A Tempest In A Toilet

When a toilet makes local, national and international headlines, I want to know about it.

The story first appeared here, on October 19:

It was quickly picked up by national media:

And then international media:

(I particularly liked how the Daily Mail’s multi-purpose headline addressed both the $1.7M toilet issue and California Governor Gavin Newsom’s presidential ambitions.)

All this led to a profusion of potty-mouth headlines:

While in the meantime, Governor Newsom intervened:

And the Chronicle’s reporter was no doubt congratulating herself on coining a new word:


What’s the cause of this tempest in a toilet?

Let’s start with the where:

Noe Valley, a neighborhood in San Francisco:

The population is around 22,500 out of San Francisco’s 887,000 residents.

An online site described Noe Valley as…

“…a quaint, in-demand place to live that’s geared toward young families.  The neighborhood features tidy rows of Victorian and Edwardian homes, and thanks to surrounding hills, has some of the city’s sunniest weather.  Stroller pushers and dog walkers jostle along 24th Street, which is stocked with bakeries, wine and cheese shops and relaxed cafes.  A weekly farmers’ market is held in the modest town square.”

Here’s that “modest town square”:

Which this article…

Described as evolving from:

“… a defunct gas station, to a parking lot, to a farmers market and now to a town square that is a quite large community gathering-place.”

The space is used “to encourage community-building events, including live music and political meetups.  On Saturdays, the town square plays host to a lively farmers market”:

What the town square is not playing host to is an appropriate public toilet.  The October 21 San Francisco Chronicle article noted:

“…at the Noe Valley Town Square, a ratty Porta Potti leans in the corner, unlocked only on Saturdays for farmers’ market vendors.”

The San Francisco Chronicle says the proposed $1.7 million toilet is just that – one toilet enclosed in a structure, presumably with a sink – in 150 square feet of space.

The project has already been in the works for nearly a year.

It won’t be ready for use until 2025.

And that $1.7 million price tag?

That, says the Chronicle is “about the same as a single-family home in this wildly overpriced city.”

Here’s a cost and size comparison:  Proposed Noe Valley toilet, 150 square feet, $1.7 million.  The above single-family San Francisco home recently sold for $1.475 million; 1650 square feet, two bedrooms, 1½ bathrooms.

Why that $1.7 million was ever approved, why the cost is so high, and why the construction will take so long is a crazy, convoluted story that you can read about if you wish.

I read about it, gnashed my teeth, then took two Advil and a long nap.

That $1.7 million is in limbo, being reviewed by a committee in the California State Legislature…

And for now, the residents of Noe Valley will continue gathering in their treasured town square, enjoying the live music, and shopping at the weekly farmers market.

And when they need a public toilet, well…

Here it is:

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