Anchorage Assembly OKs public restroom, Chugach access ballot questions

the corner of the City Hall building
Anchorage City Hall on Dec. 8, 2020 (Jeff Chen/Alaska Public Media)

The Anchorage Assembly approved four ballot questions last week for local voters to decide in the April 2 municipal election.

That includes proposals to install durable public restrooms around the city, as well as the major rehabilitation of a road leading to a popular Chugach State Park trailhead. 

The public restroom question will ask Anchorage voters to approve borrowing up to $5 million to install what are called “Portland Loos” or similar restrooms across the city. Assembly members who are in favor anticipate the money will be enough to buy, transport, install and maintain at least 10 units for 20 years. 

The Portland Loo is a patented public restroom product that the Oregon city designed to be difficult to abuse and easy to maintain.

“Everyone poops,” said Assembly Vice Chair Meg Zaletel, one of the measure’s sponsors. “And $5 million gives us 10 opportunities to – at least – to be able to use the restroom, to be law-abiding residents and not go anywhere else, because frankly, Anchorage goes.” 

The state park question will ask voters who live in the Chugach State Park Access Service Area, which is essentially all of the Anchorage Bowl, to approve borrowing up to $4 million to pave and repair Upper Canyon Road. That leads to the popular and often crowded Sunnyside trailhead. If approved, the tax burden to repay the debt would fall only on residents of the newly created service area, which voters approved last year.

The Assembly significantly pared down the initial park access project list. Members were divided over who should carry the tax burden, whose input went into the project list, and whether improving park access should get priority over other long-standing projects awaiting funding.

Assembly member Zac Johnson represents South Anchorage and was one of the sponsors. He said he’s confident there is broad voter support because of high visit counts and because the service area concept passed 60-40 last year.

“Now, it didn’t include specific projects, but that is a pretty strong mandate, I think, from across the bowl,” Johnson said. “And they, I would say, resoundingly supported moving forward this.”

The Assembly also approved a ballot question for voters on up to $62.4 million in debt to pay for a package of renovation and repair projects at Anchorage schools.

And finally, the Assembly approved a ballot question asking voters to amend the city’s charter to make the chief medical officer position subject to Assembly confirmation. Some Assembly members think the position should be similar in this respect to the chiefs of the police and fire departments.

The Assembly has a Jan. 23 deadline to act on getting propositions on the ballot for the upcoming election. At its meeting that day, it plans to finalize several more ballot questions.

Ballots will be mailed and voting opens March 12. Voting closes April 2.

Jeremy Hsieh covers Anchorage with an emphasis on housing, homelessness, infrastructure and development. Reach him at or 907-550-8428. Read more about Jeremy here.

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