Obscure building code blocks bathroom access in Allegheny County
State Rep. Dan Frankel organizes coalition seeking to change regulations
PITTSBURGH, Sept. 21 – In an effort to make his district safer and more comfortable for all of those who live, work and visit in the area, state Rep. Dan Frankel, D-Allegheny, made an official request Monday for the Allegheny County Health Department to enact a change in a piece of the county’s obscure plumbing code to allow for inclusive bathroom access.
Frankel explained in a letter submitted within the public comment period on code changes that simply inserting language from the 2021 International Plumbing Code would allow businesses and other organizations to create a more inclusive environment for their customers, students and employees if they choose.
“I was surprised to learn that if even if it wished to, a business or organization is blocked from designating an all-gender restroom due to an oversight buried in the county’s plumbing code,” Frankel said.
In addition to submitting his own comment, Frankel reached out to universities, businesses, advocacy organizations and his own constituents to add their own support to call for a change in the code. Frankel hoped to spread the word that Pittsburgh’s businesses and organizations want the flexibility to provide safe and comfortable spaces for all.
“How many caretakers are afraid to take the adults and children they care for more than a few miles from their homes? How many transgender, elderly and disabled people see their access to the world shrink as they get more hesitant to use public restroom facilities that cannot fully accommodate them?” Frankel wrote.
The county health department is currently accepting comments on revisions to the plumbing code through the Sept. 25 deadline.
Frankel noted that Allegheny County has often been a leader in creating inclusive policies, and he was hopeful that the Health Department would recognize this policy change as an opportunity to make people safer and encourage economic activity.
“The county rightly bars discrimination against individuals on the basis of their gender identity or expression, but then also bars the owners of buildings – potentially, their employers -- from accommodating them. It’s time for Allegheny County to send a consistent message: that our community welcomes and accommodates everyone, because diversity benefits all of us.”
The call for public comments, including instructions for submission, is the second item listed on this county webpage.