Pricey toilets in S.F.: Water down the drain?

San Francisco park officials are considering purchasing new restrooms that are easier to keep clean — at a price tag of up to $400,000 each.

Keeping the 50 free-standing restrooms in The City’s parks clean and safe has been an ongoing challenge, said Recreation and Park Department General Manager Yomi Agunbiade at a meeting Monday with key City Hall officials. Efforts to remove vandalism such as graffiti or keep drug users out of the restroom buildings require constant monitoring, he said.

One new, prefabricated restroom purchased by The City — installed last summer in the Golden Gate Park Panhandle — is designed to prevent vandalism and misuse, he said. Park officials are looking to a proposed $185 million bond measure in 2008 to provide funds to replace some of the restrooms in parks throughout The City with the new restroom, priced between $350,000 and $400,000, which is easier to maintain and monitor, he said.

The Panhandle restroom — prefabricated and brought to San Francisco from Kentucky — is approximately 15 feet by 25 feet, with brown tile flooring, metal restroom doors and skylights, according to Recreation and Park spokeswoman Rose Dennis. The separate men’s and women’s facilities each have two stalls, one wheelchair accessible. The stalls have doors, but the restroom itself is open to view to outsiders — a design feature intended to discourage vandalism and drug use in the building, Dennis said.

One City Hall official, Jared Blumenfeld from the Department of the Environment, expressed concern about the cost of the buildings, which he compared with the price of some houses, and asked if The City had other options for keeping the restrooms clean.

The Neighborhood Parks Council, working with The City, has beenconducting an online survey about San Francisco’s park restrooms. One-half of the nearly 500 respondents to date said there was a Recreation and Park park or facility they avoided due to such restroom factors as availability, hygiene, safety and supplies. One-third of respondents said they didn’t feel safe using the restrooms.

Bernal Heights resident Brenda Perdue said that when you have a family, a restroom is essential, if not always a pleasurable experience.

“It’s no different than the rest, it’s still dirty,” she said of the Panhandle restroom. “It did have soap, so that was nice.”

Park restrooms are no respite

Nearly 500 San Franciscans who participated in a poll were asked to rate their “overall San Francisco Recreation and Park Department park and/or recreation facility restroom experience.”

25%: very unpleasant

36%: unpleasant

33%: acceptable

05%: good

01%: excellent

– Source: Neighborhood Parks Council, “Draft Report from Restroom Survey,” July 24, 2007

beslinger@examiner.com


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