ENCINITAS — The city will continue to provide portable restrooms at five locations citywide even after the county declared an end to the hepatitis A outbreak.
The City Council voted 4-1 to keep the portable toilets and hand-washing stations in place at a cost of $20,900 for the 2018-19 fiscal year.
Despite the end of the hepatitis A outbreak, city officials said the underlying cause of the outbreak — the city’s homeless population — is still present.
“The fact that the hep A outbreak happened is a symptom of people living on the streets, and that hasn’t changed,” Mayor Catherine Blakespear said. “I think it’s important that we have them.”
The council approved the expenditure as part of its discussions of the upcoming fiscal year budget. Without the vote, the portable restroom program would have sunset on June 30.
Mark Muir voted against the proposal. He said that he wanted the council to return with a more comprehensive program that included more aesthetically appealing portable toilets.
“I am more concerned about the plan’s costs and where is it going to be,” Muir said. “I would like to see a plan come back to address this in a different way.”
Councilman Tony Kranz said that he shared some of Muir’s concerns about the aesthetics, but said the concerns about combating the issues that led to the health crisis outweighed his concerns about the restrooms’ appearance.
Encinitas, in the wake of the county declaring a public health emergency on Sept. 1, 2017, installed the portable toilets and hand-washing stations in October 2017 at five locations: Swami’s Beach, Moonlight Beach, Encinitas Community and Senior Center, the City Hall lower parking lot and Leucadia Roadside Park.
Officials, however, relocated the fifth portable restroom across the street a month later, after residents complained that the restroom had created a homeless hangout and increases in smoking, drinking and littering in the small pocket park in the heart of Leucadia.
Since relocating it, city officials said the complaints have been kept to a minimum.
The hepatitis A outbreak killed 18 people and sickened nearly 500 others before the county ended the public health emergency in January 2018.