City to Shower the Poor with Free Toilets

bevantoilet.jpg
Image | Audrey Fukuman
Bevan Dufty and the PUC want to give low-income San Franciscans a new, environmentally friendly throne
In a novel new take on the populist slogan of "a chicken in every pot," the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission today is announcing a program of providing free toilets for low-income San Franciscans.

The giveaway is an extension of a longstanding city program to grant low-income city dwellers discounts on low-flow plumbing and washing machines. Now, qualifying households can have PUC workers come in* and install new, environmentally friendly toilets in their homes.

"They don't have to go through a contractor or a vendor. The PUC is doing the work themselves," explains Supervisor Bevan Dufty, who will announce the initiative in a matter of moments at a press conference. "When I remodeled my TIC, I put in a low-flow toilet. But a working family on a fixed income is not likely to make that decision. This is going to open up a whole new vista for conservation."

The PUC's beneficence is funded via a grant from the state's Department of Water Resources (the dollar amount has not yet been disclosed). The first 2,000 commodes -- 0.9 gallon-per-flush beauties -- will be given to low-income households already signed up for the PUC's Community Assistance Program; if you're none too well-off and would like a free toilet, you can sign up for the program here. If you know someone who'd be interested and is not computer-savvy, he or she should call the PUC at (415) 551-3000.

By the way, if you're interested in what it means to be "low-income," here's the guideline the PUC uses: If it's just you or you and one other person in the house, your combined annual income cannot exceed $30,500. Households of three top out at $35,800; four at $43,200; five at $50,600; and you can add an additional $7,400 for every person more than five.

The 0.9 gallon-per-flush toilets consume about a quarter of what many older water closets go through. The water savings -- for users and for the city -- add up quickly. PUC Spokesman Tyrone Jue notes that the average four-person San Francisco household literally flushes away 20 percent of its water -- and that's a household possessing a washer.

Dufty, meanwhile, attests that low-flow plumbing is not only good for the environment -- it's also a conversation piece.

"I have a waterless urinal at my home," he says with a laugh. "I'm a gay guy. When I remodeled, I decided I wanted a urinal; I'm open about the fact I've got a urinal in my house. During my daughter's preschool brunch for the kids and parents, it was a big hit with the boys."

*Dufty later informed us that PUC workers won't be physically installing the toilets; the job has been contracted to Pribuss Engineering, which is affiliated with the local plumbers union.





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