Jennifer Wong

Sorry to say you'll discover that much of it is attributed to humans.

San Francisco is a weird magnet for poop. Travel around the city in the grimmest of Easter Egg hunts, and you'll find turds basking on sidewalks, chilling in flower gardens, gumming up subway escalators—hell, you'll even find them littering the roof of a three-story building with no roof access.

I assumed upon moving here this was the marking of irresponsible dog owners. I wish I could still believe that. But Jennifer Wong has torn the brown veil asunder with "(Human) Wasteland," a revolting map of all the anthropogenic excrement around San Francisco.

Wong's venture into crappy cartography began with her needing a hack-week project for her company, HotPads. So the San Francisco native scoured the web for "cool" data sets, and found that the Department of Public Works, for whatever reason, keeps records of sidewalk cleanings for reason of "human waste or urine."

"Honestly, the data inspired me," she emails.

Unfortunately, Wong was shortchanged on several years of poop records. "DataSF's site said that they have information from 2008, but when I started processing it, I found that I only had six months' worth," she says. But it was enough to craft a map of the fecal landscape for part of 2013, shaded in the disgusting hues of an unflushed toilet. You can view the poo sightings as squishy piles (June 2013 is shown above), or as this heat map distressingly akin to an earthy stain:

Locals won't be surprised that the densest cluster of dung lies in the notoriously filthy Tenderloin. A healthy trickle descends into Mission, too, and smaller spots defile Chinatown and western Haight-Ashbury. If you want to know the situation on your specific block, enter an address into the map's search feature and it will attempt to answer the question: "Will I Step in Human Poop?"

As to the big mystery—how the city distinguishes human from beast leavings—Wong says she can't be sure. "I think that animals' urine and feces have pretty distinctive smells, so maybe that's the way you can determine on the fly," she guesses. Perhaps there's a professional scat-identification service involved?

(Fans of happy endings should know that Wong did, in fact, win grand prize in her office's hack week.)

H/t The Bold Italic

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Young students walking towards a  modern wood building surrounded by snow and trees
    Environment

    Norway’s Energy-Positive Building Spree Is Here

    Oslo’s Powerhouse collective wants buildings that make better cities in the face of climate change.

  2. A photo of Andrew Field, the owner of Rockaway Taco, looking out from his store in the Rockaway Beach neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York.
    Life

    Tacos and Transit: Rate Your City

    From taco-rich San Diego to the tortilla wastelands of Boston, we asked you to grade U.S. cities on two critical metrics: Mexican food and public transportation.

  3. A photo of shoppers in the central textile market of downtown Jakarta.
    Design

    How Cities Design Themselves

    Urban planner Alain Bertaud’s new book, Order Without Design, argues that cities are really shaped by market forces, not visionaries.

  4. Maps

    Where There Are More Single Men Than Women

    Almost everywhere, actually—at least up until a certain age.

  5. The opulent anteroom to a ladies' restroom at the Ohio Theatre, a 1928 movie palace in Columbus, Ohio.
    Design

    The Glamorous, Sexist History of the Women’s Restroom Lounge

    Separate areas with sofas, vanities, and even writing tables used to put the “rest” in women’s restrooms. Why were these spaces built, and why did they vanish?