San Francisco’s very costly toilet failure – Orange County Register

San Francisco’s very costly toilet failure – Orange County Register
San Francisco’s very costly toilet failure – Orange County Register

Whenever there’s a major problem confronting our state or one of its localities, officials blather about the lack of public money available to address the challenge.

Yet one small effort to address a major concern in San Francisco — the city’s lack of public toilets and a widely publicized human feces epidemic on many city streets — shows that money is rarely the reason for insufficient progress.

Eight years ago, city officials opened the Noe Valley Town Square, a neighborhood park that features a farmers’ market, playground and gathering spot for events.

The project was plumbed for a public bathroom, but, as The New York Times reported last month, the city ran out of cash and it never was built.

Fast forward to 2022, when the city secured $1.7 million in state funding to finally install a 150-square-foot bathroom and even planned a ribbon-cutting.

Sixteen months later there’s still no functioning toilet. According to the latest reports, the restroom is expected to open in April — and only after a private toilet company offered to donate a modular unit and an architecture and engineering firm agreed to do site work and pay workers on their own.

Even with donations, the restroom is expected to cost the public $725,000, although the project has been expanded to include another toilet or two after the governor intervened.

Typically, minor public-works projects don’t become news stories, but “Toiletgate” has garnered national attention because it is emblematic of San Francisco’s — and California’s — inability to perform even the most basic functions.

Per the Times: “If an army of more than 30,000 city employees with a $14 billion annual budget cannot build a simple bathroom in a reasonable way, what hope is there that San Francisco can solve its housing shortage and fentanyl crisis?”

That is indeed the $1.7-million question.

The answer is that the city can’t solve any of its problems, at least until it figures out how to streamline its approval and spending processes.

Without such reforms, simply spending more public money is the equivalent of flushing it down a (nonexistent) toilet.



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