San Francisco is expected to begin operating a 24-hour public bathroom with attendants in the Tenderloin beginning this summer, Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru said Wednesday.
The three-month pilot program is planned for a toilet at Hyde Street at Golden Gate Avenue and comes at the urging of Supervisor Matt Haney, who represents the Tenderloin and made 24-hour public toilets a campaign promise.
“It’s a start,” Haney told the San Francisco Examiner. “We’ve been pushing hard for this and I’m glad they are finally agreeing to try it. I’d like to see them try it in multiple locations for a longer period of time.”
Public toilets are provided by Public Works through the popular Pit Stop program, which staffs either mobile or stationary facilities with attendants. There are currently 25 Pit Stop locations with varying hours.
But only the Pit Stop at Sixth and Jessie streets remains open until 10 p.m., and that is only on weekdays. Most close in the late afternoons or early evenings.
Nuru committed to testing out longer hours during the Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee’s review of Mayor London Breed’s $12 billion budget proposal Wednesday, when Haney asked him about the increased funding in the proposal for the Pit Stop program.
“We received from the Mayor’s Office $3.7 million towards the Pit Stop,” Nuru said. “What that will get us is seven new Pit Stops and it will give us extended hours in some of our existing Pit Stops.”
It’s not clear yet where new locations Pit Stops will be located or exactly what the expanded hours will be.
“Those seven locations, we have a list of areas and those lists are being determined by request for calls, request for service,” Nuru said. “Most of the Pit Stops that are going to be receiving extended hours are the ones located in the Tenderloin and they will go into the late hours of the night but not 24 hours.”
However, Nuru said, “We’ve heard people want the 24-hour service. We are going to try one and see, but just for a short period.”
The pilot will run for three months and Nuru told the Examiner he plans to start the pilot this summer. Details are still being worked out and it’s unclear how many days a week the toilet would remain operational 24 hours.
“Having a three-month trial, I think it’s worth it to give us some idea if it’s worth continuing to pursue,” Nuru said.
He said he picked the existing Pit Stop location at Hyde and Golden Gate since it is a well-used site, based on flushes. That site is open Monday through Friday 1:30pm to 8:30 p.m. and Saturday 9:30am to 4:30 p.m. In May, there were 1,816 total flushes at that site and 48,781 flushes across all Pit Stops.
Nuru said that they need to staff the toilet during the overnight hours with two people for safety reasons.
“We have concerns about the safety. We know we need two people,” Nuru said. “Whether two people justifies the numbers we get or not we will find that out.”
But despite political support for the idea, Nuru was skeptical the 24-hour service would be worth it.
“At 10 o’clock most people are already sleeping, and so we don’t think we will get that many flushes. But we will pilot one,” Nuru told Haney at the committee hearing. “We won’t get that much use,” he added.
Haney said he was concerned that Nuru “seems to already be declaring it to be unnecessary before the pilot even starts” and that he would like to see Public Works “do the outreach to make sure that people know these bathrooms are there and available.”
He still intends to introduce legislation that would require The City to provide all-hours bathroom access.
“It’s a basic human right, and it’ll also keep our streets healthier and cleaner,” he said.