It turns out that David “Water Man” Ross was thinking about port-a-potties almost a decade before San Diego was struck by a deadly, human waste-fueled hepatitis A outbreak. Ross is known by several homeless residents for his regular deliveries of free snacks and bottled water and by 2011, Ross had installed portable toilets that were donated for homeless people to use. Due to complaints from people who lived around where the portable toilets were installed, officials placed additional restrictions on the toilets that eventually led to them being removed. Ross stated,
The city told me (the restrooms) had to go. No one said to me, ‘do we have an alternate plan to put these somewhere else?’ I don’t think anyone at the city knew, or cared, about the consequences.
Ironically, city crews have now returned to the site where Ross’ port-a-potties once stood, but this time with facemasks and chlorine-filled power washers meant to blast feces off the streets. San Diego has lost more 24-hour downtown public restrooms than it has added over several years leading up to the city’s ongoing hepatitis crisis. According to City spokeswoman Katie Keach, the city had added, and kept, a total of four downtown bathroom sites since 2010. Hopefully San Diego is able to add more port-a-potties for the growing homeless population to use, even if the port-a-potties are just temporary fixes.