A dog waste station stands near a Pit Stop at Civic Center Plaza on Tuesday, July 2, 2019. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

District 6 supervisor takes on canine ‘poop problem’

San Francisco’s struggles with human poop in public places have made national headlines and inspired a poop patrol task force and a citizen reporting app called “SnapCrap.”

Now, problems with dog poop have prompted a city supervisor to call for more waste receptacles in his district.

Reports of feces have increased fivefold since 2011 to over 28,000 last year, according to data compiled by the transparency group Open the Books.

District 6 Supervisor Matt Haney agrees that the “poop problem” has gotten out of hand, but argues that, at least in his district, dogs and their owners — both housed and unhoused — are largely to blame. He’s put forward what he calls a “logical solution” to the issue: more receptacles throughout the Tenderloin, South of Market and Downtown neighborhoods, where he says thousands of dog owners live without access to designated dog parks.

“Dogs are everywhere. A lot of [Single Room Occupancy hotels] allow them. Residents walk them on the sidewalks because they don’t have places to go where they can gather with their dogs,” said Haney. “When you have lots of dogs, no parks and very few trash cans, not surprisingly you will see a lot of dog poop on sidewalks.”

Haney has secured $15,000 in next year’s budget, which he plans to allocate toward dog stations featuring compostable trash bags and a space for discarding the waste. At an estimated $150 a pop, Haney said the funding will pay for some 100 stations.

In April, Haney put forward a 10-point plan for a “clean and healthy Downtown San Francisco,” focused on addressing increasing amounts of needles, feces and trash in the area.

Haney said that while creating more dog parks in his district is a priority, he hopes that the dog stations will serve as an interim solution, along with an aggressive public information campaign aimed at educating dog owners on their uses.

“We need a direct strategy to deal with dog poop that pushes people to pick up after their dogs and provides them with bags and receptacles,” said Haney, adding that he is open to also exploring increased enforcement action if necessary. “Public Works and The City don’t take responsibility for proactively addressing dog poop right now. It’s all reactive.”

Public Works spokesperson Rachel Gordon acknowledged that “dog feces is a problem.”

The department is in the midst of rolling out its “Doo the Right Thing” initiative, which has “involved providing free dog waste bags to businesses in the Tenderloin and South of Market areas for distribution to dog owners/walkers,” Gordon said in an email to the San Francisco Examiner.

An initial order was made for 2,500 bags, and Public Works’ outreach and enforcement team launched the campaign in collaboration with local businesses last month, she said.

Gordon said that the department’s approach to poop — both human and dog waste — is “both proactive and reactive,” and that all waste is treated the same.

“Poop is poop and we want to get it cleaned up as quickly as possible. Our crews also will abate the problem during their regular cleaning rounds, not driven by 311 service requests,” said Gordon.

She noted that all Pit Stop locations — a public toilet program for humans — feature dog waste bag stations, where dog owners can also pick up the trash bags. Five Pit Stops are located in the Tenderloin, three in the South of Market, one in Lower Polk, one at Hallidie Plaza, one at Civic Center and one at UN Plaza.

“More than 3,000 public garbage cans across San Francisco where people can properly dispose of their dog’s waste. They also can toss it in their own black bins at home,” she said, but added that “there certainly is a need for people to pick up after their dogs.”

“Not only is it the law, but it’s the civically responsible thing to do as being a good neighbor,” she said.

About a dozen dog stations similar to those envisioned by Haney for District 6 are currently in the Lower Polk neighborhood. Funded entirely by the Lower Polk Community Benefit district and maintained by its community ambassadors, they have proven successful, according to Christian Martin, the CBD’s executive director.

Anecdotally, the CBD is “getting less complaints and we are seeing less feces,” said Martin, who added that The City should be responsible for poop control efforts on it’s streets.

“I think The City will pay one way or another — you can pay to prevent or you can pay ten times more to remove it. It’s a lot easier to empty a receptacle full of poop bags versus washing poop off the streets,” he said.

lwaxmann@sfexaminer.com

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A man walks his dog down the sidewalk at Leavenworth and Ellis streets in the Tenderloin on Tuesday, July 2, 2019. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

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