Public urination is bad enough. Spending taxpayer money to promote it is indefensible’
Just as America’s attention turns to California’s Bay Area for Super Bowl 50, the City by the Bay is offering open-air public urination stations – without doors or walls – where people can do their business within eyeshot of unsuspecting passersby.
San Francisco has spent $15,000 to build a semi-circular public urination wall, according to the Pacific Justice Institute.
“This is a new low even for San Francisco. It is also blatantly illegal,” PJI President Brad Dacus said in a statement. “The city has not even attempted to comply with its own ordinances, much less state or federal law. We intend to hold them accountable. Public urination is bad enough; spending taxpayer money to promote it is indefensible.”
PJI says some local residents have complained about the urination wall at the corner of Church and 20th Streets, which is positioned right next to a public park and public transit station.
The urination station appears to be a semicircular wire-mesh wall with a banner that provides minimal privacy. A drain is located in the center of the cement floor.
The facility is visible from the sidewalk, passing trains and multi-story housing.
PJI said it citizen “complaints have gone unheeded,” so it is sending a letter to city officials outlining legal concerns with its urination station.
The letter, addressed to Parks Department General Manager Phil Ginsburg, said, “The open-air urination hole violates the privacy of those who need to use the restroom but would be required to expose their bodies and suffer the shame and degradation of urinating in public view. Privacy is a fundamental right enumerated in the California Constitution.”
Further, “The courts have found the right to privacy to be contained in the penumbra of rights in the U.S. Constitution.”
The facility the city has created, the letter explains, is especially offensive to women and girls.
“Because of the unique way in which females urinate, when there is no standard toilet for which they can sit, they must lift their skirts or pull down their pants and undergarments and squat over the hole. This exposes the entire lower part of their bodies to the public.
“Indeed, whether a female faces the fence towards the train stop, turns her back to the fence, or squats sideways, she will be exposing much of her body to the public.”
In fact, the legal team told the city, because of restrictions on nudity, “Urinating in the hole at the present location is an act facially in contravention to the … law.”
If it’s intended only for men, and not women, then it violates non-discrimination laws, the letter notes.
Further, it falls short of legal requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the legal team noted, “Space does not permit a detailed discussion of how the open-air urinal falls short of the requirements under the plumbing code for public restrooms.”
And the public health could be endangered by the absence of sanitation options.
“The open-air place provided for urination is a public nuisance. It is inconsistent with community standards, illegal, and creates a public health risk.”
The San Francisco Observer reported that hefty $500 fines aren’t stopping people in the city from urinating in public.
“It has real consequences to the city’s infrastructure too – last year a streetlamp whose base was corroded by pee collapsed, narrowly missing a driver,” the Observer reported. “The epidemic got so bad that public works crews put pee-proof paint on walls throughout the city.”
The letter was sent to Mayor Edwin Mah Lee as well as members of the city’s board of supervisors and the city’s recreation and park commission.
Stay classy, San Francisco.