The city of San Francisco is reportedly being gifted a pre-fab public restroom to install at a small park in Noe Valley, saving the design and construction costs that helped jack up the price tag on the project to $1.7 million last year. And yet, it will still cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in permitting and environmental review.
How difficult is it to put a public toilet in a park? Well, in San Francisco, as we learned in October, it involves a phalanx of bureaucrats, a ridiculous amount of time, and $1.7 million in public funds. After the Chronicle's Heather Knight put a spotlight on this ridiculousness, the governor's office waded in and shamed San Francisco, saying that the state funds granted to the toilet project would be withheld until the city could bring the price tag way down. Prefab Warehouse Homes
Also, Assemblymember Matt Haney, who had procured the state funding in the first place, turned around and called for a probe into the cost estimate — and a former cost engineer for the ridiculously expensive Central Subway project told Mission Local that the $1.7 million price tag was "insane."
Enter a Nevada-based company called, simply, Public Restroom Company, whose CEO has decided to gift the city a modular, pre-fab model, just for the publicity. As ABC 7 notes, the city can't actually do business with any Nevada companies because it is one of the 22 states the city has blacklisted over their legislatures' official stances on abortion, LGBTQ+ rights, and voting rights. But Public Restroom Company CEO Chad Kaufman says he's happy to donate the $425,000 restroom model, which comes complete with sink on the exterior, and anti-microbial door handles.
"I just wanted to show why modular prefabrication solutions are cost effective and easier," Kaufman tells ABC 7, adding that the space inside the toilet will be small enough that it will discourage anyone trying to sleep in there.
Still, per ABC 7, the city's end of the price tag is still going to come in at $300,000, which seems kind of crazy given that installation of the prefabricated structure will only take a week.
Architecture and engineering fees alone were estimated at $300,000 in the original toilet proposal, but now the $300K is going to cover those as well as permits fees, staff time, ADA review, landscaping design, and "environmental review." According to Sarah Madland of the Recreation and Park Department, speaking to ABC 7, the project will still require all this and someone to "make sure everything works and fits together."
The total pricetag, if you add in the comped $425,000 toilet, is still $725,000, so, still insane.
Rec and Park tells ABC 7 that they now plan to use the remainder of the $1.7 million state grant, $1.3 million, to install public restrooms in other parks, starting with Precita Park in Bernal Heights.
Below are three of the "Playground Series" prefab models from Public Restroom Company that the city will get to choose from. We don't yet know which model will land in Noe Valley's Town Square.
It makes some sense that the country's primary hub of technology and social media, the San Francisco Bay Area, would be a font of meme fodder and a haven for the creators of viral memes. And indeed, it has been.
Adding to the tragic narrative about underpaid farmworkers and the socioeconomic situation underpinning Monday's shooting in Half Moon Bay, we now learn that the triggering dispute that occurred between the suspect and his supervisor was over $100.
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Jay C. Barmann is a fiction writer and web editor who's lived in San Francisco for 20+ years.
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