Berkeley to consider placement of portable bathroom at homeless encampment

Emilia Bulfone/File

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About two months after the city installed a public bathroom near the First They Came for the Homeless encampment, Berkeley City Council will discuss establishing an additional portable bathroom on the encampment site.

City Council will discuss two recommendations regarding the portable bathroom at its regular Tuesday meeting. The first recommendation, proposed by the Berkeley Homeless Commission, requests that the city place the stall directly on the First They Came for the Homeless encampment on Adeline Street, while the second, proposed by Berkeley Health, Housing and Community services, advises against it.

On July 25, City Council approved the placement of a portable bathroom in a parking lot near Alcatraz Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Way, after requests from the nearby homeless encampment. The bathroom was placed in accordance with the “Neighborhood Public Toilet Policy,” which opens the bathroom to the general public.

Some members of the homeless community, however, expressed concern that the bathroom was too far from the encampment, and added that they wanted the bathroom to be used solely by the homeless community for hygienic purposes.

The first recommendation addresses these issues — it requests that the city place a portable bathroom directly on the First They Came for the Homeless encampment site. The recommendation also asks that the bathroom be solely for the homeless community’s “use and under their control to protect the health, hygiene and safety of their encampment.”


The second recommendation, however, argues that homeless encampments are located on public property and people not in the homeless community may be affected by it. The recommendation requests that the council adhere to the original Neighborhood Public Toilet Policy.

”Because encampments often reside on publicly-owned, publicly managed land, land-use decisions (such as permitting the placement of public toilets) potentially affect more constituents than just encampment residents, necessitating a transparent administrative process for all affected parties to weigh in,” the second recommendation said.

But Guy “Mike” Lee, a local homeless activist, said he believes it’s necessary to have a portable bathroom specifically for the encampment to ensure better sanitation.

“It is a public health concern,” Lee said.

Contact Adrianna Buenviaje at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @adriannaDC.