S.F. Bowled Over by Debut of City's Self-Cleaning Toilet

From Associated Press

The nation's first self-cleaning public toilet made its debut Thursday, and Mayor Frank Jordan said the high-tech device won't cost taxpayers a penny.

Jordan cut the ribbon on the dark green cubicle that housed what backers envision will be the first of 20 public commodes throughout the city.

After dispensing with the expected puns about being "flushed with success" and feeling great "relief," Jordan let the assembled reporters know the event was a serious one.

San Francisco was the only city in the country to take care of such a pressing urban need and "do it on a longtime basis," he said.

"The public toilet program will be an invaluable asset to improving the cleanliness and quality of life in our city," said Jordan, who made public toilets a major part of his campaign to clean up the streets. "I am delighted that our hard work has finally paid off."

The toilet was provided by JC Decaux United Street Furniture Inc. in exchange for the right to advertise on kiosks throughout San Francisco.

The French firm has 4,000 public toilets in more than 500 European cities.

The toilets clean themselves after every use. The seat retracts into the wall, where it is washed with disinfectant and blow-dried. The floor is washed automatically.

"Any graffiti," Jordan said, "will be gone in 24 hours."

It costs 25 cents to use the fancy water closet. The homeless will be given free tokens.

The stalls include a full-length mirror. Soap flows into a sink when hands are placed in an opening, followed by water and the gentle flow of an air dryer.

A customer has 20 minutes to use the toilet, after which the door will open automatically, Jordan said. His comment was greeted by a few titters, but then he reassured the crowd of about 50 that there would be a two-minute warning.

Jean-Francois Decaux, the company's chief executive officer, said he was "proud that San Francisco will be the very first U.S. city" to boast the lavish device.

He recalled that New York had a chance to see the lavatory in action in 1992, and one wit labeled it "the best seat off Broadway."

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