San Francisco has announced plans to spend nearly four times the cost of a typical US home to construct a single water closet.
San Francisco’s local government expects to spend up to $1.7 million to build just one public toilet – hardly a drop in the bucket for a city that gets thousands of complaints annually of feces on its sidewalks – and the project will take an estimated three years to complete.
City leaders were scheduled to gather on Wednesday afternoon at Noe Valley Town Square to tout their success in obtaining state funding for the pricey toilet, according to a public notice for the event. The facility will reportedly be just 150 square feet in size and won’t be ready for use until 2025, if all goes according to plans.
As San Francisco Chronicle columnist Heather Knight explained, “Another public toilet in a city with very few of them is excellent. But the details of this particular flint? They’re mind-boggling, and sum up a lot of what’s wrong with our city government.”
California Assembly member Matt Haney, a Democrat from San Francisco, told Knight that he worked to obtain state funding after being told the estimated cost by the city’s Department of Recreation and Parks. “They told me $1.7 million, and I got $1.7 million. I had no choice in bringing home less bacon when it came to building a toilet.”
The estimated cost is equivalent to nearly four times the median price tag of a US home, according to the latest government housing data. San Francisco city officials noted in a statement that the figure includes not just construction, but also designing the bathroom, seeking public input and obtaining local and state permits.
The Civil Design Review Committee of the local Arts Commission will conduct a “multi-stage review” to ensure that the plans are of the highest quality and are “context-appropriate.” Knight added that the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, the city’s Recreation and Parks Committee, and state environmental regulators will also have to sign off on the toilet’s design. Union workers will build the facility. “While this is not the cheapest way to build, it reflects San Francisco values,” the city’s statement said.
San Francisco Mayor London Breed last December declared a state of emergency in the city’s Tenderloin neighborhood, just days after she announced a war on crime, drugs and public defecation. The city receives around 30,000 complaints annually of excrement in public places. A city program to provide portable public toilets in the most “impacted” neighborhoods was costing an estimated $28.50 per flush as of 2019, reflecting high maintenance and cleaning costs.