An eco-friendly designer toilet might not solve all quality-of-life issues in the Tenderloin, but it should alleviate a few.
That's the hope of the bioengineers at Oakland's Hyphae Design Laboratory, who unveiled their PPlanter urinal on a corner of Ellis Street last May. Enclosed by a panel door just large enough to hide a user's mid-section, the toilet funnels pee and faucet water into an air-tight tank, where it's then processed through a biofilter. From there, it sloshes into two large plastic totes that are filled with wood chips and bamboo.
Ergo, a miracle of science and urban planning: a garden nourished by pee.Designers at Hyphae have high aims, by toilet standards. For one, they want to install more public toilets to help relieve a populous city. They also hoped to design a model that wouldn't attract vandals, much less the infamous port-a-potty arsonist who set dozens of toilets ablaze in 2008. Most importantly, they wanted to combat olfactory woes in certain San Francisco neighborhoods, where the stench of pee is omnipresent. City leaders were so taken with the idea that they showered $35,000 upon its project lead the North of Market/Tenderloin Community Benefit District, which helped fund the prototype but also amplified its scope. With a total estimated cost of $160,000, the completed Tenderloin Ecological Toilet Project will include solar panels, new flora, and a toilet as well as a urinal, according to project designer Marisha Farnsworth. Farnsworth is canny about the details, since Hyphae is still securing permits for its public toilet, and hasn't released design specs for public viewing. She does note, however, that it will include "trellising elements" as part of the interior decor. And it might afford more privacy than the original PPlanter, which was designed to resemble a Parisian pissoir. Farnsworth says that the new toilet will also be installed in the Tenderloin, where it will be monitored heavily. Granted, if you're trying to take pee off the street and pump it back in the earth, the Tenderloin is certainly a good place to go. Here's a PPlanter primer: