John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
The city wants to curb public urination with paint that splashes back urine.
The most direct way to discourage public urination would be to build more public bathrooms. San Francisco is taking a much splashier approach to the problem: pee on the wrong wall, and watch as your stream explodes into hundreds of droplets that spray on your legs.
To curb public urination, the city is testing out Ultra-Ever Dry, a Florida-sold superhydrophobic coating that violently repels liquids. Nine walls have received the treatment in the city’s odoriferous Golden Triangle—the Mission, Tenderloin, and SoMa neighborhoods. Officials were inspired to try the paint after seeing Hamburg using it this year to battle late-night beer drinkers who aren’t potty-trained.
Testing out a new pee repellent that "pees back" to prevent public urination. pic.twitter.com/6eDJ4w9MWH— SF Public Works (@sfpublicworks) July 23, 2015
The San Francisco Chronicle reports the strategy has been “effective” in Europe, and provides some history:
Public urination has long been a problem in San Francisco. Legislation banning it in 2002 but has seen little success, despite a $50-to-$500 fine.
Since January, there have been 375 requests to steam clean urine. They made up 5 percent of the 7,504 requests Public Works received, which cover everything from feces to pigeon droppings. Overall, steam cleaning requests have dropped 17 percent since last summer, largely thanks to the Pit Stop program that provides public rest rooms….
“Based on Hamburg, we know this pilot program is going to work,” [Public Works Director Mohammed] Nuru said. “It will reduce the number of people using the walls. I really think it will deter them.”
Signs on the walls ask people to find a bathroom but stay mum about the sneaky paint, the paper adds, “so some surprises are in store.”