San Francisco is spending $1.7 million to build a single public toilet

Originally published at: San Francisco is spending $1.7 million to build a single public toilet | Boing Boing


waaay back in 2008 Seattle tried to enter the automated robo-toilet scene. (oh states-side city leaders beware of municipal ‘solutions’ that “work in Europe”) Here was the result (link)

Seattle’s $5 million automated public toilets sold for $12,000

Originally published August 16, 2008 at 12:00 am

Seattle’s $5 million, high-tech public toilets finally sold on eBay — to a Thurston County company that paid $12,000.

Seattle has officially washed its hands of the five self-cleaning toilets.

The toilets cost the city $5 million. They sold on eBay Thursday evening for $12,549.

one of several problems is that robo-toilets instantly become places to self-administer drugs and provide some privacy for the sex trade
(notice that at $5m for five toilets this sad deal is remarkable equivalent to SF’s $1.7m for one)


I got an old toilet in the yard with flowers growing out’a it, they can have it for free.


A big part of the “public outreach” is placating the local NIMBYs – the same ones who’ll be whinging “we told you so” when it falls into disrepair and becomes an attractive nuisance because there’s no money left to maintain it.


It’s Noe Valley, where all the well-off families with kids live. Maybe that’s why they get a public toilet? Little Johnny has to go now.


The original article is from National Review, so of course they’re looking for examples of Liberal Government Waste.


Meanwhile there are existing restrooms in several major BART stations (including Embarcadero station, effectively the city’s central transit hub) which have been closed to the public for over 20 years.


They always try these things out in affluent neighbourhoods where they’re not really needed and where there are bound to be objections, as opposed to places like the Tenderloin where the opposite is true.


You Are Right Taika Waititi GIF by IMDb


it will be subject to review under the California Environmental Quality Act

Maybe SF can also review the current environmental impact of not having public toilets.


Pretty sure every street corner and alley in SF is already a public toilet.


Seems a reasonable price, seeing as all the fixtures are gold-plated and you get to wipe your butt with Swan’s-Feathers


The problem facing public goods in this country is they usually end up highlighting disparities in living situations and how threadbare our social services are. They fall to disrepair because we don’t address underlying issues that lead to abuse or over use nor budget enough for maintenance.


How much of this is good process and how much of it is bad process? Sometimes subjecting stuff to reviews and standards is good. But the cynic in me (who’s still waiting for better housing and transit in the major city I’m living in) assumes this is mostly NIMBY/conservative BS to halt progress, muddy the waters, and eventually point blame to the left once public works fail.


Nobody who’s ever executed a reasonably-large equipment or infrastructure project will look at this with disdain. Executing projects of any kind, pretty much anywhere, is HARD — public sector or not.

There are a lot of things that don’t scale with quantity or size, so I wouldn’t be surprised if one public toilet is $1.7 million, 10 would be something like $2 million. But then I also wouldn’t be surprised that the budget was locked in by an accounting department or other bureaucratic body, such that it’s impossible to take advantage of any economies of scale.

I’ve also read somewhere that the reason mega- or gigaprojects routinely go over budget is because they would simply never be approved at all if the full cost were exhaustively detailed at the outset. So the MO for such projects is always to essentially be wildly optimistic and skinny the budget down to the lowest plausible number, even if nobody on the project team actually believes it can be executed for that amount.


While the headline may draw clicks, it’s kind of misleading.

San Francisco to Spend $1.7 Million to Build a new public structure on public land with 150 square feet of space, electrical, plumbing, heating, etc. Consistent with the public space and approved via the public review process for government spending.

That’s way less clickable and certainly creates a different mental image than a single gold plated toilet.

The article doesn’t breakdown how the budget is allocated to the line items, but it does call out lots of steps required for public review of what’s being done. Overhead that’s independent of the thing being built but required to build anything at all.

It’s like comparing take home pay to the fully loaded cost of employees. Yeah, the full cost is more, it’s not a surprise.

Having read San Francisco real estate stories here, $1.7M for 150sqft sounds about right though. :wink:


Nature’s call ain’t waiting on San Francisco values. :poop:


sure. so does every sheltered bus stop, every doorway alcove, and every alley. the same thing is also seen at every highway rest stop and it doesn’t stop us from having those.

it would be useful to have needle drops and exchanges - heck, let’s regulate prostitution and protect sex workers - but really i think those are completely separate issues

to me those complaints just seem like a way of stopping these sorts of projects. it doesn’t actually prevent the behavior


Hunh. Around here, City Council just says, “Looks OK to us, do it.” It’s against our cultural values to spend a lot of time & money on, umm, toilet stuff.

Almost all the BART restrooms have been reopened, the downtown ones have live attendants (several on duty at a time). Embarcadero is being worked on and will be opened next year. Civic Center, however, is not scheduled to be reopened.

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