Our Story

PHLUSH believes that toilet availability is a human right and that well-designed sanitation systems restore health to our cities, our waters and our soils. Here’s how we have put our commitment into practice since 2005.

How PHLUSH Began

For decades the lack of public restrooms had been a problem for business owners, employees, residents, and visitors in Portland’s Old Town Chinatown district. Located at the heart of the city, this is the place where Portland began. It was home to the historic skid road of a timber-dominated economy driven by workers from Oregon and around the world. By the late 20th century it would have two National Historic Districts and a dozen social service agencies serving Portland’s poorest citizens.

In early 2005
In early 2005

In early 2005, the Old Town Chinatown Neighborhood Association invited newly-elected Portland Mayor Tom Potter to visit the neighborhood. As a result of the ensuing dialogue, the neighborhood took on the challenges of engaging the issue of public toilets as a part of a collaborative process with the city. The PHLUSH initiative originated in mid 2005 when a small group of residents, business owners and staff of human services organizations stepped up to study the restroom problem and recommend ways to address it.

In February 2006

Following the PHLUSH report to the community in February 2006, Relief Works, a group of graduate students from Portland State University’s School of Urban Affairs and Planning joined PHLUSH efforts. They partnered with the Office of the Mayor to recommend formal policy and practice in their June 2006 report “Going Public! Strategies for Meeting Public Restroom Need in Portland’s Central City.”

In February 2006
In late 2006
In late 2006

In late 2006, City Council allocated funds to increase public restroom availability in Portland’s downtown core and Mayor Tom Potter appointed three PHLUSH co-founders to the Restroom Implementation Team. Working alongside specialists from Portland Parks and Recreation, Portland Office of Transportation, Portland Police Bureau, the Portland Business Alliance and others, we had the opportunity to follow through on several key recommendations.

The Restroom Implementation Team reopened a number of stalls and negotiated a 20-year city lease to open public facilities in a privately-owned parking structure. Toilet opening hours were standardised, new restroom signage put up and and distinctive bicycle racks designed and installed. Finally, the Team launched a community based design process which involved local community members, artists and planners. Community attitudes and preferences regarding facility design, safety and siting informed planning for the Portland Loo when additional funding became available.

 

PHLUSH restroom design work has continued, while we’ve pursued the new directions of ecological and emergency sanitation.

Rest


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