San Francisco Supervisor Wants Pandemic Portable Toilets to Stay on Streets


SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) — Over three dozen portable toilets set up across San Francisco are at the center of an argument over what to do with them as the city moves out of the pandemic.

Using FEMA funding, San Francisco added 40 toilets to help with street sanitation. Now as the pandemic winds down, some are being relocated while others have been removed completely.

District 6 Supervisor Matt Haney is calling for them to stay.

“We see a decrease in complaints related to feces. People are using them. We count every use,” Haney told KPIX. “These bathrooms are staffed, so they’re safe, they’re clean, they’re accessible, they’re healthy and they work.”

Executive Director of the city’s Department of Emergency Management Mary Ellen Carroll says homeless encampments have decreased from a high of 66 in April 2020, leading some the toilets to be reallocated.

“Why did we move them? That’s why. We were trying to maximize a scarce resource during COVID and make sure those resources were where they were needed most and where the risk was the highest for the people there,” Carroll told KPIX.

Haney argued that the toilets don’t just help homeless people; tourists as well as delivery and taxi drivers also use them.

“It’s hard to put a dollar amount on someone being forced to relieve themselves on a sidewalk; the loss of taxes and business and tourism when we have filthy streets and sidewalks,” said Haney. “And the cost of these poop patrols that are going to do this reactively — rather than preventing it — is also high.”

Carroll said it’s one of the issues that needs to be looked at as the city moves past the COVID crisis and back into typical problems.

“It is important that we keep the streets safe for everyone and that includes sanitation. I don’t think this is going to go away. But I think as a city we need to think about what we need to do moving forward,” explained Carroll.

Supervisor Haney, who is the chair of the city budget committee, has called a hearing for Thursday morning. It will include the directors of Emergency Management and Public Works and aim to find out exactly where the removed bathrooms went.

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