San Francisco authorities have finally decided to do something about the vast amounts of vagrant-generated feces covering its streets, after thousands of feces complaints, the cancellation of a major medical convention and an outraged new Mayor, London Breed, who was absolutely shocked after walking through her city.
"I will say there is more feces on the sidewalks than I’ve ever seen growing up here," Breed said last month. "That is a huge problem and we are not just talking about from dogs — we’re talking about from humans."
While Breed's solution in July was to kindly ask homeless people to stop dropping deuces on public walkways, her way better idea is the "Poop Patrol" which she cooked up with Public Works director Mohammed Nuru. The patrol will consist of a team of five staffers who will don protective gear and patrol the alleys around Polk Street and other "brown zones" in search of everything from hepatitis-laden Hershey squirts to worm-infested-logs. At the Poop Patrol's disposal will be a special vehicle equipped with a steam cleaner and disinfectant.
The team's will begin their shifts in the afternoon, spotting and cleaning piles of feces before the city receives complaints.
“We’re trying to be proactive,” explained Public Works director Mohammed Nuru. “We’re actually out there looking for it.”
We’re all out there looking for it, our eyes trained on the sidewalks as we walk so as to avoid that awful squishy feeling.
I admit to giggling when Nuru told me about plans for the Poop Patrol the other day. But in a city where people called 311 to report feces a whopping 14,597 times between Jan. 1 and Monday morning, public piles of poop are serious business.
For the record, that’s about 65 calls regarding sidewalk poop every day. And it’s 2,427 more calls on the stinky subject than were made in the same time period last year.
The Poop Patrol idea sprung from conversations between Nuru and Mayor London Breed, both of whom have expressed disgust with the filthy conditions of our sidewalks. -SF Chronicle
“I’ve been talking to the Department of Public Works director on a regular basis, and I’m like, ‘What are we going to do about the poop?’” Breed told the SF Chronicle's Heather Knight, who noted that it was the "first conversation I’ve ever had with a mayor that included the word “poop.”"
Breed has also committed $1.05 million of the city's giant $11.5 billion budget to construct five new Pit Stop public toilets, while expanding operating hours at five existing locations out of the city's 22 total.
Doniece Sandoval is the founder of Lava Mae, which provides mobile shower stalls and toilets to homeless people around San Francisco, Oakland and Los Angeles. She got the idea after learning San Francisco had a measly 16 shower stalls for homeless people.
“We need our streets cleaned up, so I love that they’re doing the Poop Patrol,” she said, giggling at the name like I did. “But there’s no doubt about the fact that we need more public bathrooms. Everywhere we can, we need to make them available. For our unhoused neighbors and everyone in the city, when you need to be able to find a facility, it shouldn’t be this massive challenge.” -SF Chronicle
Many of the complaints also connect the fecal matter to vagrants and homeless encampments - a sight all too common now across California.
Users can geotag the location in question, and also provide photos to support their claim.
“Homeless encampment is blocking sidewalk and creates a health hazard w trash and feces,” writes one user.
“Please move them, and send a cleaning crew. Sidewalk is impassable, forcing pedestrians into the street.”
“Homeless individuals sleeping along Funston between Clement and Geary,” writes another user.
“Observed homeless people shooting up at 5pm on Monday, July 2nd. Lots of feces and garbage in the area. Please clean up area and see if homeless individuals need services.”
A recent NBC Bay Area investigation into the alarming volume of trash, drug needles and fecal matter around a 153-block area of San Francisco revealed "trash on every block, 100 needles, and more than 300 piles of feces along the 20-mile stretch of streets and sidewalks."
As the Investigative Unit photographed nearly a dozen hypodermic needles scattered across one block, a group of preschool students happened to walk by on their way to an afternoon field trip to city hall.
“We see poop, we see pee, we see needles, and we see trash,” said teacher Adelita Orellana. “Sometimes they ask what is it, and that’s a conversation that’s a little difficult to have with a 2-year old, but we just let them know that those things are full of germs, that they are dangerous, and they should never be touched.” -NBC Bay Area
Meanwhile, in early July a major medical convention expected to bring in 15,000 visitors and drop $40 million in less than a week decided to permanently move to another city. From the San Francisco Chronicle: +
“It’s the first time that we have had an out-and-out cancellation over the issue, and this is a group that has been coming here every three or four years since the 1980s,” said Joe D’Alessandro, president and CEO of S.F. Travel, the city’s convention bureau…
“They said that they are committed to this year and to 2023, but nothing in between or nothing thereafter,” D’Alessandro said. “After that, they told us they are planning to go elsewhere — I believe it’s Los Angeles.”
The doctors group told the San Francisco delegation that while they loved the city, postconvention surveys showed their members were afraid to walk amid the open drug use, threatening behavior and mental illness that are common on the streets.
CBS affiliate KPIX 5 ran a story on the convention complete with man-on-the-street interviews. The people they talked to aren’t shocked by the decision:
Tourists once took home memories of famed cable cars. These days, too often it is of the image of someone begging, or dancing in circles, or just wandering around the streets intoxicated or mentally ill.
“You can smell it,” says one tourist.
“I come from a third world county and it is not as bad as this,” says another.
Here’s the report:
Perhaps the convention will come back now that the Poop Patrol is on the case?