survey to learn how people feel about the current porta-potties and how we can provide a better experience with the Portland Loo. Outreach to nearby civic groups, organizations, businesses, nearby people experiencing homelessness/ housing insecurity, five outdoor events, and circulation in a Philadelphia Inquirer Article led to 480 responses. We found that 89% of respondents envision a new permanent public restroom as a positive amenity. The results from the survey are summarized in a flyer.
The first Portland Loo will be located at the corner of 15th and Arch Streets, where the temporary porta potties have been located for more than a year. A community engagement process gave residents the opportunity to weigh in on locations and share any concerns.
The 15th and Arch location was analyzed to ensure it meets the technical constraints for Portland Loo installation including the size of the space available, ownership of the land, proximity to intersections and the curb, and connections to water, sewage, and electricity utilities. A separate site visit was done with disability rights advocates to ensure accessibility, in addition to meeting ADA requirements.
The Portland Loo has been ordered and is expected to be installed in 2023.
To respond to feedback, we will create and share an operations plan including:
- How often city staff will clean and stock the unit with supplies.
- Hours of operation that balance community needs and staff capacity.
- How the unit will be safe and accessible for all.
The City’s five-year budget funds six units in total, each installed in a different neighborhood outside Center City. There will be additional opportunities for engagement and input as the pilot expands in the future. You can check this page for updates or email firstname.lastname@example.org to stay connected.