San Francisco

SF Officials, Residents Debate Whether Portable Toilets Should Stay on Streets

In San Francisco, talk about public toilets and street cleanliness often has people weighing in.

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In San Francisco, there has been a lot of discussion about access to toilets and what gets left behind on the streets.

Through the pandemic a program expanded, but one supervisor has questions about where things stand.

Joshua Luarte said pit stops were often the only option during COVID-19 closures. He thinks they’re key to keeping people from relieving themselves on the street.

“On the bushes and cars, I seen it all happen. So, I think they should put more bathrooms on the street," he said.

San Francisco Supervisor Matt Haney led a hearing on Thursday to talk about the issue.

"Part of the reason for this hearing is concern about the rapid elimination to some of the bathrooms we put out last year," he said.

At one point, there were more than 30 of portable toilets in San Francisco, now it’s down to a dozen.

“People rely on these people who are unhoused who have their own bathroom to go to and many other people in our community, people who are walking disabled,” he said.

City officials said there were a number of factors involved.

“We were able to reduce the number of encampments across the city as a result there was less of demand of a need," said Alaric Degrafinreid, acting director of San Francisco Department of Public Works.

The city said 66 large encampments are down to nine, as people moved into hotels and safe sleep sites.

As the city reopened, restroom access expanded. But cost is also a concern.

But some wondered if homeless visibility was a factor and there are many questions about the future.

“This is going to continue to be a need and we need to continue to have a strategy to keep bathrooms available to people who need them," Haney said.

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