1. Home
  2. policy
  3. economy
  4. news
  5. A San Francisco neighborhood threw a mini-festival to celebrate a public toilet that cost $200,000 instead of $1.7 million

A San Francisco neighborhood threw a mini-festival to celebrate a public toilet that cost $200,000 instead of $1.7 million

Matthew Loh   

A San Francisco neighborhood threw a mini-festival to celebrate a public toilet that cost $200,000 instead of $1.7 million
  • San Francisco celebrated a new public loo with a mini-carnival complete with games, lemonade, and a live band.
  • The public toilet initially cost $1.7 million with a multi-year deadline but had its price slashed to $200,000.

The scandal over a public toilet in San Francisco that cost $1.7 million has ended in celebration after the new loo opened on Monday with a much-discounted price tag of $200,000.

That's according to The New York Times, CBS News, and The San Francisco Chronicle, who sent reporters down to the toilet's launch in the Noe Valley Town Square.

Residents held a small festival next to the public potty, replete with a live band, toilet-themed carnival games, lemonade, and chocolate cupcakes decorated like poop. Three local politicians attended.

People took turns to try the new stainless steel toilet, and NYT interviewed a man dressed as a human-sized roll of toilet paper. CBS captured footage of a performer dressed as the "Super Mario" character Luigi dancing with a plunger.

"This whole thing got so ridiculous, so why not be ridiculous?" Leslie Crawford, who organized the event, told The SF Chronicle.

The over-the-top celebration reflects the yearslong controversy that emerged when people discovered in October 2022 that San Francisco planned to build the toilet over two years for $1.7 million — even after plumbing had already been laid.

People actually wanted the toilet in the plaza; an assembly member meant to celebrate the launch of the loo plans that month but canceled after the cost was revealed, per The SF Chronicle.

The expensive toilet was soon lampooned on national headlines, and became a lightning rod for concerns about wastage in US government projects and rising construction costs for public works.

City officials said they were weighed down by high construction costs in San Francisco, as well as the need for environmental reviews and checks from multiple commissions.

Under intense scrutiny, the plans for the toilet began to unravel. California Gov. Gavin Newsom pulled the $1.7 million from the city, telling officials to figure out how to reduce the toilet's cost before they could touch the funds again.

Then Chad Kaufman, owner of the Nevada-based Public Restroom Company, offered to donate a modular toilet to the city, saying he would help pay for engineering and architecture work to install the loo. Per NYT, his friend Vaughn Buckley, CEO of Pennsylvania-based Volumetric Building Companies, chipped in.

With help from Kaufman and Buckley, the city only had to pay $200,000 to install the town square toilet.

With the toilet controversy drawing to a close, San Francisco Mayor London Breed is seeking to avoid a repeat event by announcing new legislation this month allowing city officials to pool small project budgets for group discounts on construction and equipment.

San Francisco has in recent years drawn attention for its quickly rising cost of living, with one modern wealth survey saying in 2022 that the average resident needs a net worth of $1.7 million to live comfortably in the city.