For a year, the lights in many bathrooms in the Bay Area were on, with a few exceptions, to prevent a cascade of water from running through the faucet.
But now, a federal judge has thrown out that rule and ruled that bathrooms can be switched to LEDs, making them more effective.
The decision came in a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California against the city of San Jose, which owns and operates the San Jose Municipal Utility District.
In the lawsuit, the ACLU argued that a state law that allows cities to opt out of installing a flood light system was a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“This decision will protect the privacy of residents and visitors, and ensure that all San Jose residents are protected from harm caused by excessive water pressure,” said San Jose City Attorney Tom Ammiano in a statement.
In June, the San Francisco Municipal Utility Board voted 4-2 to approve the new lights, and the city’s Department of Public Works began installing them on June 29.
But last month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued a temporary restraining order barring the city from changing its rules.
The court ruled that the city had failed to adequately consider the ADA and that the water light program is in compliance with the law.
The case was brought by the ACLU, which challenged the law in the Ninth District Court of Appeal.
The Ninth Circuit ruled that while the law requires municipalities to install the water lights, they cannot force municipalities to do so.
In its ruling, the Ninth Court said the water-light program “does not violate the ADA.”
It also noted that the rules were set at the request of San José, which was not obligated to implement them.
“The District was authorized to enact a rule, not compel San Jose to implement it,” the ruling said.
“In this case, however, the District is not obligated by law to implement a rule.”
The decision is likely to reignite a battle over whether municipalities should be forced to comply with ADA rules that require cities to provide accessible bathrooms and shower facilities.
In 2014, the Supreme Court ruled in a landmark ruling that states are free to decide how to enforce ADA rules.