San Francisco

Controller's Office Proposes Six New 'Pit Stop' Public Restroom Locations

Earlier this fall, District 6 Supervisor Jane Kim pushed the Board of Supervisors to consider expanding the SF Pit Stop public restroom program citywide, and called upon the Controller's office to work with SF Public Works and Rec and Parks to devise a proposal. Yesterday, all three agencies appeared before the Board of Supervisors' Land Use and Transportation Committee with an update on the existing program, and new ideas on how and where to expand it.

Currently, the Pit Stop pilot program includes nine staffed public toilets located in the Tenderloin, Mid-Market, SoMa, Castro and Mission. Five of those locations are portable toilets staffed by attendants for six hours a day, five days a week; they're hauled in and out on trucks each day. The other four locations are permanent JCDecaux toilets that are staffed 12 hours a day, seven days a week.

SoMa would be the centerpiece of a Pit Stop expansion plan. According to data presented by the Controller's office, five of the six biggest opportunities for new staffed public toilets are located in SoMa, and the sixth is on Market. An expansion of hours for public restrooms citywide is also greatly needed.

To determine where new Pit Stop restrooms would make the largest impact, the Controller's office mapped all 274 publicly accessible restrooms in the city, including toilets maintained by the SF Public Library, Rec and Parks, the police and fire departments and other city departments. 

Screenshots: Controller's Office Geospatial Analysis of Accessibility to Public Toilets Report, Nov. 16, 2015

Under the assumption that people are willing to walk up to 0.2 miles to access a restroom, the department then mapped the vicinities covered by existing public toilets.

While the Pit Stop program is intended for both locals and tourists, representatives of the Controller's office said they wanted to narrow in on accessibility for homeless San Franciscans in particular. Therefore, they removed public toilets in fire and police departments, assuming that many homeless residents would not feel comfortable going to those locations to use the restroom.

With the remaining facilities, they created a new map of public toilet accessibility around the city, based on both the number of public restrooms available and the population density of the area.

Using this information, the Controller's office created a map of areas that would benefit from increased public restroom accessibility, and overlaid that map with 311 steam-cleaning requests and crime data to narrow in on specific vicinities that would greatly benefit from additional staffed public restrooms. Those six areas: Market between New Montgomery and Fremont, Third and Bryant, Sixth and Bryant, Ninth and Folsom, 13th and Folsom, and Ninth and Brannan.

While Public Works has taken a data-driven approach to locating Pit Stop restrooms since the first mobile toilets launched in 2014 in the Tenderloin, Supervisor Cohen and a number of public commenters urged the Public Works and the Controller's office to consider other locations as well, mainly Haight-Ashbury, Bayview's Third Street corridor and Polk Gulch.

Based on anecdotal evidence of urine and feces issues in the area, District 10 Supervisor Malia Cohen, as well as a Bayview resident, nominated Mendell Plaza as a potential new location. Representatives from the Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Council and Taking It To The Streets also shared their frustrations with ongoing excrement issues in their neighborhood, which has both a large tourist and homeless presence in need of facilities, and their attempts to bring the Pit Stop program to the area. 

All three agencies noted during their presentations that $60,000 committed by District 5 Supervisor London Breed will be used to staff the JCDecaux toilet at the corner of Stanyan and Waller streets. A representative from Taking It To The Streets also informed the committee that youth in their program are open to volunteering to staff Pit Stop locations.

As for the city center, a representative of the Lower Polk Community Benefit District informed the committee that the recently formed CBD has agreed to fund the staffing of the JCDecaux toilet in front of Sergeant John Macaulay Park, with hopes that data collected over the next year will support its future inclusion in the program.

Meanwhile, a Tenderloin resident urged the committee to extend the program's hours—a grievance that is supported by data. The analysis presented by the Controller's office reported that of 274 public restrooms around the city, only 78 are available to the public after midnight.

Supervisor Kim assured the public that feedback on the Pit Stop toilets' hours is not being taken lightly, and said she was delighted to see so much favorable interest in the program's expansion.

As for next steps, Supervisor Kim's office will be working with San Francisco Public Works, the Controller's office and Rec & Parks to devise a phased city-wide expansion plan. They'll potentially return to the Board of Supervisors in January, with a request for a supplemental budget to support new locations.

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