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San Francisco Still Hasn’t Installed the $1.7 Million Toilet – HotAir

Way back in October of 2022 I was both amused and dismayed by a story about San Francisco’s efforts to add a single small public bathroom to a spot called Noe Valley Town Square. It was amusing because despite already having run plumbing for a toilet the state was told it would cost $1.7 million to add a single stall. It was disturbing because as a California taxpayer I would essentially be funding this absurd expense.

How is it even possible for a toilet to cost taxpayers that much money you’re wondering? Well, union labor is part of it but honestly not the biggest part in this case. I’m not a fan of unions but I do respect the amazing work that some of those old timers can do. They are truly skilled craftsman and I bet they could knock out this little job in a couple of days without breaking a sweat.

No the real source of the expense is the long list of city bureaucrats involved in approving any public construction.

An architect will draw plans for the bathroom that the city will share with the community for feedback. It will also head to the Arts Commission’s Civic Design Review committee comprised of two architects, a landscape architect and two other design professionals who, under city charter, “conduct a multi-phase review” of all city projects on public land — ranging from buildings to bathrooms to historic plaques, fences and lamps.

If the toilet survives all of those design professionals it still has to go through the Rec and Park Commission and the Board of Supervisors before anything can be built. Bottom line, $1.7 million and the project would take three years.

The story of the $1.7 million toilet went viral to the point that Gov. Newsom put the funding on hold, apparently embarrassed by the whole thing. Part of the embarrassment was that the author who wrote the story about the toilet, Heather Knight, was able to find a much better deal by just making a few calls. A company called Public Restroom Company could install approximately 14 bathroom stalls for the $1.7 million price. Chad Kaufmann, the president of the company said he could have them all up and working within 8 months.

Last April, the state agreed to accept an offer of one pre-fab bathroom for Noe Valley Town Square and that meant the original $1.7 million in state money could fund another toilet in the city at the far more reasonable cost of $1.4 million. Sadly, as Heather Knight reported this week, there is still no bathroom in the Town Square.

For many residents, the episode has illustrated why San Francisco so often gets bogged down by inefficiency. If an army of more than 30,000 city employees with a $14 billion annual budget cannot build a simple bathroom in a reasonable way, what hope is there that San Francisco can solve its housing shortage and fentanyl crisis?

“Why isn’t there a toilet here? I just don’t get it. Nobody does,” Ted Weinstein, a literary agent who lives in Noe Valley and passes by the Town Square daily, said on a recent weekday. “It’s yet another example of the city that can’t.”…

Mr. Buckley said this week that the city’s construction costs “continue to be a challenge” and contended that the city’s permitting process contributed to the delay. The toilet has now cleared those hurdles, and he said he hopes physical work can begin next month.

But Mr. Buckley said the bathroom should be ready for use by April — for less money and sooner than under the original time frame. Mr. Kaufman, the one donating the actual toilet, is still fully on board, too.

The whole process seems absurd but as of now the toilet should be installed by April, whereas the original plan didn’t have it ready until sometime in 2025. In other words, this is San Francisco working at warp speed compared to how things usually go. The city supervisor who represents Noe Valley wants to slim down the city’s bureaucracy.

He is crafting a charter amendment to slim the city’s government structure, which includes 56 commissions and 74 oversight bodies.

Watching this play out really makes me wonder why the doom loop didn’t claim SF sooner. This is not a functional place.

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