San Francisco Was Going to Spend $1.7M on Single-Toilet Public Restroom

Although, that plan may be changing after uproar
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 20, 2022 2:00 AM CDT
Updated Oct 23, 2022 4:50 PM CDT
San Francisco Plan: Spend $1.7M on a One-Toilet Public Restroom
This is a stock photo. We have no idea what the toilet planned for Noe Valley Town Square was really going to look like. Maybe it's even fancier than this.   (Getty Images / Bet_Noire)

Ever since the Noe Valley Town Square opened in San Francisco in 2016, families have been urging the city to install a bathroom in the plaza. San Francisco says it's going to do just that. At a cost of $1.7 million. By 2025. The odd story surfaced courtesy of the San Francisco Chronicle, which ran a column Wednesday pointing out that the city's politicians planned to gather in the plaza Wednesday afternoon for a celebration of the 150-square-foot bathroom (which will hold just one single toilet), and revealing just how much the new public toilet would cost. In a follow-up article, the Chronicle soon reported the planned celebration had been canceled after Assembly Member Matt Haney, the lawmaker who secured the funding in the first place, read the column.

"When Rec and Park first told us the number, it sounded shockingly high to me, and I think your article has revealed that their process around this is broken and the number is inexplicable," Haney explained to the paper. (Haney had previously said, "They told me $1.7 million, and I got $1.7 million," a quote cited in the Chronicle's original column.) The Recreation and Parks Department and the Department of Public Works are working on the bathroom project together; the plumbing was already in place, having been there since the plaza was constructed. The departments initially said the cost to build in San Francisco is simply more expensive than anywhere else in the world, and has only gone up in recent years due to supply chain issues and the rising costs of ... everything.

They also said the quoted cost includes "planning, drawing, permits, reviews and public outreach," all of which also helps to explain the long timeline. But the departments also stressed that both the cost and the timeline are estimates, and in the follow-up article, a Rec and Parks spokesperson said the department will work to bring the cost estimate down and move the timeline up, possibly by using a prefabricated bathroom. Not surprisingly, the toilet already has its own Twitter account, and the reaction on the social network ranged from outrage to bafflement. But Yahoo News notes that San Francisco, which "is struggling with a troubling homelessness and public-defecation crisis," does in fact need more public toilets. (The city also recently had a controversy involving $20,000 trash cans.)

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