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Tuesday, September 4, 2012

San Francisco's Best Public Restrooms: Expert Weighs In

Posted By on Tue, Sep 4, 2012 at 2:30 PM

click to enlarge a prize-winner all right...
  • a prize-winner all right...

"Flush twice -- it's a long way to the kitchen" is something of the standard graffiti fare to be found in restaurant bathrooms. But you won't find that at Gitane. The San Francisco establishment has received glowing praise for the ethereal beauty of its commodes. In fact, it has a chance to win the Best American Restroom contest -- a competition never before captured by a California crapper.

Meredith Thomas is taken aback that no Golden State loo has won the Toilet Bowl. It reflects poorly on this competition, she notes, that San Luis Obispo's The Madonna Inn hasn't hoisted a trophy or two. "I recently stopped there myself just for" the restrooms, confirms Thomas. 

This is a woman who knows from toilets. She's a former member of the city's Restroom Task Force who, when asked to name her favorite public toilets, said, "Wait, lemme get my map." 

Unlike restrooms in private establishments, Thomas focused on San Francisco public johns that one need not buy a meal or pretend to be a deliveryman to use. Her favorites: 

  • "One I think is really neat is at the Harvey Milk Center for the Recreational Arts. The bathrooms are adjacent to the digital photography center, so you walk by photographs taken by people in the neighborhood in the hallway on the way to the bathrooms." 

  • "While it's not super attractive, the freestanding bathroom in the Panhandle is a great example of a prefabricated public bathroom. It has amenities that bring light into the bathroom so it requires less power. And the doors are gates, so it feels less like people can lurk." (It warrants mentioning that this bathroom cost the city $531,000; Thomas notes that the law requires a remodeled bathroom to have a handicapped-accessible path cut to it). 

Thomas' preferences for a public restroom are along the same line as Ernest Hemingway's: She wants them clean and well-lighted. "For a woman, it's important that you feel safe to go in by yourself," she explains. "Some of the darker ones, I don't care how clean they are. I don't feel safe." By that token, Thomas' least-favorite toilet is the one in Garfield Park

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" is a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly, which he has written for since 2007. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers... more


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