Tenderloin Pit Stop Project


Over the years, accumulating 311 reports of human waste on San Francisco streets have brought attention to a lack of healthy facilities for the city’s homeless population.  The SF Public Works department recently received a grant of over $203,000 to implement a strategy for relief, resulting in the Tenderloin Pit Stop project. This was intended to jump-start a six-month pilot program which would provide portable solar-powered toilets and sinks, used needle receptacles and dog waste stations at three locations in a critical neighborhood. The staff and stations are trucked to and from the sites daily to maintain sanitary conditions.

Early visualizations of this 311 data, such as the (Human) Wasteland, were distributed through the media to share the state of the city. These visual tools effectively called attention to areas of concentrated reports where a dire need for resources exists. This was a strong contribution to the foundation of the Tenderloin Pit Stop initiative.

The map created here through CartoDB expands on those initial visualizations by charting locations of self cleaning kiosks along with a time-lapse torque map of human waste complaints from 311 listings.  Tenderloin Pit Stop locations are called out to view where the project will be carried out.


After reviewing a number of basemaps in CartoDB, the day transit layer was chosen as the canvas with the most impact. This layout unveiled a pattern along San Francisco’s public transportation lines, the heaviest areas of 311 reports were lined around BART and other metro paths. This suggests an opportunity to layer an additional map of public transit to establish a connection between travel lines and patterns of waste reports. The current BART lines on the map are helpful as an indicator though it may be useful to discover how a more comprehensive view of travel routes can be viewed in conjunction with this data.

*A heatmap of stops along four main transit lines running through the city was originally included but later removed to provide a more simple visualization of the reports:

heatmap of route stops

no heatmap

Connecting to data was accomplished through several sites. Sfgov.org provides open datasets which included 311 complaints of human waste dating back to 2008.  This was downloaded and formatted to include file dates and locations.  Visualizing this through a torque map presented whether the situation has worsened over time. Paired with a time barometer feature, users are able to passively watch reports moving across months or click between years to show jumps in concentrated areas.

*As seen below, the reports have increased since 2008. The same path of hot spots remain over time but darkened areas prove a growth in number of complaints.


There are several types of facilities located in the city: self cleaning kiosks, public bathrooms in parks and playgrounds, and now, portable Tenderloin Pit Stops. Restroom addresses were obtained through the San Francisco Public Works listing of public restrooms. Individual lists included cross streets and zip codes, this provided a base for creating a datasets with points of latitude and longitude added using Google maps.

The red dots highlight individual public kiosks located in the same clustered areas of high density reporting. This bears the conclusion that self cleaning restrooms are not properly utilized by the public.  They were originally opened in 1995 to provide outlets on streets with heavy traffic but instead of providing a solution, they have since been dismissed as failed structures due to maintenance issues and unsafe conditions.

This next phase of support in San Francisco includes a crucial difference in approach. Attendants are present to maintain both the state and safety of the facilities.  It has proven so far to be a successful addition and as of late January, the city voted to extend the Tenderloin Pit Stop project, plus add a fourth location.

“The curbside toilets now are used an average of 167 times a day – nearly double from when the program started. In addition, the average daily number of requests for Tenderloin steam cleaning services, largely related to human waste on the sidewalks, gutters and in doorways, dropped from 27 to 15.”

As this draws attention to the most affected neighborhood in San Francisco, changes are likely to be seen if other programs can support the community settled in this area through further innovation.

View the map in CartoDB.
Self Cleaning Kiosks Dataset
311 Data