Restroom Mapping Team

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

Research Questions

  • How are restrooms dispersed throughout the region in terms of proximity to public facilities (e.g, library, park, transit stop)?
  • Where are public restroom facilities located in relation to marginalized, public restroom-reliant communities? Where are areas of restroom inequity (“sanitation deserts”)?
  • 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?

Why Focus on Permanent (Built) Restroom Facilities?


 Portable toilets can be here one day and gone the next. During public health crises, portable toilets and hand-washing stations are brought in, yet they disappear once the crisis is over. This creates an unhealthy cycle in which we are always reacting to, rather than preparing for, the next infectious disease outbreak. A focus on permanent facilities centers the need for permanent solutions.


Portable toilets are restrooms of last-resort, used predominantly by people with no other options — building a two-tiered system of restroom access for all. Within our current system of portable restrooms, there is no way of assessing how accessible these facilities are for people with physical disabilities. A study in Los Angeles found that only two of the portable restrooms 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.