Hosing down sidewalks is almost a daily chore for merchants in Chinatown and Downtown Honolulu. The problem is a lack of restrooms for the large homeless population, but the city could be one step closer to a possible solution.
A new city report has come up with suggestions for stand-alone bathrooms and where to put them.
"In fact, they're so blasé they just do it in front of me," said Chu Lan Shubert-Kwock of the Chinatown Business & Community Association.
Shubert-Kwock represents 250 Chinatown merchants. Many say they've had enough.
"It drives business away and I think it's just unfair," said Shubert-Kwock.
The new city report not only pushes for stand-alone bathrooms, but presents four models from which city officials can choose.
There's the Amsterdam Urinal for men only and not very private; the rectangular Exeloo from Australia with stainless steel and vandal resistant; the box-like Euromodul from Germany with an automatic locking feature; the Portland Loo with louvers to discourage loitering.
The cost ranges from $100,000 to $1 million.
"That's a very small amount of money in terms of the entire city budget," said Shubert-Kwock.
The restroom at the Chinatown police substation is open 24 hours a day, but the report says users consistently show a lack of respect for the facility. That's why a sturdier stand-alone bathroom may be the answer for Chinatown and will require finding a location suitable for Chinatown merchants.
"Private property owners are really unwilling to have stand-alone restroom facilities next to their properties because they think it's really going to impact their business operations," said Honolulu City Councilwoman Carol Fukunaga.
"It's better than not having, so that's a very selfish way of talk," said Shubert-Kwock.
The city's report says there are already four possible locations with existing water and sewer lines; all of them within the hustle and bustle of Chinatown.
"I think if we approach this problem with a shared sense of community ownership and pride we can find a solution somehow," said Fukunaga.
The city is chasing a budget deficit of more than $46 million for the upcoming fiscal year, so it remains to be seen if restrooms in the Chinatown-Downtown area will be funded by the City Council.