San Francisco’s (Poop) Problem

I do a lot of walking in San Francisco as a part of my fitness routine. The steep hills of the city make for a challenging workout and the spectacular views of the Bay make my long walks very enjoyable. However during certain portions of my treks I really have to watch my step because of…poop.  The excrement problem is not of the canine variety (there are strict laws prohibiting that). I’m talking about poop of the human kind.

For decades, feces on the streets and sidewalks has been a serious quality-of-life issue for San Francisco residents and visitors.  The problem is particularly bad in an area of the city known as the Tenderloin, where many homeless shelters and do-gooder organizations reach out to these people. The Tenderloin adjoins the world famous shopping and theatre district.

To address the matter San Francisco’s Department of Public Works spent thousands of dollars to create a poop map.  Seriously. For a month inspectors were sent out to specifically locate human excrement.  In addition to counting stools the survey found that most often people who defecated in public sought some sort of privacy, whether it was a fire exit doorway, alleyway or between parked cars.

Can you imagine working on this study?  More importantly would you honestly be able admit to your buddies that you were a human crap counter?

The map generated by the Department was eventually published in the San Francisco Chronicle, complete with exact locations and number of “incidents.”  Following the report the city rolled out three mobile poop units that they’ve now set up in the three most well used areas.

The units are known as “The Tenderloin Pit Stop.”

“We’re championing our residents’ right to clean streets and a safe place to do their business with dignity,” San Francisco Supervisor Jane Kim, told the Chronicle.

Problem is San Francisco has tried this idiotic plan before.  In the mid-1990s the city spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on self-cleaning public toilets that quickly ended up becoming private workplaces for prostitutes and drug dealers (as well as love shacks for those of various persuasions couldn’t wait to “get a room” as they say).

Of course these Pit Stops are pricey—about $50,000 apiece. Mounted on a fancy flatbed trailers they are solar powered, include two specially outfitted private stalls each with a toilet, sink, and a needle disposal bin.

By the way, the latter feature is not because so many of the homeless suffer from diabetes.

A non-judgmental attendant is present as well (likely making $20 per hour with benefits and pension), providing the occupants with a courtesy knock on the door after five minutes.  The doors lock from the inside, but the attendant has a key to open them from the outside if needed.

Adding to the absurdity is that clearly San Francisco’s poop research must indicate the homeless only do their big business between 2 and 9 p.m. Tuesday through Friday because those are the only hours of operation.


Brian Sussman

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