When it comes to odorous annoyances, San Francisco officials hope a fresh coat of paint will succeed where manners and bladders have failed.
Last week, crews with San Francisco Public Works began painting buildings in the city with a clear-coat sealant that, in theory, would splash back urine, or any other liquid sprayed onto it.
There are signs posted on the walls cautioning urinators of the risk they face if they relieve themselves, but some people "might learn the hard way," chuckled the director of Public Works, Mohammed Nuru.
"The wall advises not to urinate there. It's in three languages. If they happen to take that chance, they can get their feet or pants wet," Nuru explained. "It does work. Believe me."
Nuru admitted the issue isn't the city's No. 1 priority, but the proposed remedy is costing only a few hundred dollars to experiment with and would save labor hours and water.
Through mid-July, San Francisco's Public Works department has received more than 7,500 requests for steam cleaning, the bulk of those (almost 60%) were connected to feces, urine and vomit, Nuru said.
The rest of the cleaning calls are connected to graffiti, bird poop and other symptoms of urban life.
Nuru discovered the paint online, where he found a news story about a bar in Germany that said its experiments with pee-repellent paint were working wonders with the local clientele.
Nuru tweeted out a link to the article in March, contacted the company and ultimately requested Bay Area residents to point out where folks were answering nature's call publicly in San Francisco.
City staff identified three neighborhoods – South of Market, Mission and the Tenderloin – and chose 10 public and private buildings on which to test the paint for six months. The private businesses had requested they be in the program, he said.
So far the evidence is only anecdotal, but Nuru said he's noticed a difference.
The paint is painted to about three feet above the ground and stretches the length of the buildings. If the program proves successful, Nuru will likely ask the City Council to expand it, he said.
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