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Tenderloin Prepares to Take Eco-Toilets to the Street

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It's no secret that the Tenderloin has a serious sanitation (and accompanying PR) problem, and that solutions have been hard to come by. Happily, help is on the way in the form of the Pooplet, an ecological toilet/garden (its name riffs off the popular parklet program), which is getting ready to hit the streets of the TL early in 2014. Last year the North of Market/Tenderloin Community Benefits District approved a "Toilet Master Plan (PDF alert!)"—developed by the Hyphae Design Lab to tackle the issue of human waste head-on—and has since been working to develop a prototype incrementally, in part through the creation of the P Planter, a cheap and mobile urinal, that debuted at the SF Urban Prototyping Festival held at 5M last fall.

The P Planter—a urinal and sink, which uses biofilters (plants) to treat wastewater and decrease the stink-factor—has found a semi-permanent home in the Tenderloin National Forest on Ellis Street in the heart of the neighborhood. Hyphae's Brent Bucknum explains that the urinal is just "one tool in an urban eco-sanitation infrastructure toolbox we are creating" and is hard at work designing, fabricating, and of course permitting, a full-on toilet in preparation for a week-long test drive, provisionally located in two parking spaces across the street from GLIDE. All told, the Pooplet will cost about $180K and funding is being patched together with grants from the CBD, the city's Community Challenge Grant program and, as of this week, $80K from a Mayor's Office of Housing Block Grant.

The toilet includes sensors that trigger maintenance and for the pilot will use a monitoring and maintenance program led by SF Clean City. Word is that during half of the trial run, the toilet will be monitored but not maintained in order to give the team clear data on the worst-case scenario. Yikes. Neighbors have already begun to raise a stink about the project, but opposition will be hard-pressed to overpower the stench exuded from the unofficial toilets currently scattered through the streets. – Laura Tepper
· SF Considers Composting Toilets [Curbed SF]
· Tenderloin Toilet Master Plan [TLCBD/Hyphae]