Perhaps more than any other city, San Francisco loves process and, accordingly, a consortium of groups led by Hyphae Design Lab published a comprehensive “Public Toilet Project Masterplan” to design and deploy better public restrooms in the city. Design can’t solve homelessness, but a number of interesting projects like this one have emerged that offer thoughtful — albeit incremental — solutions to the problems that arise from it.
The Tenderloin Public Toilet Project (better known as the PPlanter), created by Hyphae Design Laboratory through a participatory design process, is one. It’s a cheap and mobile street urinal with sink that doubles as a planter and was built for $2,000. (As an added bonus in this drought-plagued state, the urine collected, after being filtered, is used to water the plants.) PPlanter underwent a test phase in 2103 and a second version is currently set up at a truck stop and a community outreach center in West Oakland.
The goal is still to provide this Tenderloin project as a free service, but as Hyphae’s Brent Bucknum explains, long-term maintenance continues to be the major hurdle in funding new models of urban sanitation.“Either we need cities and economic development agencies to earmark money for public services, once again, or we need more of a ‘pay-as-you-go model,’ ” he says. “A secondary social benefit of this model would be that the project would provide a more socially universal solution for tourists, workers — and everyone else. This is just another thought, in a still very uncharted interesting new arena for urban infrastructure.”