How to Report Street Poop in SF so it Gets Cleaned Up
Guest Post by: Alan Smithee
As former mayoral candidate and resident Editor-in-Cheap Stuart Schuffman once observed, “There’s a lot of poop on our streets.” There’s even a poop map of San Francisco. It’s an ongoing crisis of humanitarian proportions, with over 10,000 homeless people in our city and far too few places for them to do their business. Nonprofit and city services such as Lava Mae and the Pit Stop mobile bathrooms are helping tremendously, but it’s still not enough. While I understand the reasons, it grinds my gears every time I need to ask for a code to use the bathroom. I even popped off recently to an attendant at the 500 12th Street building next to Oakland City Center. Having been given false information by the provider of my midday meal, I had to walk back to the conference center just to take a leak, before returning to claim my deli sandwich. There are no public restrooms in a busy city plaza with dozens of eateries. Something about that seems wrong to me.
In San Francisco I learned long ago to walk with my eyes at a steady 45 degree angle, always scanning the pathway in front of me for potential landmines. I’m also not going to rail at the homeless population for this disgusting reality the way some jackasses likes to on Medium, because I am a homeless advocate and I recognize the supremely fucked-up nature of the entire situation. However, the unfortunate reality is that there is a lot of poop where it shouldn’t be. We might actually call this the P.O.O.P. Patrol, after the Burning Man M.O.O.P. or Litter Patrol, which stands for “Matter Out Of Place.” Therefore, in a bit of self-referential humor, P.O.O.P. stands for “Poop Out Of Place.” I will admit that when I started this article I didn’t know that the SF Poop Patrol was already a real thing.
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I think that’s enough poop jokes for one article, let’s get down to brass tacks. Here’s what you can do when you see a poop that shouldn’t be there (ok one more). Fortunately, or perhaps unfortunately, the City of San Francisco has provided a handy website where you can make a Street & Sidewalk Cleaning Request. For this particularly egregious category of request the City is obligated, or at least says they will do their best to respond within 12 hours. That’s 12 hours to hopefully save a fellow San Francitizen from witnessing that which you cannot un-see, or worse.
That magical clearinghouse of city services is the SF311.org Service Request. To navigate this website, here’s what to do:
Step 1: Click the drop-down menu for “New Requests” and select “Street or Sidewalk Cleaning.”
Step 2: Click “Continue as Guest.” Sure, you can register an account with SF311.org, but it’s easier to just skip this step. Also, you are Young, Broke, and Beautiful, there’s no reason to make the NSA think you have a poop fetish. (zing!)
Step 3: Enter the nearest address to where the offending poop was seen. Use the closest business or residential address, if available. If not, try finding the intersection on the map. That’s a full-service Google API there, so go nuts. Use Street View to get an approximate address if necessary, or just guess based on the block.
Step 4: Once you’ve found the address, you’ll have to enter a description, or it won’t upload the request. This is the fun part. Be prepared to write things like “smeared on sidewalk” or “inside the planter box” or “looks like someone was eating corn.” (I apologize for that one.)
Step 5: This is also the fun part. Click on the drop-down menu that says “*Object,” and select “Human or Animal Waste.” It’s human, sorry folks.
Step 6: Click Submit. Pat yourself on the back for doing your civic duty as you step gingerly around the poop and try to forget what you’ve seen, despite having just spent WAY more brainpower on it than should EVER be necessary.
Step 7 (Optional): The 311 Service Request has a field to upload a photo, but it’s optional. (I think you’re required to submit either Description or Photo, one or the other). Now personally, I don’t want pictures of poop on my phone, even temporarily. I’m also not sure of the legalities on this, so I would never suggest that you email said picture to your local elected representative for the district in which you might happen to be walking.
But we need to understand that joining the P.O.O.P. Patrol is a BAND-AID! A glorious, revolting, eminently necessary band-aid, but a temporary solution all the same. Involving our elected officials in the grim realities of the homeless situation is the only way anything is going to change. One of London Breed, Scott Weiner, and David Chiu’s primary reasons for opposing the wildly successful Proposition C was that San Francisco already spends $300 million per year on homelessness, with not nearly enough to show for it. Breed, Wiener, and Chiu gloss over the fact that as recent members of the Board of Supervisors they presided over the management or mis-management of that $300 million dollars, although to Breed’s credit she seems to have helped start the Poop Patrol. If you ask me, taxing the rich to help the less fortunate is always going to be a Hard Yes, but I’m a lefty radical progressive, so what do I know?