Roving public bathrooms may hit the streets of downtown Miami as soon as August after the Miami Downtown Development Authority agreed Friday to accept $500,000 from Mayor Tomás Regalado.
The portable toilets, according to a DDA board vote, would be available to the general public, including shoppers and tourists. But the primary goal in rolling out restrooms downtown is to provide the area’s roughly 400 homeless more access to facilities and to reduce the instances of public urination and defecation.
“I will be branded forever as the potty mayor,” said Regalado. “That’s OK by me.”
The DDA began clamoring for public restrooms after learning about San Francisco’s Pit Stop program, which was credited for reducing sanitation problems in some neighborhoods. The Miami agency will have to seek competitive bids for the portable toilets, which according to one recent quote would cost $395,000 for two locations if they are available for six months and run day and night, seven days a week.
DDA Chairman Marc Sarnoff said he wants the toilets available no later than August. Alyce Robertson, the DDA’s executive director, told him the agency “will move as quickly as possible to make sure these bathrooms are out on the street as quickly as we can physically do that.”
Money for the toilets became available recently after administrators saw the city would have millions in surplus dollars by the end of the fiscal year and gave each elected official $1.5 million to spend on one-time capital projects. Previously, the DDA had hounded the Miami-Dade Homeless Trust to pay for the toilets.
But the Trust, which receives federal grants and millions in sales taxes to fund homeless programs, refused on the grounds that the problem was a downtown issue, not a homeless issue. The two agencies also have been at odds over the Trust’s unwillingness to pay for a new outdoor shelter program at Camillus House, where Miami police can refer homeless men and women to sleep on mats beneath a pavilion.
Though the toilets are paid for, the two sides remain at odds over the Camillus House program, which needs renewed funding to continue operating past this summer. On June 30, the DDA is organizing a crowd to travel to a meeting of the Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners to appeal to the county for money.