New law allows SF gas stations to offer unisex bathrooms 

click to enlarge Legislation to change The City’s health code to allow gas stations to have unisex bathrooms came from a San Francisco State student. Supervisor Mark Farrell’s scholarship program helped spark the student’s idea.
  • Legislation to change The City’s health code to allow gas stations to have unisex bathrooms came from a San Francisco State student. Supervisor Mark Farrell’s scholarship program helped spark the student’s idea.

For the first time in nearly 30 years, gas stations in San Francisco will be allowed to provide unisex bathrooms for customers.

The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously approved an ordinance amending The City's health code to eliminate the requirement that gas stations provide separate toilet facilities for men and women, a law that began in 1986. It will take effect 30 days after Mayor Ed Lee signs the legislation.

The change to the law itself addresses topics such as gender identities, utilizing every available space and saving money for gas station owners. But the source of the ordinance is what makes it unique.

Last spring, San Francisco State University student Liana Derus introduced the idea as part of Supervisor Mark Farrell's scholarship program ReImagineSF, which encourages students peruse The City's legal code and to propose solutions to laws they consider outdated or ineffective.

Derus, 20, was one of two winners who received $1,000 scholarships, and her law was the first to be introduced to the Board of Supervisors for approval.

"I thought it was strange that it was an actual law that there have to be two restrooms," Derus said.

The college junior said the idea also came as she was helping to increase gender-neutral bathrooms in the Humanities Building at SFSU.

"We don't need to actually have a law that we actually need to separate gender restrooms," Derus added.

For Farrell, the health code amendment helps to solve the need to conserve space in an ever-growing San Francisco.

"We need to be practical with our space and not have arcane laws on the books," he said.

Farrell added that he is looking into launching another scholarship opportunity this spring to further engage students in The City's lawmaking process. Students can peruse existing laws on the nonprofit site www.sanfranciscocode.org and post comments.

"This is a great tool for residents to become engaged in San Francisco politics, but also a great tool for legislators like myself to solicit additional information and feedback from our residents," Farrell said.

About The Author

Laura Dudnick

Bio:
Laura Dudnick, a Bay Area native, covers education and planning for The San Francisco Examiner. She previously worked as a senior local editor for Patch.com, and as the San Mateo County bureau reporter and weekend editor for Bay City News Service.
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