Public restrooms are not easy to come by in the Tenderloin, but at least one half of this problem has a temporary solution in the form of the P Planter, a public urinal-garden-hand-washing station that has taken up residence on Ellis Street between Jones and Taylor in the heart of the neighborhood. The P Planter, as we've told you before, is part of a larger sanitation strategy being developed for the neighborhood by the Hyphae Design Lab and the North of Market/TL Community Benefits District. It treats all waste on-site in the planters and will be available for public use (by both men and women) for two weeks total as a test run for next year's launch of a full public toilet along the same, green lines.
In order to take the P Planter to the streets, the design team had to adapt the technology of the initial prototype (which has been operational in the nearby Tenderloin National Forest for several months) and meet a slew of regulatory requirements from the ADA (it is fully handicapped-accessible) and public agencies, including the MTA, DPW, and especially the Department of Public Health. "Working through permitting logistics is one of the main goals of the P Planter trial," says Hyphae Founding Principal Brent Bucknum. "Agencies will show up to meetings, but won't start to put the rubber to the road and figure out real policies and codes until you submit a real proposal."
Working through those issues "helped clear a bunch of huge hurdles that will make doing the full toilet much simpler," Bucknum explained. The trial gives the team an opportunity to "start a more formal dialogue with the community," test the green technology and durability of the design, and assess maintenance needs. Hyphae is working with across-the-street neighbors at "Youth With a Mission" for support collecting data to address this last issue, which will be one of the most important factors determining its success. Among other things, the trial has provided an answer to the question of what happens when no one is monitoring the facility. Apparently, it's not pretty. If you're eager to see, or try it out, for yourself head over there soon - the sun sets on the P Planter trial next Wednesday.
· Tenderloin Prepares to Take Eco-Toilets to the Street [Curbed SF]