WEST HOLLYWOOD—On Monday, December 5, West Hollywood’s City Council unanimously passed an ordinance requiring all commercial businesses to have gender-neutral bathrooms. This ordinance will come into effect on January 1, 2023. 

The ordinance will only be applicable to multi-stall restrooms at new businesses or establishments with plans for major remodeling. According to the city, most of their small businesses already have gender-neutral restrooms. The ordinance will mostly impact larger businesses. There isn’t an exact estimate on how many businesses in West Hollywood might be affected by the ordinance. Businesses will be provided guidelines for the design and installations of the new restrooms.

One of the requirements would be for businesses to ensure that each bathroom stall be fully enclosed with floor-to-ceiling walls and locks.

During the meeting, City Council members discussed some of the public’s concerns about gender-neutral bathrooms. “Has anyone been assaulted or sexually assaulted in our current generation throughout the city?” Councilmember John Erickson asked Planning and Development Services Director John Keho. “I don’t recall ever hearing of a sexual assault in their multi-stall, gender-neutral bathrooms, for example, at Stache.”

“You are right,” Keho said. “Statistics show that the act of violence in these multi-stall gender-neutral bathrooms is extremely low and very rare.”

A public commenter came to the floor and stated the following:

“If we are expressing the concern for new businesses, why haven’t governmental buildings already installed gender-neutral bathrooms?” said Annie Jump Vincent noting that the City’s library doesn’t have these type of bathrooms installed yet.

“This is something we’re doing so all people can feel safe when they go into a restroom and for nonconforming people, for [the] transgender community this is an important move for us,” Mayor Lauren Meister said. 

According to a Harvard School of Public Health, transgender and non-binary teens face greater risk of sexual assault in schools that prevent them from using bathrooms or locker rooms consistent with their gender identity. 

In 2014, the City of West Hollywood was the first city in California to require that single-stall restrooms be designated gender-neutral/all gender. In 2016, the California State Legislature followed suit approving Assembly Bill (AB) 1732. On May 3, 2021, the City Council of the City of West Hollywood approved an item to direct staff to prepare an ordinance requiring that newly built places of public accommodation and those that undergo substantial renovations incorporate multi-stall gender-neutral bathrooms.