Public Park Pissoir Stirs Up San Francisco

     SAN FRANCISCO (CN) — A new open-air urinal in a popular San Francisco park has infuriated a Christian group that calls it “nauseating, offensive and indecent,” and they’ve sued San Francisco to have it removed.
     Joining the San Francisco Chinese Christian Union as a plaintiff is a park neighbor who says he can see men relieve themselves from his kitchen window.
     “Urine is nauseating and offensive when excreted in public places,” the plaintiffs say. They say the pissoir violates laws on privacy, public health, gender discrimination, disabled access and the plumbing code.
     “This hole is called a pissoir,” the complaint states.
     The city calls it a pPod.
     It was built during a recent renovation of Mission Dolores Park. The 16-acre park, with a playground, sports field, basketball and tennis courts, can draw more than 10,000 people on a sunny weekend day.
     Two conventional restrooms with a total of 34 toilets also were built.
     The attorney representing the Chinese Christian Union and the four individual plaintiffs in Superior Court told Courthouse News that one of the two restrooms is just a 4 -minute walk from the new urinal.
     “The notion that there’s no other place to go is absurd,” said Kevin Snider, of the Pacific Justice Institute in Oakland.
     When asked why the city built the pissoir, Snider said: “Let them answer for themselves in court.”
     The co-defendant San Francisco Recreation and Park Department referred calls to the city attorney’s office, whose spokesman said the urinal was the result of neighborhood involvement in the park’s renovation plans.
     Local residents who were fed up with park-goers urinating in the bushes and against neighborhood buildings called for the urinal, said city attorney spokesman Matt Dorsey.
     The park, between the Castro and Mission Districts, hosts a diversity of activities. A single visit might reveal nude sunbathing, open drug use, a political rally and a children’s birthday party.
     “If I had to predict the top 100 things in Dolores Park likely to offend these plaintiffs, I would not have guessed that this would have made the cut,” Dorsey said.
     But the Christian Union says a public toilet must to comply with the plumbing code and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
     The pPod is a roughly 4-foot diameter concrete pad with a drain in the middle. It is surrounded on three sides by a roughly 4-foot high screen.
     “Persons urinate into the hole in public view,” the plaintiffs say. It is “at a busy street corner, between a sidewalk and a train stop. There is no signage, accessibility for persons with disabilities, and no place to wash hands.”
     They call it an “illegal and wasteful expenditure of public funds to install and maintain the pissoir.”
     And, they say: “The slopes of the ramps leading to and from the pissoir are steep and dangerous to persons with disabilities.”
     With no soap or running water, “Persons urinating in the hole leave the pissoir with unwashed hands and either continue on their way on the public sidewalks into the community or they board the Muni train which stops five to ten yards from the hole. These unsanitary conditions result in the spread of germs and disease.”
     The San Francisco Chinese Christian Union was founded in 1916 and represents 15 churches. It says its members are exposed to the urinal when they ride a Muni train to the park.
     Plaintiff Patrick Sullivan says he “lives across the street from Dolores Park and has a clear view of persons using the pissoir from his kitchen window.” He believes the view hurts his property’s value.
     The plaintiffs want the city enjoined from “the continued unlawful and wasteful expenditure of tax dollars on maintaining, and holding open for use to the public, the pissoir,” and an injunction preventing it from installing and maintaining similar pissoirs.

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