A splashy new idea for getting people to stop using San Francisco alleys and walls as toilets is being implemented in several of the city’s neighborhoods. The Department of Public Works is testing out a new paint that repels urine to discourage peeing on the sidewalk.
Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru said crews have installed a liquid-repellant paint in about 10 locations.
“When people urinate on the wall, the pee bounces back and hits your pants or gets you wet,” Nuru said. “So we are piloting it to see if we can discourage people from peeing on many of our hot spots.”
Around parts of San Francisco, the stink is obvious, and architect John Jackson says he’s had enough.
“Public peeing is an issue in the city,” Jackson said. “When I come to work that’s all I smell walking down the street.”
Cities in Germany have reportedly seen a lot of success with the pee-repellant paint. In San Francisco, the paint is paired with signs instructing people to “Hold It!” and to seek relief in an appropriate place. However, the signs don’t warn about possible consequences for those who don’t “hold it."
Overall steam-cleaning requests are down about 17 percent, a trend the city's public works department believes is partially due to its Pit Stop staffed bathroom program.
While some want the city to pursue alternatives, like more public bathrooms, Jackson thinks the paint is worth trying. But he also cautioned that old habits die hard.
“If [the paint] deterred them,” Jackson said, “they would just move to the next wall.”