The People's Toilet will roll into San Francisco on June 28 in the form of a refurbished 1993 Gillig diesel bus, procured from a Muni scrapyard and redesigned with two private washrooms. Each will include showers, sinks, and a bench for people to change their shoes. Each will pump water from a nearby fire hydrant and drain it back into catch basins on the street.
Thus, a vestige of Muni's polluting past will be reborn with a noble purpose: to provide free showers for the homeless, and make the city clean.
But there's a rub, according to the SFMTA's retired senior maintenance controller, Virgil Dennis. "It's like putting money into a used car," he says, noting that old buses need periodic brake inspections and oil changes. One worn-down part might cost thousands to repair.
That could be a major hindrance to mobile shower organization Lava Mae and its big-hearted founder, Doniece Sandoval, who secured more than $100,000 in private donations to put her first coach on the road. Thus far, she has no official maintenance plan. She assures, however, that this particular Gillig has undergone multiple surgeries; presumably, it won't conk out before Lava Mae hashes out a repair budget.
All well and good, Dennis says, until you look under the hood.