Last Monday, a man we’ll call "Alistair" was on his way home from work. Pulling up to the intersection of Pine and Taylor in his champagne-colored Honda, Alistair had his day ruined a little when a three-story light post toppled and landed on his windshield.
Dazed but alive, Alistair contacted the authorities, who were able to quickly identify the cause for the pole’s sudden fall: corrosion from an excess amount of urination.
"We believe there was some contribution of dog or human urine on the base of the pole," the city’s Public Utilities Commission spokesman Tyrone Jue said, according to the San Francisco Gate. "We encourage people and dogs alike to do their business in other places, like a proper restroom or one of our fire hydrants…"
Public urination has become a growing problem in San Francisco. The city spends approximately $2 million a year cleaning bodily fluids from the street. To solve the issue, the cultural heart of Northern California is looking toward a German solution.
It’s called Ultra-Ever Dry, a clear, liquid material that can be brushed across city surfaces, which has seen some success in Hamburg. Utilizing what the company calls "omniphobic technology," which creates a "texture with patterns of geometric shapes that have 'peaks' or 'high points.'"
In other words, if you pee on it, it’s going to bounce back onto your Chuck Taylors.
At this point, the city is only giving the program a test run. They’ve painted nine walls in downtown San Francisco, ones identified as tinkle “hot spots.” If successful, more walls could receive a coat.
Mohammed Nuru, director of the city’s public works department, also points out that would-be urinaters are given fair warning. Signs hang above any wall coated in the material, alerting them to the consequences, which, frankly, kind of takes all the fun out of it.
When asked by the Associated Press if he believes the paint will serve as an effective deterrent, local resident Jon Kolb shrugged.
"It would be to me," he said.
It may be too early to tell. When you gotta go, you gotta go, and it’s possible that by making one wall off limits, you’re just encouraging people to move to another. Or encouraging people to pee on more light poles.
There’s also the fact that for the truly wizz-wild, it shouldn’t be too difficult to outsmart a wall. The repellant only really works if you’re facing the wall directly. It cannot adjust for angles. Fool me once…
Plus, going on a rounded, repellent light pole could launch the stuff in any number of directions. Maybe right onto the hood of Alistair’s champagne Honda, just as it’s coming out of the repair shop.