March 14, 2013
Proposed Dolores Park pPod: A Pissoir To Manage Public Urination
Citing problems with public urination, the grand plan for the $13 million makeover of Mission Dolores Park now includes San Francisco's first pissoir, the "pPod," to be built at the southwestern corner of the park, between the Muni tracks and north-south pathway.
Everything you wanted to know about the design and use of the proposed pPod:
The pissoir would have a front and back semi-circle screen consisting of specialized wire fencing covered with vines a three-foot diameter concrete base and a sanitary drain with a fine mesh grate. A user would enter the pissoir from the existing north-south internal pathway and face the interior of the Park (click image above to enlarge).
Views of the pissoir user from the interior of the Park would be blocked by a seven-foot-tall vine covered screen facing the Muni tracks. Views of the user from the perimeter of the Park and public right-of-way near Church and 20th Streets would be partially hidden by a four-foot-tall partial back screen "to maintain modesty without creating hidden space."
The sanitary drain would include a one way valve that would pass urine and capture odor without flushing. Poles would be placed within the pissoir that would be "intended to prevent users from squatting and using the pissoir for defecation."
No word on whether opponents have yet decried the Amsterdamnation™ of San Francisco, so we're slapping a quick TM on it just in case.
First Published: March 14, 2013 2:00 PM
Comments from "Plugged In" Readers
That so called p-pod will become a cesspool, in many ways: dirty, filty in a few weeks, and attracting all sorts of trouble, if you know what I mean, at night.
Build regular, heavy duty public toilets for men and women like the kind you see along I-5 heading down thru the Central Valley.
Posted by: futurist at March 14, 2013 2:03 PM
They have something like this in Amsterdam that drains into the canal, don't they? I think the biggest issue here is putting these so close to the tracks. Seems putting highly intoxicated citizens in close proximity to train tracks is tempting Darwin a little too much for my liking.
Posted by: eddy at March 14, 2013 2:07 PM
futurist - if you look at the design of the pPod you will see that it addresses the "night trouble" that you're concerned about.
As for becoming dirty and filthy, well every pissoir I've used smells like urine. No surprise there. But then a lot of unattended restrooms tend to get defiled even worse.
It will get dirty and smelly from time to time but at least a pissoir is cheap and amenable to a quick power washing. Something that you can't do to the bushes currently serving this function.
Posted by: The Milkshake of Despair at March 14, 2013 2:19 PM
Seems like an ok idea. Although, why not a fully enclosed unit to house 2 people?
pissor or not, intoxicated or sober people will still be near active LRV tracks. Some of those people will get hit and some won't.
Posted by: RonMonster at March 14, 2013 2:47 PM
I live right across the street from this proposed 'pPod' and fear that this will cause a lot more problems down the road with odor, nudity, and the list can go on (none of it is positive). How do we avoid this from getting installed? I want to prevent my neighborhood from becoming like the tenderloin. Create more full functioning bathrooms no a workaround solution that will not work.
Posted by: Keep Dolores Park Safe and Clean at March 14, 2013 2:51 PM
This is a great idea! Being Open air it will be much nicer than nasty public bathrooms, and will be *FAR* better than the informal pissiors that folks currently use in that very area (i.e. the old muni stop below the bridge).
IF you dont build it, they will pee anyways.
also note: The ladies in this city have come up with some easy to use pee-funnels. You'll see them in line too.
Posted by: PeeFree at March 14, 2013 2:55 PM
Seems like a pretty good idea to me, solves (or at least improves) a real problem in an inexpensive and reasonable way.
Posted by: lyqwyd at March 14, 2013 3:01 PM
The very idea of a pissoir seems sexist.
Also, if a city is going to build this, wouldn't it have to be ADA compliant?
Not that I really care one way or the other, but this is the city that loves to bitch.
Posted by: joh at March 14, 2013 3:01 PM
Catering to the LCD is driving anyone with self-respect into the 'burbs. What's next? A tent city in Union Square?
Posted by: philipthemholes at March 14, 2013 3:01 PM
Knowing how my city rolls (no pun intended), how many months, days, minutes, seconds until the lawsuit requiring handicapped accessible P-Pods is filed?
Posted by: redseca2 at March 14, 2013 3:24 PM
"A tent city in Union Square?"
Yes, every year, courtesy of Oracle.
Posted by: redseca2 at March 14, 2013 3:26 PM
So many puritans. These are all over other developed western cities and are successful.
There are ADA and women's bathrooms in the park as well, so I cant see how that would be an issue. These are cheap and easy to maintain.
Men are biologically able to stand when they urinate, so they can either use a pissoir or go behind a tree.
My only questions is why only one?
Posted by: wc1 at March 14, 2013 3:38 PM
These work. Have any of you been to European cities like Amsterdam or London that have these in heavily trafficked areas? They are great!
I've always assumed that ADA or gender equity made these difficult to install. But it would be so much better for non-disabled men if these could be installed....
There really is no reason to think of them as contributing to problems. MUCH better than enclosed bathrooms, that way. Guys do their business and move on.
BTW, Europe has great temporary pissoirs for events, or even just for weekend nights in popular places. Another great idea.
Posted by: curmudgeon at March 14, 2013 3:41 PM
Ridiculous idea. Guess what? We're not Europe. We don't behave the same way, sorry to say. We seem to cater to the so called "freedoms" of every nut case on the planet. Let's not forget, by SF standards, they have their "rights" too. Just look at the legal challenges already filed by the wacko nudists.
The homeless will soon take this over; others who choose or like public sex will use this as a hookup site.
And no, I'm not being a puritan at all. Calling it like I see it.
Let men use the public restrooms within the park just like everyone else.
Posted by: futurist at March 14, 2013 3:45 PM
"The homeless will soon take this over"
What on earth does that mean? For what exactly?
To pee in?
It's an open-air stall with a grate in it that will be covered in urine.
Posted by: hmmm at March 14, 2013 4:16 PM
You don't think they will? They will end up camping with all their crap and their shopping carts in the bushes near this toilet. How convenient for them. Forget about the good citizens of this city.
Look what has happened to the Castro plaza; look at other public spaces and uses.
We have city leaders who canNOT solve our homeless, drug addicted problem that has been here for probably over 30 years now. They are too afraid to stop on their "rights" over the rights of most good people here.
This is why we can't have nice things.
I hope the neighbors fight this stupid little open air toilet. Useless.
Posted by: futurist at March 14, 2013 4:24 PM
Yes, the homeless will take over these new pissoirs. Just like they've taken over the sewers. We should have thought about that before we built them.
Posted by: kenz at March 14, 2013 4:29 PM
About time! These things should be built on every street corner. I'm tired of my street smelling like piss.
Posted by: Brad at March 14, 2013 4:35 PM
If an open-air pissoir was all it took to make homeless drug addicts set up camp, we could just put a dozen or so on a vacant lot in Visitacion Valley. Boom! Problem solved.
Posted by: kenz at March 14, 2013 4:40 PM
Wait a sec futurist. So a piece of public land will begin attracting homeless people after a pissoir is installed? Are they drawn in by the scent of urine or something?
That makes about as much sense as people seeking public sex in a stinky, slimy, tiny space built for one person. I'm no expert here, but aren't there more appealing places nearby for that sort of activity?
As for ADA compliance and objections about sexism this is exactly the opposition I was concerned about. Disabled folks should see this as a positive since it will decrease the demand for the nearby ADA compliant toilets.
Another way to address the objection would be to spend $X (both construction and maintenance) on disabled and female-friendly toilets nearby.
This is just a matter of efficiency. You can address the needs of 49% of the population with peanuts. The other 51% need facilities too. Those are more expensive and perhaps the money saved on pissoirs can be used there.
Posted by: The Milkshake of Despair at March 14, 2013 4:54 PM
futurist - what a killjoy!! YES they work! NO it won't be a cesspool! And the ones you mentioned off the freeway - LOTS of 'unsavory nighttime activity'...
Posted by: sfjohn at March 14, 2013 4:57 PM
I would love to be proved wrong. But I'm sure others feel as I do.
Another point: why this location for this toilet? Why not the other corners. It's almost like they are hiding it "in the bushes" because it's, shall we say, slightly unsavory. Which simply reinforces the lack of thought about this little toilet.
I hope the neighbors fight this one.
Posted by: futurist at March 14, 2013 5:03 PM
you seem to be fixated on 'unsavory' futurist.....
Posted by: sfjohn at March 14, 2013 5:20 PM
This thing would be easy to instal and remove if it became a problem.
Posted by: eddy at March 14, 2013 5:23 PM
Yep, one urinal should do it.
Posted by: sf at March 14, 2013 5:47 PM
I heart everything about this post. Also, I understand that residents close to the DP have higher rates of coronary and respiratory disease and death -- disassociated from their net worth. Or as J Avalos said about Hugo C, "SF like Venezuela takes great pleasure in killing off its golden geese."
Posted by: Stucco_Sux at March 14, 2013 10:45 PM
The Milkshake of Despair wrote:
That makes about as much sense as people seeking public sex in a stinky, slimy, tiny space built for one person. I'm no expert here, but aren't there more appealing places nearby for that sort of activity?
I'm no expert, either, but I'd say: yes, there are. But people who are fixated on getting high aren't picky. Maybe you know this and are being sarcastic.
Consider the french public toilet situation. From The Chronicle, way back, S.F.'s street toilets run from gamy to great:
When San Francisco's French-made JCDecaux street toilets are good, giggling tourists pose for photos next to them. When they're bad, prostitutes do tricks and junkies fix inside them, leaving a soup of condoms, needles and drops of blood on the wet floor.
A Chronicle spot-check of the city's 25 most famous public facilities found that most are plagued by social and mechanical ills.
…Sometimes a long wait wasn't as eye-popping as who was in line.
A prostitute and a middle-age man, both looking bedraggled, slipped into the toilet at U.N. Plaza on a recent afternoon and spent 12 minutes inside and noisily conducted business. Two homeless men stood outside waiting, shifting from foot to foot impatiently.
Afterward, the john skittered away and the prostitute paused outside to smooth her miniskirt.
"It's great for business, but the metal (floor) hurts my (bottom) when I'm pulling the trick," said the hooker, who laughed and walked away when she was asked her name.
Milkshake, if you've never had to deal with a person who thinks that life is just a series of opportunities to get high and that nothing else matters, then I'm glad for you.
Street light people. They orient their lives around getting high.
The fact that the place or fixture is an unappealing setting for coitus is not a deterrent to people who are high on smack or crack or ice or who are engaging in the activity in exchange for funds to pay for those substances.
So they can get high.
Posted by: Brahma (incensed renter) at March 14, 2013 11:12 PM
Posted by: BayGuy at March 14, 2013 11:36 PM
Brahma - Please click on the image above detailing the design of the pPod. There you will see that the only aspects it has in common with the notorious JC Deaux kiosk restrooms you reference is its color and cylindrical shape.
The differences are important. It is much smaller: barely enough to fit one person. Plus there's very little privacy. It does nothing to conceal illicit sex or drug use. But it provides enough cover to avoid exposure while urinating. Why would anyone use this thing for anything but its purpose?
And as eddy points out it is low cost and can be removed if it causes a problem. A low cost experiment.
Posted by: The Milkshake of Despair at March 14, 2013 11:38 PM
You're always taking a big risk when you try to introduce something in America that works well in a civilized country.
Posted by: formidable doer of the nasty at March 15, 2013 7:57 AM
On the upside, if there's only one in the City (country?), it'll become a tourist attraction. Conveniently located near the street for the tour bus operators to point out.
Posted by: BobN at March 15, 2013 8:52 AM
I'm all for the pissoir, but I'd be even more for a Portland Loo (see name link), which from what I've read are considered to be a good solution to the problem.
Posted by: FreeWill at March 15, 2013 11:26 AM
Oh, I'll concede that in theory, it's a low cost experiment and can be removed if the street light people start using it as a location for their assignations. For that reason I won't cheer quite as loudly as futurist for this installation to be prevented by neighbor political pressure.
But when you ask ask rhetorically "why would anyone use this thing for anything but its purpose?", you're assuming rationality on the part of the people who will abuse it.
Simply put, drug addicts are not rational. They will have public sex in a stinky, slimy, tiny spaces if it affords them another opportunity to get high. That was the point of reminding us of what happened with the kiosk street toilets.
Your point about the physical size constraints is taken, however I think drug addicts are amazingly inventive and we'll just have to see what develops. I'm trying to remember once instance where a planner has presented a past approved project feature to the commission and said "initiative X has been in use for Y years, and we think that's long enough to draw the conclusion that it's an experiment that failed" and then called for its removal.
Not coming up with anything off the top of my head.
Posted by: Brahma (incensed renter) at March 15, 2013 12:21 PM
Brahma - yes time will tell. As for nuisance goes I'd expect graffiti and vandalism in general to be a bigger issue since just about any permanent object installed seems to become a canvas. But there really isn't much else one can do standing in a 36" diameter circle that cannot be done more comfortably elsewhere.
formidable doer of the nasty - thanks for the laugh. Just imagine what would happen if one of those flimsy beer vending machines you find in Japan were installed in just about any location in the USA.
Posted by: The Milkshake of Despair at March 15, 2013 12:52 PM
I'll essentially stick by what I said. This public toilet is a bad idea,for all the reasons I mentioned (as my opinion).
But it's even worse for the planners to attempt to "hide" it in the bushes. What does that really say about the function and the location selected? Yes, it's slightly more hidden here than it would be at 19th and Dolores or other corners: does that imply it really is sort of a bad idea, but let's do our best to hide it?
Posted by: futurist at March 15, 2013 1:05 PM
This is an unobtrusive and inexpensive way to try to deal with a universal function. Now we just need a squat pissoir for the ladies. http://www.worldplumbinginfo.com/article/we-know-squat-about-female-urinals?page=0,1
Posted by: Dan at March 15, 2013 1:14 PM
People are going to piss, shoot up, and have sex in the bushes with or without this pPod. Shouldn't we at least try to make them piss in a hole and be blocked from view? Wouldn't that be an improvement? I don't understand the objections.
Posted by: R at March 15, 2013 1:22 PM
Aren't the BART/MUNI escalators and elevators enough for public urination and defecation?
Posted by: Mark at March 15, 2013 1:27 PM
To summarize: Don't building anything because people will pee, poop, or have sex on it.
That is the ultimate NIMBY. They're just installing a drain and some modesty screening, nothing more.
Posted by: Jeremy at March 15, 2013 3:49 PM
Yeah, the objections seem completely unfounded. People are already doing all the things that are being complained about, the only difference is that the peeing can be done in a place with a drain.
It seems unlikely that anybody is going to prefer to have sex or shoot up in a location that has urine over a location that doesn't have urine, and for the rare weirdo that does, they would be doing it in public anyway.
There is no downside to the pPod, it will not encourage anything except a bit higher level of sanitation and hygiene.
Posted by: lyqwyd at March 15, 2013 4:06 PM
This one is located near Gay Beach, but there needs to be one near the soccer field too. What about the women? Pervs perch on that far sidewalk just to catch women peeing. It is a lovely cultural study while walking my dogs past pretty plantings and pervs.
Posted by: Marten at March 15, 2013 6:03 PM
What seems to have gotten lost amidst the furore over the pPod and imagined social catastrophes is that there will be two new proper restrooms located further down in the park:
"a 12-foot-tall, 1,250-square-foot restroom located adjacent to the southeastern side of the existing playground; a 13-foot-tall, 1,270-square-foot restroom and 1,013-square-foot paved plaza located near the reconfigured athletic courts"
So yes, there will be plenty of old-fashioned places for people to pee in the new park.
Posted by: Kenz at March 16, 2013 2:37 PM
Exactly. Then why is this p-pod monster needed at all?
Posted by: futurist at March 16, 2013 3:19 PM
Pervs perch on the sidewalk just to catch women peeing.
Are the women peeing in the bushes or something? Why don't they use the public restroom?
Posted by: NoeValleyJim at March 16, 2013 5:06 PM
If one looks at the first image, I would be curious if parents with children would be comfortable passing by while someone was using this. The first view seems to show that a user would have no privacy from the sides. Are we supposed to wait till the bushes reach five feet tall?
The whole thing seems to make me wonder if we are not sliding backwards as a so called "world class" city. After just returning from a conference in Denmark, it is astonishing to see San Francisco with fresh eyes and behold how dirty and poorly landscaped most of the city is.
Posted by: AnonInMarina at March 16, 2013 6:54 PM
There are pissoirs in Amsterdam that have even less privacy:
People there use them all the time. The first time I used one I felt kind of "exposed" but quickly got used to it. As a parent, I don't think I would have any problem with it as long as the person was just attending to business.
Posted by: NoeValleyJim at March 17, 2013 10:07 AM
AnoninMarina: There will be sufficient privacy so that genitalia will not be easily visible, so parents need not fear that their children might witness urination. Anyway, parents take children to locker rooms and restrooms without excessive psychological trauma.
Re: Denmark, they have pissoirs there, so I don't get your point.
Posted by: Dan at March 17, 2013 12:18 PM
We're not Amsterdam. We're part of an American culture.
Yes, compared to other European and even some American cities, sadly, we are more dirty and have far few trees and urban landscaping.
Posted by: futurist at March 17, 2013 5:14 PM
I'm curious how this is going to get around ADA and gender issues, especially in a city that loves to file legal challenges like San Franciscans do. I like the actual restroom proposed in another portion of the park, but am surprised that this could be exempt from the usual requirements to accomodate the entire general public.
Posted by: Justin at March 17, 2013 5:46 PM
^^^ The best way to get around the "equal access" issue is to appeal to reason and consider all of the toilet facilities in the park as a cohesive unit rather than requiring equal access to each and every p-point.
After all neither the wheelchair bound nor women can use the urinals in a standard code-complaint restroom. The fact that a pissoir is a separate structure is irrelevant when there are nearby accessible toilets less than a minute away.
Posted by: The Milkshake of Despair at March 18, 2013 12:20 PM
why is it half the comments about EVERY new public space boils down to "it's going to attract homeless/drug addicts/gay men having sex in public"
parklets were destined to be "homeless encampments", the new transbay terminal "homeless encampment", the public space in front the Whole Foods on Market ST "homeless encampment", a pisser in a public park "homeless encampment".
It's a wonder we aren't paving over golden gate park, ripping up the sidewalks, and bricking up doorways since the trees offer the homeless/drug addicts/ and "the gays" places to hide their 'illicit' activity while the sidewalks and doorways provides a place for them to sleep/do drugs/or have sex in public.
And as for the SHOCK of CHILDREN learning that adults 'pee' too. I don't think this is something that really needs to be explained to them. In my experience children are already pretty familiar with the idea that 'everybody poops'.
Posted by: badlydrawnbear at March 18, 2013 1:00 PM