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SF pledges $8.6 million for more toilets

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Pit Stop program’s budget would double, but still only provide one facility for every 242 homeless residents

A green toilet kiosk in SF.
SF’s Pit Stop program sometimes uses permanent installations like JCDecaux kiosks or sometimes employs temporary facilities.
Photo by Mrkibble

San Francisco’s swelling homeless population—which broke 8,000 for the first time in the city’s most recent count in January—needs more bathrooms.

So much so that Mayor London Breed promised Thursday to add $11.9 million for city sanitation services, including $8.6 million specifically for the city’s Pit Stop program, which operates staffed public toilets in busy neighborhoods.

Breed, in the process of preparing a new proposed budget through 2021, said in Thursday’s announcement that she hopes “to not only increase street cleaning but keep San Francisco clean in the first place.”

According to a 2018-2020 budget proposal, “Pit Stops are public restrooms—installed either permanently or temporary portables—that are staffed by trained attendants. The attendants ensure that the restrooms are safe, clean, and not the site of criminal behavior. In turn, the restrooms are much more attractive for people to use.”

Launched in 2014 with three sites in the Tenderloin, the program now operates 25 locales in neighborhoods like SoMa, the Mission, and Mid-Market. (A 26th toilet for Ocean Beach is pending.)

Locations open as early as 7 a.m. and close as late as 8 p.m., but all of them have different schedules.

Of the proposed $11.9 million, $3.4 million will cover street cleaning, but the majority would go toward Pit Stop, with seven new locations promised.

That’s the equivalent of more than $1.2 million per toilet, but Mission Local estimated in 2018 that “a single Pit Stop can cost between $170,000 and $205,000 a year to operate”—up to $410,000 per toilet on a two-year budget.

The rest of the new funds would expand hours at existing locations, as well as add “80 new BigBelly trash cans throughout the city.”

Even with seven new locations that would still be just one Pit Stop for every 242 homeless residents that the city estimates live in San Francisco this year.

However, the proposed cash boost would be big for Pit Stop; the previous budget was $3.1 million per year. In 2015, the entire budget was just $1 million.

Demands to clean up stray poop on SF sidewalks have risen in recent years, with more than 28,000 calls to 311 in 2018 alone.

As Curbed SF noted in the past, city records do not distinguish—and very often Public Works doesn’t even know—which of these cleanups is the result of a human mishap and which are the product of inconsiderate dogs and other animals.

But it’s no secret that many people who live on San Francisco’s streets often find themselves with nowhere to go when nature calls.