Starting next month, the public restrooms at seven San Francisco parks will be staffed by attendants as part of a new program called Park Stop.
The program, announced by the Recreation and Parks Department this week, builds off of the success of SF Public Works' four-year-old Pit Stop program. Pit Stop provides restroom attendants at both permanent and mobile toileting facilities in high-traffic areas, as well as safe needle disposal and pet waste bags.
In partnership with the San Francisco Human Services Agency and nonprofit Hunters Point Family, Park Stop will place restroom attendants at Raymond Kimbell Playground, Dolores Park, Portsmouth Square, Rolph Playground, Potrero del Sol, Bayview Playground and Jackson Playground.
It will also add evening shift monitors at SoMa's Victoria Manalo Draves Park, which is currently staffed exclusively in the daytime by Pit Stop attendants. SF Public Works also has monitored restrooms at La Playa and Boat Playground.
Rec and Park chose the locations for the new program based on their number of 311 calls for maintenance, as well as the costs incurred for cleaning up vandalism, said spokesperson Tamara Aparton.
"We prioritized them, we put them where they were needed most," she told Hoodline. "We wanted to put them in a spot where they could make a difference, and where people could feel comfortable using the restrooms."
Aparton said Rec and Park officials were moved to implement their own restroom attendant program after seeing positive changes at the three city parks staffed with Pit Stop attendants.
Prior to the arrival of Pit Stop attendants, Rec and Park staff collected more than 100 syringes per week at the three parks, and cleaned up dozens of bio-waste incidents, Aparton said. That's now gone down to fewer than 15 syringes per week, alongside a notable reduction in illegal dumping.
The presence of Pit Stop staffers has also helped cut costs incurred due to vandalism, such as broken toilets and sinks, graffiti abatement and replacing plantings or trees damaged near restrooms. In fiscal year 2017-18 alone, vandalism at city parks totaled more than $600,000.
Aparton said the cost to run the Park Stop program is "pretty minimal," in part because the people who'll staff the restrooms are funded through state workfare programs.
Hunters Point Family, which supports at-risk youth and young adults in Bayview, was chosen for its experience with finding such workers; it's also provided employees to Pit Stop and other SF Public Works programs.
"Their presence makes the public feel welcome," Rec and Park general manager Phil Ginsburg said in a statement. "At the same time, it deters vandalism and petty crime."
Aparton said that Park Stop staffers are currently undergoing training, with the goal of staffing all the selected park restrooms by late February.
"We're doing this because we think that access to safe, clean public toilets all over the city is an equity issue and it's a justice issue," she said. "Everyone deserves access, including in our parks."