The $170,000 price tag per street-level bathroom for Muni operators is part of a larger debate about what is housed on San Francisco sidewalks and at what cost.
The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency is installing the standalone bathrooms — the plan is for 36 — so Muni operators can have a convenient and safe place to relieve themselves during their routes.
They are about 10 feet high and either 8-by-11-feet or 7-by-13-feet in length and width.
"I would hope that the MTA would really try to whittle it down," said Supervisor Scott Wiener. "These are large facilities that serve, I believe, only bus operators."
One solution to avoid the high cost is to enter into an agreement with local businesses for about $4,000 to $5,000 a year so operators can use their bathrooms, which Muni has done in several cases.
Board of Supervisors President David Chiu suggested an increased reliance on such arrangements.
"This strikes me as solvable given the density of our city and how many establishments there are and how many bathrooms there are around The City," he said.
A representative from Transport Workers Union Local 250-A, which represents about 2,000 Muni operators, said the issue is a nonstarter.
"We refuse to be treated as second-class citizens in regards to using a restroom while serving the public and The City," said Ronald Austin, vice president of Local 250-A. "If there is a concern about a restroom costing $170,000, I have to ask how much does it cost for The City in workers' compensation costs for renal failure of an operator? I think it's a lot more than $170,000."
The cost of the bathrooms, along with general "street furniture" clutter — newspaper racks, bus shelters, tall advertising kiosks sometimes used as newsstands or by flower sellers, and the ongoing installation of AT&T utility boxes — was discussed Monday by the board's Land Use and Economic Development Committee.
No decisions were made, but Wiener, who called the hearing, focused on what he said were existing problems, including the "excessive" number of newspaper boxes at 18th and Castro streets in his district.
Wiener said there were 50 newspaper boxes, mostly empty, and asked that the Department of Public Works examine "a redistribution" of some of them.