You Can Now Pee en Plein Air at One of San Francisco's Most Popular Parks

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Dolores Park: New and improved with quadruple the toilets ... and an open-air cement urinal for the fellas. (Photo: Ann Larie Valentine [CC by 2.0]/Flickr)

As you may have heard, San Francisco has a Super Bowl to host. And, as a result, the city has been busy closing off streets, installing biological attack detectors and power-washing benches in anticipation of the big game which, by the way, isn’t even happening in San Francisco proper but an hour south at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara.

With kickoff in just one week, city leaders have also employed another measure in which to cure what’s become one of San Francisco's greatest ills: public urination. After all, the city doesn’t want to see yet another urine-corroded (human and canine) metal lamp post topple over and potentially maim an innocent bystander wearing a Broncos cap. Because that would just be embarrassing.

Although not officially part of Super Bowl 50 preparations (the timing certainly doesn’t hurt), the city’s much-beloved Dolores Park fully reopened earlier this month following an extensive $20.5 million overhaul nearly two years in the making.

The first major renovation project to hit this hugely popular swath of urban green space — the knoll-studded 16-acre park is located in the heart of the San Francisco between the Castro and the Mission — in several decades, the revamped Dolores Park features new and improved tennis and basketballs courts, bike racks, pathways and off-leash dog runs. Park-goers will also now enjoy free Wi-Fi and souped-up trashcans that promote increased recycling.

Yet it’s the new public restroom situation at Dolores Park that’s man garnered the most attention. The park has long lacked adequate facilities, with only four aging and heavily abused toilets to speak of. Now, there’s a sparkling new comfort station nestled, in Hobbit-esque fashion, into the side of a hill. And with that, the total number of toilets at Dolores Park has jumped to 27.

Although not located in the new hillside restroom structure, this number also includes a European-style pissoir for the gents — a first for the City by the Bay.

Located on the south side of the park overlooking Muni train tracks (a modesty screen prevents commuters and other passersby from catching an unwanted eyeful), the open-air cement urinal was installed specifically to combat a scourge of public urination that's gripped both the park — and all of San Francisco — for years. While it may not make an impact citywide, Dolores Park’s al fresco latrine aims to stop men from relieving themselves on shrubs, trees, neighboring homes and atop the Muni tracks. And to be clear, the urinal doesn't exactly halt public urination altogether — it just provides a designated spot in which to do it.

“It is a very big deal for park-goers and neighbors,” explained City Supervisor Scott Wiener to the San Francisco Chronicle. “Before, we had a terrible-smelling restroom building, and people would get tired of waiting and go urinate on the neighbors’ houses. This addition was a high priority.”

Dolores Park’s outdoor urinal is the the latest effort to address an epidemic of public micturition in a city with a woeful lack of adequate public facilities, a large homeless population, tons of tourists and a lot of bros that, well, really have to go.

In 2002, the city passed an ordinance banning public urination, transitioning it from impolite pastime to fine-carrying act of civil disobedience. The fines, however, did little to stop pee from flowing in inappropriate places. And so, last summer, city workers coated several heavily peed-upon walls with a special hydrophobic “splash-black” paint to deter dudes from dropping trou in public. The city was inspired by a similar campaign to tame rampant wildpinklers in the rowdy St. Pauli district of Hamburg, Germany.

Launched in July 2014 in the Tenderloin neighborhood, San Francisco Public Works’ Pit Stop initiative has also helped to alleviate the problem. Doubling as used needle receptacles and dog waste stations, there are now solar-powered mobile Pit Stop facilities in a half-dozen different neighborhoods across the city.

Meanwhile, much lauded nonprofit Lava Mae has targeted the city’s homeless population with a small fleet of retired city buses that have transformed into dignity-restoring mobile bathrooms offering a full range of hygienic services including sinks, toilets, showers and private changing areas.

As for Dolores Park's outdoor urinal, it’s certainly not the most glamorous solution. And those who prefer more privacy will likely/ideally use one of the park’s new indoor commodes in lieu of ducking behind a tree or seeking an out-of-the-way wall. But as San Francisco resident Aaron Cutler explains: “Honestly, we were ready to go pee anywhere. So any facility is better than none."

Via [], [AP]