San Francisco Public Works launched “Pit Stop” programs to reduce human waste on its streets. Stephen Lam / REUTERS

Watch your step.

San Francisco is dealing with a number of crises right now: congestion, affordability, gentrification, public transit funding—the list goes on. But a new interactive map suggests public pooping is a pretty big problem as well.

Over the last few years, the city has seen more and more human waste crowding its sidewalks, so much so that one Medium writer dubbed the city “Shitty San Francisco.” Back in 2014, web developer Jenny Wong created a map of all the public reports of excrement sightings made that year. The result was a startling image of a city inundated with filth, particularly near the financial district—a popular tourist locale.

San Francisco wasn’t always this dirty. To show just how much human waste has accumulated there over time, self-titled “data explorer” William Mees made an even more comprehensive map of these reports from July 2008 to September 2015.

While the Tenderloin district is consistently hit hardest by the city’s poop problem, the map shows waste spreading to other parts of the city in increasingly large concentrations. Areas like SOMA and Mid-Market, for instance, are both dealing with an excess of feces.

Let’s face­­ it: if you live in the city, regardless of location or class affiliation, you’ve probably had your own encounter with the aftermath of a public number-two,” writes Noah Sanders of The Bold Italic.

There are a few explanations for what’s happening. For one, San Francisco’s poor zoning laws and lack of affordable housing have contributed to the city’s growing homeless population. More homelessness means more people living without access to restrooms, and having little choice but to defecate in the street.

The more immediate problem is that San Francisco lacks a sufficient number of public restrooms. Only 28 toilets in the entire city are open 24 hours a day, while an estimated 500 or so bathrooms are needed to meet the city’s demands.

Recently, San Francisco Public Works has tried to correct this problem by launching pilot “Pit Stop” programs in areas like the Tenderloin and SOMA. These programs provide mobile toilets, sinks, and used-needle receptacles, as well as dog waste stations, for all city residents. Mobile units have led to a decline in requests to clean up the streets, but they still pose the same issue of limited availability—“Pit Stops” are only open to the public from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m., Tuesday through Friday.

Though the first pilot program was launched in July 2014, it’s clear by the interactive map that levels of human feces are still on the rise. Now more than ever, San Francisco is in need of additional restrooms—or more businesses willing to open their restrooms to the public—to clean up its streets. Until then, watch your step.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Transportation

    How Toronto Turned an Airport Rail Failure Into a Commuter Asset

    The Union Pearson Express launched with expensive rides and low ridership. Now, with fares slashed in half and a light rail connection in the works, it’s a legitimate transit alternative for workers.

  2. Transportation

    The Automotive Liberation of Paris

    The city has waged a remarkably successful effort to get cars off its streets and reclaim walkable space. But it didn’t happen overnight.

  3. An aisle in a grocery store
    Equity

    It's Not the Food Deserts: It's the Inequality

    A new study suggests that America’s great nutritional divide goes deeper than the problem of food access within cities.

  4. A small accessory dwelling unit—known as an ADU—is attached to an older single-family home in a Portland, Oregon, neighborhood.
    Design

    The Granny Flats Are Coming

    A new book argues that the U.S. is about to see more accessory dwelling units and guides homeowners on how to design and build them.

  5. Life

    The (Legal) Case Against Bidding Wars Like Amazon's

    The race to win Amazon’s second headquarters has reignited a conversation dating back to the late ‘90s: Should economic incentives be curbed by the federal government? Can they be?