All new multi-stall restrooms in West Hollywood will be gender-neutral.
City Council voted unanimously Monday night to proceed with the plan, which would pertain to new developments and commercial leases, as well as major remodels. The city already requires single-stall restrooms in public and places of business to be gender-neutral.
So what is a gender-neutral multi-stall restroom, and how is it different from traditional Men’s/Women’s rooms?
Instead of two separate rooms with two sets of toilets and sinks, usually divided by partitions, the gender-neutral restroom features only single-stall toilets with full doors. Any person of any gender can use any of the stalls. Sinks stand outside in a semi-public space, not behind closed doors or enclosed like stalls, also available for use by all genders.
While all five councilmembers were enthusiastic about the agenda item, D’Amico and Councilmember Lauren Meister highlighted a couple of potential pitfalls.
Meister was concerned about funds that were just spent on new, split-gender restrooms at city facilities — and whether the new law would force them to rebuild. She also wondered whether the code would apply to restrooms with showers, such as those at gyms and pools.
They won’t, said Councilmember Sepi Shyne, who wrote the item along with Councilmember John Erickson.
She recalled her inspiration: a trip to the West Hollywood Rec Building and Auditorium, where she learned that the facility’s only single-stall restrooms were located on an entirely different floor than the multi-stall ones.
“It was a complete injustice,” she said.
She clarified that the law would only apply to future projects but was hopeful that city restrooms could be updated without much cost.
The councilmembers agreed West Hollywood should pave the way for gender-neutral restrooms across the state, asking city staff to include their lobbyists in the effort.
“This city is a place that can break that ground and make that happen,” D’Amico said.
But as an architect, he wondered whether the city’s laws would come into conflict with the California Building Code, which contains provisions about the ratio of men’s to women’s restrooms, thereby putting builders and plumbers in a precarious position.
“We’re potentially asking people with a license (to put) their professional lives at risk” by breaking the California code, he said.
Ben Galan with Planning & Development Services assuaged the concern somewhat, mentioning that statewide efforts to revamp the code are already in the works.
The council was ready to get to business in voting the item through, echoing the sentiment of public comment of WeHo resident Jordan David.
“Gender-nonconforming people are people,” he said. “They need to use the bathroom just like anyone else. And fuck anybody who’s against it.”