San Francisco

Have You Seen the Metallic Pod in SF? It's a New Self-Cleaning Public Toilet

NBC Universal, Inc.

A new space-aged looking pod is the newest feature on San Francisco's Embarcadero. But it's not a new art piece, it's a new self-cleaning public toilet.

The ovular, metallic pod is a curiosity for San Francisco residents out on their morning jogs and walks.

“It's an interesting design, it will take some getting used to,” said a resident. 

It’s the first to be installed, but it's one of 25 that will eventually be replacing the city's older self-cleaning public toilets.      

The design replaces the green, art nouveau style self-cleaning toilets that have been part of the cityscape for the last 25 years.

The new public restrooms are designed to be modern and sleek, but they're also designed to withstand the challenges of an urban environment.

“Obviously they live on the street, and they do get graffiti on them and things like that so it's stainless steel that's easily cleanable. The texture you're seeing on it is defense against stickers,” said Tyler Krehlik of Smith Group Architects. 

Public restrooms became somewhat controversial in San Francisco this summer after word got out that San Francisco Rec and Park was about to get $1.7 million to build a restroom at Noe Valley's Town Square Park..

That state money was never delivered after a public outcry.

By contrast, the charge to San Francisco for 25 of the new toilet pods is nothing.

“The agreement is, we provide the equipment, including the ongoing maintenance and the services, for the next many years. But in exchange, we have the right to sell some advertising on some kiosks in the city,” said Francois Nion, of JCDecaux. 

JCDecaux has had this arrangement with San Francisco for the last 25 years and just renewed the deal.

Eventually, the kiosks where the company sells its advertising space will also be redesigned and replaced.

Along with the new toilets, the deal also includes attendants for some of the restrooms.

“Certain restrooms will be staffed to make sure that they stay feeling safe and comfortable, but they are widely used by visitors to San Francisco,” said Carla Short, interim director of SF Public Works.

In case anyone is wondering, there is also no charge to use the restrooms.

And according to the Department of Public Works, plenty of people use them.

The public potties log about 400,000 flushes a year.

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