Outrage as planned $1.7m San Francisco PUBLIC TOILET is delayed all while city grapples with homeless and troubled residents living on sidewalks

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By Stephen M. Lepore For Dailymail.Com

07:21 25 Jan 2024, updated 22:21 07 Feb 2024

  • The city has been trying to build a bathroom for a public park for over two years
  • Governor Gavin Newsom has previously taken the funding from the city for it 
  • The private sector has stepped in but have been bogged down by red tape 



A planned public toilet in San Francisco that California Governor Gavin Newsom earmarked $1.7million in public funds for remains bogged down after more than two years of red tape and delays.

The city has now appealed to the private sector to finish the job, but the two men who have promised to get it built have been frustrated by the city’s lack of engagement and high building costs. 

Assemblyman Matt Haney has been planning for nearly a year to build the communal toilet in the Noe Valley Town Square in a 150 square foot space after city officials said there was not enough funding to build a restroom when the square was constructed in 2016. 

So he secured funding from the Recreation and Parks Department, not questioning the $1.7 million price tag, which is nearly as high as what a single-family home in that area costs.

But the plans were met with outrage when the price was revealed by the San Francisco Chronicle in October of 2022, prompting Democrat Governor Gavin Newsom, who is also the former mayor of the city, threatened to block the funding

A planned public toilet in San Francisco that California Governor Gavin Newsom earmarked $1.7million in public funds for remains bogged down after more than two years of red tape and delays

Somewhat shockingly, Newsom returned the $1.7million to the city after officials promised to build at least two toilets rather than one but they’ve made ‘little progress.’ 

Almost 18 months later, San Francisco – which remains rife with crime and homelessness leading to shortfalls in it’s $14billion annual budget – still can’t seem to build a bathroom for its public square. 

‘Why isn’t there a toilet here? I just don’t get it. Nobody does,’ wondered local resident Ted Weinstein. 

‘It’s yet another example of the city that can’t,’ he told the New York Times

Residents have long complained about worsening potholes that the city has failed to fix. 

Meanwhile the city’s streets are also overrun with homeless people who have turned parts of it into an open-air drug market and crime continues to spiral out of control. 

The lack of a bathroom is inconvenient because parents and their children often do enjoy the playground but have no way to relieve themselves. 

Excuses offered by local authorities include the high cost of building in the city, finding an architect and the process of getting the public’s opinion. 

Noe Valley Town Square has needed a bathroom since it was opened in 2016
Assemblyman Matt Haney has been planning for nearly a year to build the communal toilet in the Noe Valley Town Square in a 150 square foot space after city officials said there was not enough funding to build a restroom when the square was constructed in 2016
But the plans were met with outrage when the price was revealed by the San Francisco Chronicle in October of 2022, prompting Democrat Governor Gavin Newsom, who is also the former mayor of the city, threatened to block the funding

The city’s massive amounts of red tape require funds as well to employ people to make sure the toilet is ‘appropriate to its context in the urban environment.’

The Times claims that it can take an average of 523 days for a developer to get an initial thumbs up to build housing and an additional 605 days to get permits, totaling nearly four years. 

The private sector has tried their own way to get the toilet built at the park in the months following its initial failure, to no avail, despite Mayor London Breed’s vow to cut red tape.

Vaughn Buckley, CEO of Volumetric Building Companies agreed to do the architecture and engineering prep work for free after the city reached out to him.

He and friend Chad Kaufman, who runs the Public Restroom Company and offered to donate a modular toilet, said they would pay local union workers themselves for installation. 

The city made an agreement with Volumetric in April of 2023 but Buckley claimed that talks had broken down with the Recreation and Parks Department in a December 22 letter where he cited both high costs to hire the workers and the city’s unwillingness to make a deal. 

San Francisco Parks & Rec were equally disappointed in a letter written to Buckley in December of 2023. 

‘Your team was unresponsive to our repeated attempts to engage,’ they wrote. 

‘We are receiving inquiries from citizens, journalists and local lawmakers on the status of this highly publicized project. We will need to answer questions.’

Vaughn Buckley, CEO of Volumetric Building Companies promised to do the architecture and engineering prep work for free but has faced challenges from the city
Private developers hope that the toilet can be finished in the town square by April but have been delayed by the city’s unwillingness to engage them
San Francisco Mayor London Breed has vowed to cut red tape like that faced by the toilet developers

Buckley and Kaufman, however, still believe this can get done but the waiting has been agonizing.

Kaufman says his ‘portion is done,’ with the toilet ready and waiting and Buckley anticipating the bathroom being set for April. 

Residents like Weinstein see it as another example of the city’s inability to do anything amid much more serious problems. 

DailyMail.com looked at the mess surrounding San Francisco – and what politicians may do to finally stop the squalor – last week.  

Convention bookers are avoiding San Francisco because of the homeless, leading to even more problems for hotels in a city where tourism numbers are down by 16% over pre-pandemic numbers. There were 26.2 million visitors in 2019, compared with 21.9 million last year.

Hotel revenues were 23 percent lower than pre-covid levels in April 2023 and appear to have stagnated, according to hospitality data firm STR.

Big companies are also leaving en masse, causing office vacancies to reach a record high of 31 percent in May, enough space for 92,000 workers. In April, Salesforce said it will leave its eponymous 30-story Salesforce East building in downtown, where around 1,000 staff had worked before the pandemic.

Leaders estimate the situation will contribute to a budget shortfall of $1.3 billion in five years. The decline in property tax revenue alone could cost nearly $200 million per year, according to a worst-case scenario drawn up by the city’s chief accountant. 

Almost 18 months later, San Francisco – which remains rife with crime and homelessness leading to shortfalls in it’s $14billion annual budget – still can’t seem to build a bathroom for its public square
Residents see the public toilet as another example of the city’s inability to do anything amid much more serious problems, like the homeless crisis

But San Francisco’s problems don’t end with petty theft which is down 10 percent overall on the last six months of 2022 but has still occurred over 14,000 times citywide in the first half of 2023. 

The city is suffering from a perfect storm: a downturn in the tech industry and workers reluctant to swap their remote jobs for a return to the office post-pandemic.

Footfall in the city’s struggling downtown is only around 32 percent of what it was before the pandemic, and ridership on the BART public transport network is down 65 percent.

There has also been an explosion in the number of homeless people – drawn to the city in part by generous assistance programs worth up to $687-per-month. 

As of the last official count in 2022, more than 7,000 occupied the tented shanty towns that have sprung up downtown and in the nearby Tenderloin district. 

Even Gavin Newsom, California‘s Democrat governor, has confessed the homelessness crisis in San Francisco and elsewhere in the state is a ‘disgrace’. He said California has ‘not made progress in the last two decades’ but claimed $15.3 billion has been set aside to address the problem. 

Along with the homeless population has come a plague of drug dealers – many plying their trade openly and supplying users with fentanyl which they then smoke in full view of tourists boarding cable cars on Powell and Market Street. 

As a result, city figures show there have already been more than 268 drug overdose deaths in the first six months of 2023 alone – a 41 percent increase on last year. Even upscale areas such as Russian Hill, which is part of the cable car route along Hyde Street, and tourist hotspots like the Golden Gate Bridge have been affected. 

Both now carry signs warning people to remove their belongings from their cars to avoid break-ins while at the end of the cable car route, at Fisherman’s Wharf, homeless people are starting to set up camp on the benches near the station.

Homeless people smoke drugs in front of a vacated DSW Shoe Warehouse just off Union Square in downtown San Francisco

A woman drags her earthly possessions past the flagship Westfield San Francisco Center on Market Street

The streets of San Francisco have seen an explosion in the number of homeless people ¿ drawn in part by generous assistance programs worth up to $687-per-month

Mark, 62,  came to San Francisco 30 years ago, planning to jump to his death from the Golden Gate Bridge before changing his mind. Now he carves walking sticks for tourists. ‘I started making them to defend myself,’ he admits

But former retail paradise Union Square and the Tenderloin are in the eye of the storm: in just a few hours in the streets near Union Square last week, DailyMail.com repeatedly saw homeless people snoozing in doorways, openly smoking drugs, shoplifting, screaming obscenities at passers-by and, in one case, being revived by medics from the San Francisco Fire Department. 

The signs are that the authorities are beginning to listen. In April, Newsom announced he was deploying the California Highway Patrol and National Guard to the city to help tackle the problem. 

Ultra-woke DA Chesa Boudin was turfed out by angry voters last November and replaced with the more pragmatic Brooke Jenkins who has made it her mission to tackle the drug problem. 

Detailing the new city budget in an address at the end of May, Mayor London Breed vowed to crack down on drug dealers while also announcing three ‘wellness hubs’ which are aimed at getting the homeless off the street and will include safe consumption areas for addicts. 

And last week, San Francisco Sheriff Paul Miyamoto announced that a new emergency unit staffed by 130 deputies would be deployed to work alongside the SFPD in the Tenderloin – focusing on arresting drug dealers but also drug users with the aim of getting them off the streets and into the health system. 



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