Santa Monica strives to be a diverse and inclusive city. That’s what so many of us love about this community and why so many of us, the three of us included, chose to make Santa Monica our home. At Tuesday’s Council meeting, the Santa Monica City Council will have the opportunity to take an important step towards becoming a more diverse, inclusive, and equitable community by passing an ordinance to make newly constructed and renovated public restrooms gender neutral, as we are permitted to do through SB 1194, authored by our very own Senator Ben Allen and co-sponsored by the Cities of Santa Monica and West Hollywood.
Gender neutral restrooms provide a safer experience for trans and gender non-conforming people. The Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law found that 70% of trans respondents in surveys reported being denied access, verbally harassed, or physically assaulted in public restrooms. Gender neutral, multi-stall restrooms remove the stigma associated with using the perceived “wrong” restroom. Additionally, and just as importantly, gender neutral restrooms have significant accessibility benefits for disabled people, single parents with opposite sex children, caregivers of opposite sex individuals, and for cisgender women by reducing wait times and reducing the social isolation that can more readily exist in separate sex restrooms. Gender neutral restrooms are more cost effective for businesses than having multiple facilities with separate plumbing entry points, sinks, electrical, and design standards, not to mention separate supplies and additional janitorial labor hours.
We caution against repetition of tropes and misinformation that have been debunked for decades; several concerns recently expressed by community members in the press and on social media about gender neutral restrooms are red herrings. Research does not support concerns around safety and privacy issues. In fact, multiple studies from venerable research institutions have debunked these myths over the past decade. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) includes “use of multiple-occupant, gender-neutral restroom facilities with lockable single occupant stalls” as a best policy for restrooms. So, this isn’t an item that staff hasn’t thoughtfully thought out. This issue is so widely supported that SB 1194 passed the California State Legislature unanimously in both the Senate and Assembly; not even Republicans opposed Santa Monica’s co-sponsored legislation.
We urge the Council to approve this common-sense, widely supported ordinance and require gender neutral public restrooms in new and renovated buildings. We must continue the work towards becoming the inclusive community that we all know we can and should be.
Dan Hall, Natalya Zernitskaya, and Danny Ivanov are LGBTQ+ millennial leaders in Santa Monica. Dan and Natalya serve respectively as the Vice President of Political Action and Secretary of the Santa Monica Democratic Club. Danny serves as a Rent Control Board Commissioner and was a previous Vice President of the Santa Monica Democratic Club.