The restrooms don’t usually make the headlines, but the one planned for San Francisco raises eyebrows and catches the eye of the governor of California.
The project in question concerns the Noe Valley district, which wants public toilets for its public square. The problem is the price: $1.7 million.
State funds will not be provided for the project, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office told the San Francisco Chronicle this week amid growing controversy. Republicans hammered Newsom, a Democrat, on the state’s homelessness issue, San Francisco being a prime example.
“A single small bathroom shouldn’t cost $1.7 million,” Erin Mellon, the governor’s director of communications, wrote in a statement. “The state will hold the funding until San Francisco comes up with a plan to use that public money more efficiently. If they can’t, we’ll go back to the legislature to revoke that appropriation.
Although San Francisco needed more public restrooms, spending so much on just one was bound to spark anger once residents learned of the plan. The city, known for its exorbitant rents and large homeless population, has been heavily criticized for its poor housing record, with an expensive and byzantine approval process for building homes that hampers development.
“San Francisco is the only example of what is an extremely concerning pattern of delay and denial,” Newsom senior adviser Jason Elliott told the the Chronicle in August, when the governor launched an unprecedented review of the city’s housing approvals process. In late September, Newsom signed legislation to streamline this process both in the city and across the state, choosing an affordable housing project in San Francisco for the signing ceremony.
Given the city’s attention to homelessness and housing approval loopholes, the green light for the $1.7 million toilet has infuriated many Bay Area residents and beyond. The construction time did not help matters: two years.
“Noe Valley should have one bathroom, but $1.7 million should pay for seven bathrooms, and it should happen a lot faster,” Assemblyman Matt Haney said. the Chronicle after hearing from Newsom’s office. “I fully support and agree with the governor here, and we’re going to work together to get this done cheaper and faster and also send the message that San Francisco needs to fix its broken processes.”
Haney, according to the newspaper, secured money in this year’s state budget for the controversial toilet and had scheduled a press conference to announce the project. But he later told the newspaper that the cost was “unexplainable” and the project “would take far too long”.
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