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New Public Toilets Land in San Francisco—From Outer Space?

Written by Joe BurnPublished Nov. 23, 2022 • 1:16pm
New public toilets from JCDecaux and SF Public Works landed at the edge of Embarcadero Plaza on Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2022. | Annie Gaus/The Standard

New public toilets have landed in San Francisco—possibly from outer space.

The shimmering designs that appear to have landed from a galactic alien civilization—are in fact part of a replacement campaign from French street furniture and advertising powerhouse JCDecaux and SF's Department of Public Works.

Detroit-based SmithGroup JRR won the design contract for the replacement of 25 existing French-inspired public toilets in 2018.

The first of 25 new models rolled out Wednesday at Embarcadero Plaza between Market Street and the Ferry Building. 

The new model has more efficient and effective cleaning systems, as well as better lighting that includes a skylight to bring in daylight from above and a rainwater collection network that supports routine washing, a Department of Public Works press release said.

An artist's impression shows the new public toilets that are being installed by JCDecaux and SF Public Works. | Courtesy SmithGroup

The firm's current contract with Public Works will remain relatively the same as its previous deal. In a 20-year agreement at no cost to the city, JCDecaux will continue to pay the bill for maintenance, cleaning and other issues with the toilets.

In return, JCDecaux is granted the right to install 114 sidewalk advertising kiosks throughout downtown, the Financial District and popular tourist areas—the same number allowed under the original agreement.

The new toilets, as well as the updated advertising kiosks, will be located in the same locations as the original amenities.

Old French-inspired public toilets are being replaced by JCDecaux and SF Public Works with silver modern models. | Google Maps

JCDecaux will pay $2.2 million a year for staffing at approximately 11 of the toilets as part of Public Works’ Pit Stop program, in which an attendant is on hand to ensure the toilets are kept safe, clean and operational for their intended use.

The new public toilet at Embarcadero Plaza will be staffed seven days a week, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

A new public toliet from JCDecaux and SF Public Works has been installed at Embarcadero Plaza. | Annie Gaus/The Standard

In a partnership with San Francisco Arts Commission, 40 of the advertising kiosks along Market Street will include public art posters by local artists. 

"We are excited to be working collaboratively with both San Francisco Public Works and the project team from SmithGroup," said J. Francois Nion, chief operating officer of JCDecaux San Francisco. "Together, we have developed the next generation of street amenities which will be supported by a strong maintenance program that will better serve San Franciscans and visitors alike."

Joe Burn can be reached at

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