Supervisors vote to extend Pit-Stop toilet program on Tenderloin streets

The streets of the Tenderloin are getting relief from human waste with a novel city program that has received much praise during the past six months.

Usage of portable airplane-style bathrooms in the neighborhood with on-site monitors at three of the most popular areas to defecate in public has only grown in popularity. Average daily toilet use has reached 167 uses per day.

On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors embraced the program, known as Tenderloin Pit-Stop, by approving spending $203,200 to keep it going until the end of June and expand it by one location to South of Market near Sixth Street. The program will cost The City a total of $353,200 for the fiscal year.

The expectation is that the mayor's budget submission, due June 1, would include funding for the curbside toilet effort to continue and possibly expand in the upcoming fiscal year.

Supervisor Jane Kim, who represents the Tenderloin, said at a previous hearing, “It's not something anyone can control. If you don't have a home or a business by which you can do this or a service program you're going to have to use the street. There is just no other option. No one wants to defecate in public.”

She added: “It's not just people who are homeless that are using the TL Pit-Stop. There is a shortage of public restrooms for anyone.”

The issue recently gained worldwide attention when news service Reuters reported on a Web developer's use of city data to create a “[Human] Wasteland” map illustrating concentrations of calls for cleaning up human waste.

But stamping out human feces on the streets of the Tenderloin is a conversation that has been going on for more than a decade. In 2011, the Tenderloin Community Benefits District provided approximately $1,300 monthly for a unisex bathroom for at least nine months inside a nonprofit's building at 140 Turk St. At that time, Dina Hilliard, then manager of the Tenderloin Community Benefits District, said, “I've been a resident for 12 years, and I just get tired of looking at poop.”

The Pit-Stop program is operated by the Department of Public Works. Average steam-cleaning requests in the area have declined from 27 per weekday to 15, suggesting the program is having a success in reducing public defecation. The bathrooms also provide safe syringe disposal. After five minutes, bathroom users receive a courtesy knock from bathroom attendants provided in partnership with the nonprofit San Francisco Clean City Coalition.

There are a few permanent JCDecaux public toilets in the area, but these have long been maligned as havens for drug users and dealers and typically avoided by others.

One of these JCDecaux toilets is near Sgt. John Macaulay Park. Some community members say the park is underutilized and to help increase its popularity, they want the bathroom removed and replaced with a Pit-Stop location.

The Pit-Stop toilets, two at each location, are brought in each night for servicing. They are placed out for use Tuesday through Friday between 2 and 9 p.m. at Ellis Street, between Taylor and Jones streets; Hyde Street, between Eddy and Turk streets; and Golden Gate Avenue, between Jones and Taylor streets.

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