Restroom Mapping Team

Our team has developed a first-of-its-kind spatial database of all permanent restroom facilities in the San Diego region

Why Focus on Permanent (Built) Restroom Facilities?


Portable toilets can literally be here one day and gone the next. During public health crises, portable toilets and handwashing stations are brought in, yet once the crisis is over, they disappear. This dynamic goes against best practices for preventative public health interventions and creates an unhealthy cycle in which we are always reacting to, rather than preparing for, the next infectious disease outbreak. A focus on permanent structures centers the need for permanent solutions.


Our current reliance on portables means that practically, such facilities are designated restrooms of last-resort, utilized predominantly by people who have no other options. In this way, we’ve built a two-tiered system of restroom access for all. Further, within our current system of portable restrooms, there is no way of assessing how accessible these facilities are for people with physical disabilities. A similar study in Los Angeles found that only two of the portable resrooms in Skid Row were ADA-accessible.

Data Gaps

Prior to this research project, no comprehensive countywide list of all permanent public restroom facilities existed. However, for portable restrooms, relatively more information is publicly available – the City of San Diego and the County of San Diego maintain maps of portable restrooms and handwashing stations within their jurisdictions.

Our mapping team is now digging deeper into the data to explore the following dynamics and questions:

→ How are public restroom facilities distributed across our region in terms of facility type (e.g., library, park/museum, beach, transit stop)?

→ Where are public restroom facilities located in relation to marginalized, public restroom-reliant communities? Where are areas of restroom inequity (“sanitation deserts”) in our region?

→ What are the population pressures on public restrooms?

→ How can distance-based and time-based analyses of public restroom access help pinpoint areas of need?