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Unlike San Francisco, It Does Not Cost $1.7 Million To Build A Public Toilet In Wyoming

It takes $1.7 million and more than two years to build a one-toilet public restroom in San Francisco. Meanwhile, Gillette built a six-toilet heated bathroom with a paved parking lot in weeks for less than $225,000.

KK
Kevin Killough

October 21, 20223 min read

Gillette public bathroom 10 21 22

It’s a lot cheaper to find a decent public restroom in Wyoming than it is in California. 

It’s become an unfortunate running “joke” lately that if you visit San Francisco these days, you have to be careful where you step. The city’s large homeless population tends to not bother finding a toilet to do their business. 

San Francisco officials had planned to hold a public ceremony celebrating their success in securing California state money to build a single 150-square-foot public restroom, but then canceled over public backlash over its $1.7 million price tag. That rate blows even most expensive California real estate out of the water at more than $11,333 per square foot.

Cost of Doing Business

For the cost, San Francisco bathroom goers will have a single toilet in a 150-square-foot space and construction will take more than two years. 

In an example of government operating differently in Wyoming, the Gillette City Council in 2016 voted to build a public restroom in that city’s downtown for the cost of $222,582, which included repaving a parking lot.

For the price – about $428 per square foot – Gillette residents got a 520-square-foot restroom with six stalls: three each in the men’s and women’s sides. 

It was also heated. 

While it pales in comparison to San Francisco’s bathroom boondoggle, even that price tag was too much for then-Gillette City Council member Kevin McGrath, who voted against building the bathroom, citing it was too cosly.

Multi-Phase Review

Before San Francisco residents will have a non-sidewalk option for their needs, city officials will need to do a thorough process to make sure the bathroom won’t conflict with, well, anything. 

The city’s website explains the process, which illustrates some of the bureaucracy California is known for: “The Civic Design Review Committee is comprised [sic] of five Commissioners appointed by the mayor, including two architects, a landscape architect and two other design professionals and/or lay persons. The commissioners conduct a multi-phase review of all civic buildings, viaducts, elevated ways, gates, fences, street furniture, lamps or other structures on city and county land. The committee also reviews historic plaques, arches, bridges, approaches and other structures extending over or onto any street, highway, park or other public place belonging to the city.” 

It doesn’t end there. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the toilet will need to pass review by the California Environmental Quality Act. It will be built by union workers to ensure workers “earn a living wage and benefits” and that the project “reflects San Francisco’s values.” 

The Wyoming Way

Sawley Wilde, public works director for the city of Gillette, explained the process that the city requires to build a public restroom. 

Once the council approves the project, Gillette hires an architect. Then an engineer is hired, who handles the permitting and prep work. 

“And then they’re built and tied into the city wastewater system,” Wilde said. 

Such a project typically doesn’t require public input sessions. 

“The council represents the public and by approving that request in the budget item, they’re saying their constituents would approve it,” Wilde said. “And then we would move forward with the design and construction.”

Gillette’s public bathroom was approved by the council in July 2016 and completed that October. 

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Kevin Killough

Energy Reporter