After failure of bond measure, Anchorage Assembly wants input from residents on public restrooms

After Anchorage voters flushed down a $5 million bond proposal for public restrooms earlier this year, the Assembly wants to find out why — and what sort of public bathroom facilities residents want to see built, if any.

The city’s online public survey and interactive map launched last week and will remain open through July 12.

Anchorage has just a few permanent public restrooms and relies largely on port-a-potties, most of which are only available during summer. Proposition 8 would have allowed the city to buy and install 10 or more Portland Loo-style modular public bathrooms. It failed during the April 2 regular city election with about 61% of voters against it.

The city had already planned to survey residents on the matter, and in February, ahead of the election, the Assembly hired local planning and public engagement consulting firm Huddle AK on a $49,490 contract to do the research.

While the bond failed, the city is still seeking input on public restrooms from residents, and asking for feedback on the bond too.

“What we hear is that people definitely need them. And so the questions really are, how do we meet the need, and in a way that makes sense for our community?” said Assembly Vice Chair Meg Zaletel, who sponsored the proposition along with Chair Christopher Constant and member Anna Brawley.

“We have a vast trail system and parks, and if you want people to be able to use those amenities, you need to embrace the realities of being human and that people will need restrooms,” Zaletel added.


Right now, the municipality has around 144 port-a-potties at about 110 locations, according to Huddle AK.

The survey asks residents to answer questions like whether the municipality needs permanent public restrooms, where they should be located, if the facilities should be open year-round and what problems would deter residents from using them.

On the interactive map, residents can mark locations where they think restrooms should go.

“We now have the opportunity to lay this groundwork, get some data and look at our options,” Zaletel said.

Huddle AK is also gathering information on the array of restroom possibilities, including locally made options, and what type of infrastructure would work best at different locations, she said.

The city could find ways other than a bond to fund public restrooms, she said.

“Hopefully, with the new (mayoral) administration, we will have a partner to explore these things,” she added.

Mayor-elect Suzanne LaFrance, the Assembly’s former chair, won the runoff election against incumbent Dave Bronson last month and takes office July 1.

During election debates, LaFrance indicated she believes the city should establish public restroom facilities of some kind. A spokesman for LaFrance on Thursday said she maintains that position.

The public restroom question became fodder for political attacks during the mayoral race, as Bronson bashed the Assembly and LaFrance over the bond, criticizing the costs. She left the Assembly in early 2023 and wasn’t involved with the proposal.

Several Assembly members had also balked at the costs in early discussions on the bond. Some Assembly members and residents voiced concerns that, given Anchorage’s homelessness crisis, the facilities could attract public safety problems, encourage homeless residents to camp nearby and quickly deteriorate.

Zaletel and other proponents said the burden to provide restrooms often unfairly falls on private businesses. City restroom facilities would help to alleviate public health and safety issues, reducing the amount of excrement in parks, trails and streets, by giving everyone — including homeless residents — reliable bathroom access, they said.

Asked why the bathroom bond failed, Zaletel said she believes that there wasn’t enough time to educate the public about it.

She also thought many voters were deterred by the expense of up to $500,000 each, missing that the estimate was an “up to” cost, and not the actual total cost for each one, she said. That was the highest-end cost estimate, while installation needs and true costs would vary by location and whether water and sewer utilities were already in place, she said.

“And I think people really got hung up on this term, ‘Portland Loo.’ They just stopped right there and didn’t really look at the word ‘style’ and that we were really open to a lot of solutions,” Zaletel said. The city had intended to examine multiple options, possibly using different styles depending on location, its supporters said.

Emily Goodykoontz

Emily Goodykoontz is a reporter covering Anchorage local government and general assignments. She previously covered breaking news at The Oregonian in Portland before joining ADN in 2020. Contact her at