San Francisco hopes to get human waste off streets with 24-hour public toilets

San Francisco city officials on Monday launched a pilot program to make bathrooms available 24-7.

The city has more than a dozen public restrooms called Pit Stops, dotted throughout the city, but until now none of them stayed open past 10 p.m. 

The city's public works department says three locations will open around the clock to make sure people have someplace to go when they have to go. 

Director of San Francisco Public Works Mohammed Nuru said, "Not only are we going to be doing this pilot, we are going to be extending hours on the other ones that we have." 

The restrooms will be cleaned and monitored at all hours with two team members on duty at night for safety. 

The city says the three sites were chosen carefully: one in the Tenderloin, one in South of Market, and one in the Castro close to the city's nightlife and late-night activity. 

Nuru said, "There are bars. There are a lot people who hang out on the streets late in the evening in these three locations."

Supervisor Matt Haney from the city's Tenderloin district says for too long, people have had to step over and around human waste. 

"We have a human feces problem on our sidewalks because people don't have toilets," Haney said. "Particularly at nighttime. So I think we are going to be able to, with this pilot, demonstrate the need for public access to public restrooms at any time of day."

The city will keep a careful flush count to see how often and at what times the pit stops are used. They want to figure out how best to staff them once the pilot program is over. 

"So based on the number of flushes and based on what time we're getting those flushes, we're hopeful to get quite a bit of information to determine whether this should continue or whether we should try other locations," Haney said.

City leaders say they will go where the data takes them. If the data shows there is no need for the pit stops in the early morning hours, they might cut service hours to make sure they can staff the site when it's actually being used.