City explains how Ala Moana’s new unisex restrooms will work

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KHON2 first told you about the city’s plans to convert some busy restrooms at Ala Moana Beach Park into a unisex comfort station last week.

Since then, we’ve gotten hundreds of comments on our website and Facebook page.

Most people seem to be confused. Some of the most common questions were how exactly does it work and, more importantly, is it going to be safe?

The city says unisex restrooms are new for Hawaii and will take some time to get used to. But they are happening, and officials promise they will be safer, more efficient and cheaper than current park restrooms.

“When folks get a better understanding of how it works, I think they’ll have a different opinion,” said Chris Dacus, executive assistant with the Department of Parks and Recreation.

Dacus is in charge of the design of the new unisex toilet stalls. They’re modeled off a design in San Diego that city officials there say has reduced crime.

“One of our biggest expenses in our park system is damages to comfort stations. It’s the only space within our parks where anyone can hide. We are eliminating all hiding places in this new design,” Dacus explained.

Hiding places like the common entry areas will be gone and sinks will be out in the open.

Each of the six individual stalls will have a toilet, and one will be wheelchair accessible.

The city worked with the Honolulu Police Department to make the unisex stalls safer than the current ones.

“It’s a safe design. All the doors face the parking lot where hundreds of people are wandering around, so it’s very visible,” Dacus said.

Each stall door will have a lock and a nine-inch gap under the door.

The city says there is a possibility that someone could take pictures under the door, but “the gap under the doors is not different from the old ones. The gap is the same. That possibility still exists, nothing changes with the new design,” Dacus pointed out.

Dacus says changing stalls will be eliminated because they pose “another possibility of things going awry, things being hidden.”

Dacus says the current restrooms are in desperate need of repair. The insides are dingy and rusty.

The new unisex stalls will cost about $490,000 to build, or 66 percent of the cost of existing comfort stations.

“It’s easier to maintain, more efficient, definitely more vandal-resistant. We should be able to maintain it with less resources and keep it cleaner than most comfort stations,” Dacus said.

Construction for the new unisex stalls will begin this year and is expected to be completed by summer 2016.

If they’re a success, the restrooms could be changed at other city parks as well.

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