So, red stars on the map be damned, voters approved $11.4 million to be spent on restrooms -- an undisclosed number of restrooms, to be later determined by the aforementioned restroom task force. "It was a really misleading map," says task force member Thomas. "We were not committed to do all of those restrooms."
To be fair, however, not all of those restrooms may have needed to be replaced or repaired. Yet this just drives the already high cost-per-restroom even higher. Last week the Chronicle reported that the restroom task force had identified the first 19 restrooms to fix or replace at a cost of $7.2 million ($379,000 per john). And yet Kamalanathan says all of those numbers are incorrect, and she has no idea where they came from.
The actual numbers, she says, are 22 restrooms for $8.6 million -- nearly $391,000 per job. Of course, that's just the average cost. Some will be less. And, as task force member Frank Triska told SF Weekly, some with "architectural significance" will cost $700,000 or more.
So, that explains why the cost per restroom "jumped" by $65,000 in two short years; it really didn't. But it doesn't explain why it costs so goddamn much to build a restroom in San Francisco. In 2007, SF Weekly contacted more than a dozen other cities to gauge how much they spend for park restrooms. It always costs more than you think it would -- but, almost uniformly, it also always costs less than it does in San Francisco.
When we asked Thomas why this is, she noted that "It seems to me the [Rec and Park] department is rather restricted in its bidding process. They're a lot more restricted than you or I in making choices on who will do the work or dismissing those people if the quality and craftsmanship isn't there."
She also felt the department wasn't getting enough bang for its restroom buck: "30 percent of the
bond dollars go into soft costs; only 70 percent ends up going into the
When you think about it, that is a hell of a funny thing to say when you're talking
about toilets. It'd be even funnier if it didn't mean millions of
dollars of public money may be getting flushed away.
Photo | Nepal Community Development Foundation