Sunday, August 12, 2012

Piss Policies: 
Daley's Buck Bar; Castro's Free Toilet

The San Francisco Crapical newspaper recently published stories about human poop and piss problems at the 16th Street BART Station plazas and on the elevators at BART's Powell Street station. In classic yellow journalism style, so fitting that the Chron is now owned by one of the best practitioners of such reporting, municipal melodrama and hyperbole are employed to whip up reader anger at a stigmatized population.

I'm not at all suggesting that the homeless and others who relieve themselves at these public transit stations are to be forgiven for their filthy ways, but the important matter of there are no public toilets for _anyone_ use at BART plazas and stations within the San Francisco city limits is not addressed in the two cited articles.

Sure, it's laugh-inducing to think the Chron might get around to writing about why solutions to open existing (but closed because of fear of Osama bin-Laden) restrooms, such as those in BART and Muni underground stations or elsewhere on the public property they occupy. Heck, even funnier to think they might editorialize about levying fees on downtown developers and tech businesses receiving tax breaks and exemptions for funds to build new public toilets.  

While we wait for the day the Chron returns to being a responsible civic voice for ALL of the city's residents, let's look at two places where folks can find a free place to take a piss.

In the Castro, the kiosk toilet near Jane Warner Plaza at Castro and Market Streets, now longer requires a quarter or token to use. I used it today for the first time. Happy to report four slightly-tipsy 30-somethings were ahead of me and welcomed the chance to pee without having to buy a drink in a bar.

There are no signs on the toilet telling passerby, locals and tourists, that they can use the toilet. Supervisor Scott Wiener and the Merchants of Upper Market Castro should publicize the free toilet and maybe the homeless people at Harvey Milk Plaza would stop pissing at the flagpole.

Down at the Buck Tavern on Market and Gough Streets, owned by former supervisor Chris Daley, there's sign at the entrance saying only patrons can use the restrooms. I emailed Daley, who championed many homeless issues while on the Board of Supervisors, and asked what his policy was about homeless individuals peeing at his place. His reply:

I think that sign went up during Pride. We had a line for our bathroom out the front door. I understand that folks need to go to the bathroom, but that was a bit disruptive in the space. Several of the homeless folks in the neighborhood use our restrooms and some of them patronize the establishment. 

As you know, most folks are respectful. With that said, like everyone else in the area, we've had problems with some drug use and a few occasions where bathrooms have been trashed. So pretty much it is the call of the bartender on duty. There certainly are a few people who have not respected our space and/or staff and are not welcome in our spot. 

Sounds like a flexible policy and before I contacted Daley, I went into the tavern and asked the woman behind the bar what the deal was with the sign. The first thing she said to me was that it was OK to take a whiz and it wasn't necessary to get a beer first.

At the Castro Benefit District meeting on August 9, executive director Andrea Aiello spoke about Muni moving slowly to finally use a federal grant to install closed circuit surveillance cameras at the Castro Street and Church Street underground stations. I said the CBD should push Muni to reopen the restrooms at the stations, restrooms with entrances soon to be camera-monitored, would have a layer of security if terrorists tried to use the restrooms for bad purposes.

Now that the Chron has identified some public poop problems affecting us all, would be great for the rag to report on where the homeless and general public can take a piss without creating a public health hazard and how City Hall will devote resources to build new places to pee.

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