How to Fix San Francisco’s Poop Problem
This originally appeared in the SF Examiner
Something stinks in San Francisco and, for once, I’m not talking about the fishy smell coming out of City Hall. We have a major problem that we honestly and truly shouldn’t have:
Our streets and sidewalks are covered in human excrement. Sorry to break it to you, that pile you saw on your way to work wasn’t from a German Shepard.
The cause of all this people poop is obvious; San Francisco has roughly 10,000 homeless people, and they have very few places to relieve themselves. This wasn’t always the case though. After 9/11, BART closed its restrooms. And since 2009, Phil Ginsburg, head of Rec and Park, has been doing his best to privatize our public parks, which includes closing the bathrooms. And to make matters even worse, nearly 50 percent of drop-in centers have been closed in the past decade, leaving even fewer places to poo.
While solving our city’s homelessness crisis is complicated, fixing its defecation disaster isn’t. With a city budget of billions of dollars, the Board of Supervisors and the mayor have it in their power to address this, but they haven’t. So I decided to make them feel the cramps themselves. Yesterday, a few friends and I went to the second floor of City Hall and put “Out of Order” signs on all the bathrooms. Inside the fold of each sign it laid out these facts:
— San Francisco has nearly 10,000 residents who are currently homeless, and everyday we welcome 134,231 tourists to wander around The City.
— To meet The City’s tourist and homeless bathroom demands, we need 500 bathrooms open 24 hours a day.
— The City currently has only 88 bathrooms that are open past 6 p.m. and only 28 that are open 24 hours.
— That leaves us 412 bathrooms short of what The City really needs.
And then it followed with: “Where would YOU go if you had no where to poop?” While I didn’t get to stick around and see their reactions, I hope at least it made them realize how easily they can solve this issue. Here’s what City Hall can do:
1. They can reopen, fix and maintain all the bathrooms that have been closed over the past 15 or so years. This includes Muni, BART stations and public parks.
2. Expand funding and support for programs like Lava Mae and Pit Stop. Lava Mae is a nonprofit that converts old muni buses into mobile bathroom/shower facilities for homeless people. Pit Stop is a publicly funded initiative that has set up pop-up bathrooms at three locations in San Francisco. A combination of public and private funding could help these programs and other similar ones flourish throughout The City.
3. Create a program where businesses get financial incentives (grants and tax rebates) for putting a “Free to Pee” sign in their windows and allowing the public to use their restrooms.
4. Build more restrooms. Portland has already done a great job of this with the Portland Loo. The Loo is cheaper than those gross green coin-operated toilets we have around town. Plus there’s no running water — no laundry or bathing in there — no mirrors to smash, bars at the top and bottom (so cops can see there’s only one pair of feet inside), and they have a graffiti-proof coating.
So there we go, I just solved San Francisco’s poop problem. You can thank me by donating to my mayoral campaign and/or signing up to volunteer. Yes really, I’m running for mayor.