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San Francisco Is Spending $750,000 on a ‘Poop Patrol’

The city’s gotten more than 14,500 crap complaints since the start of the year.

Azurita/Dreamstime.comAzurita/Dreamstime.comSan Francisco's streets are full of poop. They're so dirty, in fact, that the city is spending $750,000 on a "Poop Patrol" to take care of human and animal waste before residents complain.

The city already tried to tackle the issue by setting up 22 public "Pit Stop" toilets at various points downtown. But the Pit Stop program has not fully eliminated the problem. Since the start of 2018, the city has received 14,597 poop complaints, Department of Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru told the San Francisco Chronicle.

Instead of waiting for residents to complain, San Francisco is trying to get ahead of the problem. "What we are trying to do is be proactive," Nuru told KGO-TV, the local ABC affiliate. "So we'll have a crew that will roam around looking for locations. We actually have data for neighborhoods where we get frequent calls."

The Public Works Department will set aside a team of six staffers—five employees and one supervisor, plus two trucks—to scour the streets. The Poop Patrol program, which will cost at least $750,000, officially starts next month. Depending on how things go, the city could decide to expand it, local Fox affiliate KTVU reports.

The idea for a Poop Patrol grew out of a conversation between Nuru and San Francisco Mayor London Breed about how best to clean up the streets. "I've been talking to the Department of Public Works director on a regular basis, and I'm like, 'What are we going to do about the poop?'" Breed told the Chronicle.

It's no secret that San Francisco has struggled to keep its streets clean. In March, KNTV, the local NBC affiliate, published the results of an investigation into the city's "diseased streets." The station surveyed an area encompassing 153 downtown blocks and found 300 piles of feces and at least 100 drug needles.

The city has sunk a lot of money into cleaning the streets, KNTV reports:

San Francisco spent $65 million on street cleaning last year and plans to add nearly $13 million in additional spending over the next two years. Nuru has estimated that half of his street cleaning budget has gone toward cleaning up feces and needles from homeless encampments and sidewalks.

Although the Poop Patrol seems like a novel idea, San Francisco previously set aside $750,000 for a program to remove used needles from the streets, which began in April.

Pouring money into the problem won't fix the root cause of San Francisco's dirty streets: homelessness. To get people off the streets and into homes, more homes would need to be built, something that bureaucracy and senseless regulations have made all too difficult in the City by the Bay.

Photo Credit: Azurita/Dreamstime.com

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  • sarcasmic||

    Jack up the price of dog licenses. Slap a tax on dog food. Require a permit to walk a dog. Someone can figure out a way to make the owners of the poop-machines pick up the tab.

  • Ken Hagler||

    It's not dogs that are doing it, it's bums.

  • sarcasmic||

    I'm sure they could find people willing to put collars on the bums and take them for walks too. It is San Francisco after all.

  • Jimothy||

    Jack up the price of bum licenses, then! Dammit, we're going to jack up the price of something!

  • Libertymike||

    Perhaps Sevo should consider starting a puppy poop removal business and somehow persuade the town mothers to grant him a city-wide monopoly.

  • JMack||

    When a city with one the highest cost of livings in the world is host to a renewal of 18th century diseases like Typhoid and Plague because of all the human shit on the street.

  • Marcus Aurelius||

    Socialism is an equal opportunity infection

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    THEY DAMN WELL BETTER BE COMPOSTING AND NOT JUST THROWING IT OFF THE SIDE OF GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE BECAUSE IT WILL GET CAUGHT IN THE SUICIDE PREVENTION NET.

  • John||

    Pouring money into the problem won't fix the root cause of San Francisco's dirty streets: homelessness. To get people off the streets and into homes, more homes would need to be built, something that bureaucracy and senseless regulations have made all too difficult in the City by the Bay.

    Lack of housing is not what causes "homelessness". If you can't afford a home in one city, you can always go to a place where you can. That is how economies work. A shortage of something in one place causes consumers to look for it in another place.

    People are homeless because they want to be and would rather stay in San Fransisco and live in the street than go somewhere where they could afford to have a home. Why is that? Because San Fransisco hands out welfare and food and makes life on the street there easier than getting a job and working for a living somewhere else. As RC Dean always said, you get more of what you reward. And San Fransisco rewards being a bum, so they have attracted a lot of bums.

    The homeless problem has nothing to do with San Fransisco's admittedly idiotic zoning laws and the resulting housing shortage. Just stop it with this nonsense.

  • Libertymike||

    What happened to R C? I haven't seen him post here in quite some time.

  • John||

    He went over the Glibertarians I think.

  • ||

    Yes, he did - IIRC, it was his pretty public and vocal disavowal of the site and announcement that he wouldn't be posting here anymore, at least for a while, that started the biggest wave of defections. He was one of the people who had me over there for a bit, as I appreciate his thoughts on things, but I got tired of what an echo-chamber the Glibs turned into.

  • Libertymike||

    One thing about this place, it is not an echo-chamber.

  • John||

    I miss RC a lot. RC, Pro Libertate, and Fluffy were all three really interesting commenters and all have left. It is a shame.

  • Libertymike||

    I think Pro Lib recently posted here. I hope he is doing well with his health.

    John, you and Fluffy had some real knock-down back and forths. I wonder if he still thinks its a good idea, from a libertarian perspective, for libertarians to get all the public sector bennies they can. Didn't he use to argue in favor of that?

  • John||

    I don't remember. He was really sharp on a lot of things. His takedown of Keynesian economics was utterly brilliant. I steal that all the time. One of his big blind spots was Trayvon Martin. He hated Zimmerman and thought Martin was a pure as the driven snow.

  • Libertymike||

    Yes, he was very sharp.

    I remember his Keynesian critiques, but do not recall his Trayvon position.

    He used to go at with Joe from Lowell quite a bit. Do you remember? My memory is that Fluffy took him down most of the time - of course, I am biased.

  • Microaggressor||

    You nailed it John. Seattle is doing the same thing. More welfare is supposed to be the solution, but it literally is the problem. They can't even convince bums to move into their housing projects because they're so comfortable with their current lifestyle that the city enables with free shit.

    This is why private charity will always be superior to government charity. They have an incentive to weed out the parasites of choice and focus on the truly needy.

  • TrickyVic (old school)||

    ""As RC Dean always said, you get more of what you reward."'

    I think that's the bigger reason on why NYC's homeless population exploded. I think they are coming from other cities and states to get the gold level treatment.

  • Sevo||

    "Lack of housing is not what causes "homelessness". If you can't afford a home in one city, you can always go to a place where you can. That is how economies work. A shortage of something in one place causes consumers to look for it in another place."

    To which you can add that SF spends some $240m/yr attracting bums, so the $750K is a rounding error.

  • Brandybuck||

    I make a damn good living down in San Jose, but no fucking way could I afford to live in San Fransisco. The prices are absolutely crazy. Insane. I do not know how middle class folk handle it in that city. Going through on the train I see lots of middle class houses stacked together, but I can't imagine how anyone can afford them. My guess is that no one owns and they all live off of rent control.

    If I ever become homeless the very first thing I would do would be to move to an affordable city where I had a chance to get back on my feet. The last thing I would do would be to move to the second highest cost of living city in the universe.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    San Francisco Is Spending $750,000 on a 'Poop Patrol'

    I will say this, San Fran is doing something right. It cost Seattle $95,000 just to hire someone to schedule trash pickup at the homeless camps. It's a $6.50 an hour job, but we got it for nearly six figures.

    Also, what's cool is these cities fuck everything up with their policies, then they have to hire people to maintain the problem. It's fucking genius.

  • John||

    The towns and cities around Seattle must love the city for taking all of their bums and troublemakers. What a deal.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    By towns and cities around Seattle taking all of their bums, you're talking about Salt Lake, Houston and the Twin Cities, right?

  • Brandybuck||

    Well, unlike California where all the cities behave just like San Francisco, Seattle is pretty much an island in a sea of ordinary folk. Ditto for Portland. Both Washington and Oregon are fairly conservative states outside those two cities.

  • Microaggressor||

    It works until the problem gets out of hand and their tax cattle move on to greener pastures. Several cities are in a sprint race to be the next Detroit.

  • John||

    If San Fransisco were anywhere but on some of the best real estate in the world, it would already be Detroit.

  • Libertymike||

    There's a native Californian I met this year who relocated, for family reasons, to Mass. He is an old-style hippie / liberal who is now more of a miserable James Kunstler type who despises the young proggies.

    At any rate, he hates what has become of California. There have to be more like him.

    How about Tucker Carlson? There's not a week that goes by where he doesn't rue what has happened to his native California.

  • John||

    Victor Davis Hanson is another. California in the 50s and 60s had to have been paradise. I hate the progs so much for fucking it up. Can't they ever fuck up a place that sucks?

  • Libertymike||

    Its a shame. Particularly for some of us nativist gringos who grew up idolizing California.

  • Microaggressor||

    Nope. The cycle goes:

    Strong men --> Capitalism --> Comfortable living --> Weak men --> Socialism --> Destitute living --> Strong men...

    If we can figure out how to stop producing socialists from the successes of capitalism, only then can we break the cycle.

  • Happy Chandler||

    Who was the California governor at the end of the '60's? I guess he was terrible!

  • Libertymike||

    Well, that governor should have been with Duke Wayne on the Panama Canal matter.

  • IceTrey||

    Detroit.

  • IceTrey||

    Detroit?

  • Dillinger||

    >>>San Francisco spent $65 million on street cleaning last year

    $65 gazillion < Serial Poopers

  • ||

    Good thing they banned candy-flavored vape juice, wouldn't want the smell of cotton candy or apple pie jarring the senses away from the ambiance of human feces.

  • sarcasmic||

    "Repeal that [welfare] law, and you will soon see a change in their manners. St. Monday and St. Tuesday, will soon cease to be holidays. Six days shalt thou labor, though one of the old commandments long treated as out of date, will again be looked upon as a respectable precept; industry will increase, and with it plenty among the lower people; their circumstances will mend, and more will be done for their happiness by inuring them to provide for themselves, than could be done by dividing all your estates among them."

    -Benjamin Franklin, May 9, 1753

  • Libertymike||

    Put another way: no more gimme dats for the 47%.

  • Microaggressor||

    Wisdom.

    Most people will do the bare minimum to have a comfortable living. The rare person with ambition is the exception. The average person will not work, accumulating work skills (human capital, the pathway out of poverty) unless a fire under their feet compels them. For many, it's family. But some people have nothing. You give them enough to meet their basic needs and there is no fire left, so they have no need to develop human capital. Incentives drive behavior.

  • sharmota4zeb||

    San Francisco's streets are full of poop. They're so dirty, in fact, that the city is spending $750,000 on a "Poop Patrol" to take care of human and animal waste before residents complain.

    The scary thing is I knew human waste was part of the problem as soon as I read "San Francisco".

  • BYODB||


    San Francisco's streets are full of poop. They're so dirty, in fact, that the city is spending $750,000 on a "Poop Patrol" to take care of human and animal waste before residents complain.


    Lets be honest, it's mostly human.

  • Entropy Drehmaschine Void||

    "The city's gotten more than 14,500 crap complaints since the start of the year."

    Do these include the current makeup of the municipal administration?

  • MotörSteve||

    i'm thankful for a number of things about living in Iowa, but I never thought "we don't have shit in our streets" would be on the list.

  • Brandybuck||

    I spent a year working in Des Moines, and it was a great place. It has actually crossed my mind to retire there out of California.

  • Agammamon||

    I'm told - by at least one commenter here - that San Fransisco is the greatest city in the United States, even the world. It must be great, or else why would people tolerate the high taxes used to encourage the homeless and drug addicts to congregate there from all over the country *and then* used to pay to clean up the mess they make.

  • Marcus Aurelius||

    The emperor had no clothes

  • Brandybuck||

    The poop-in-the-streets problem is migrating south, and indeed infecting all of California. The source of the poop is evident: homeless people who squat on the sidewalks. San Francisco does nothing about this. Homeless people are treated as a protected class. Not just by the city governments, but by the culture of the Bay Area as a whole. Telling a homeless person to move on, or to use a restroom, is met with reactionary shock and disgust.

    In the past two years homelessness has exploded in California. In an economy that hasn't slumped and instead is doing better. At least in techie California. And I posit that it exploded not because the economy is bad and people are stumbling into hardships, but because the economy is *good* and homeless people are merely going where the money is. This is exacerbated by California's refusal to do anything about homelessness.

    I have nothing against the homeless people themselves. Rather it's the acceptance of the permanent homeless lifestyle. We've always had homelessness. We've had it for thousands of years. But that doesn't mean we celebrate it as a life choice. There are homeless encampments on sidewalks in residential neighborhoods. One has to step over sleeping homeless and their dogs to get into upscale grocery stores.

    I'm not a fan of Trump, I loathe the man. But I predict right here that the property owners in California are going to revolt and tell the hand wringing progressives to fuck off and vote them all out.

  • Marcus Aurelius||

    Vote them all out?

    Will. Never. Happen.

  • Deconstructed Potato||

    San Francisco Mayor London Breed

    He's bred from the same stock as Kahn?

    There's a Eugenics Wars joke in there somewhere.

  • Deconstructed Potato||

    *she

  • Starchild||

    (This is a long comment, so I had to break it into multiple posts.)

    PART I

    I live in San Francisco and am active with the Libertarian Party of San Francisco, which is opposing a measure that would raise business gross receipts taxes in order to pay for hundreds of millions in additional spending on homelessness (the city government already spends $382 million per year on it, according to the local Chamber of Commerce, which also opposes the measure).

    With all that money, you'd think the homeless would be, if not living like royalty, at least well provided for (current spending works out to about $50,000 per homeless person per year) but of course they aren't. The bulk of the money is sucked up by the city bureaucracy and its collaborating non-profits to which taxpayer money is abundantly doled out.

    While this scam goes on in the corridors of power, a cruel farce plays out on the streets. Whenever substantial numbers of homeless people gather in an encampment in one spot, even in locations where they aren't really bothering anybody, city government workers will sooner or later come around to conduct an anti-homeless "sweep" of the area, forcing everybody to pack up their stuff and move. They are supposed to be offered resources to help get them off the streets, but this process is spotty at best, and the "resources" offered often aren't what people want or need.

  • Starchild||

    PART II

    Shelters, in which there are not enough beds to accommodate the homeless population to begin with, are often so dangerous, onerous to sign up for, or subject to various restrictive regulations (e.g. curfews, people not being able to bring their pets or possessions with them to the shelters, etc.) that many people on the streets don't want to use them. The result is that but shuffle people around the city to other locations, often to residential areas where hostile NIMBY neighbors with homes do resent their presence. During these "sweeps", Department of Public Works personnel have been known to simply trash people's belongings. In one reported instance, they threw the walker of a disabled Vietnam veteran, who wasn't present when the poverty cleansers came by the area where he was living, into a dumpster (homeless residents often aren't given much advance notice of when they will be forced to move along).

  • Starchild||

    PART III

    Nor is this the only way in which taxpayer resources are wasted in an official effort to make the lives of homeless people miserable. In a massive waste of water, the entire UN Plaza area is hosed down every night. The government branch library next door to where I live last year completed a pointless, multi-million dollar renovation of its exterior grounds which included the installation of what is euphemistically called "defensive architecture", but is more accurately called "hostile architecture", that is basically designed to make the area uncomfortable for people to lie and sleep in or even just hang out. There are relatively few public toilets, and some of those that do exist even require money to use.

    But most SF residents don't perceive all this – they just see the dirty streets, the vagrancy, the panhandling, the rising property crime which tends to get blamed on homeless people accurately or not. Although the majority of voters evidently remain willing to have government steal more money from various groups in order to supposedly address the problem (this year's Proposition C is by no means the first measure promising that more theft and more wasteful spending is needed to supposedly make things better), I don't think most of them are voting out of compassion (even granting the dubious premise that giving away stolen money is compassionate), but simply out of a desire for the problems to go away.

  • Starchild||

    PART IV

    A few years, a majority of voters in this supposedly liberal city passed a ban on people sitting or lying on public sidewalks a few years ago (an unconstitutional infringement of basic human rights meant to be selectively enforced if there ever was one), and more recently last year voted to criminalize the use of tents on city sidewalks.

    I believe all this tends to create a vicious cycle in which people living on the streets feel alienated from a government and community that are seen as uncaring at best and hostile at worst, and thus many have little civic pride or sense of belonging that might cause them to behave more responsibly in terms of cleaning up after themselves, not pooping on the streets, etc.

    It is a challenge to get even some libertarian-oriented residents to stick to their principles of treating people as individuals, and respecting basic rights, rather than just scapegoating the poor and marginalized. The latest issue du jour is discussion of "conservatorship" – a polite way of talking about medically incarcerating people on the streets with mental health issues against their will, even if they have not harmed anyone. Cue the Beatles, "Back in the U.S.S.R."...

  • Starchild||

    PART V

    The one real bright spot in all this is that there is a growing YIMBY ("Yes In My Back Yard") movement seeking to counter the long-held power of NIMBYs (even if few residents care to identify themselves with the generally despised "Not In My Back Yard" acronym) who have made building new housing so difficult and expensive by reflexively blocking anything that might cast a shadow, compete for scarce parking, threaten their property values, or change the hallowed "character" of their neighborhoods.

    Mostly made up of younger and newer residents, the YIMBY movement is by no means wholly libertarian – though YIMBY activist Bob Tillman, the builder featured in this story, is refreshingly clear-eyed about the nature of government and willing to use his resources to fight the system – but unlike those in the past who've called themselves "housing activists", YIMBYs do tend to get that government has played a big role in creating this mess (even if few yet understand just how big). They want to cut red tape, expedite the hearing process, roll back zoning laws, and get more housing built, including market-rate housing. Most understand that even adding pricey units to the market will reduce the shortage, as the wealthy people moving into those units will no longer be competing with poorer residents or would-be residents for existing units.

  • Starchild||

    PART VI (Conclusion)

    So, my advice to the libertarian readers of Reason, especially those who live in beautiful older and increasingly valued urban core areas (e.g. San Francisco) or desirable bedroom communities (e.g. Boulder, Colorado, site of the first national YIMBY conference two years ago), is get ready, because if you don't already see a NIMBY-caused housing shortage and rampant homelessness like San Francisco's yet, it may be coming soon to a community near you. Support your local YIMBY movement, or start one, and try to educate those who will gravitate toward it as the problem worsens about the importance of property rights and the harmful effects of government intervention in the economy. Some leftists and ex-leftists are starting to get it, but it will still be a challenge. Stick to principles, including respect for civil liberties, and don't get branded as heartless conservatives and marginalized. Remember that the homeless are the biggest victims, not the perpetrators. From the belly of the NIMBY-driven beast, I wish you good luck!

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