A conservative nonprofit threatened to sue the city of San Francisco on Thursday, claiming that the recently constructed open-air urinal in Dolores Park is illegal and insisting it must go. Arguing that the pissoir is indecent, that it violates the Americans with Disabilities Act and discriminates against women, the Sacramento-based group gave city officials until February 24 to remove it from the park, or face legal action.
As you surely recall, the toilet was constructed after a lengthy process of community input, and seeks to mitigate the unfortunate reality of (mostly) men relieving themselves on or beside the Muni tracks that run along the west side of the park. The urinal is also adjacent to a section of the park favored by gay men known as "Gay Beach" — a fact which may play into the threatened lawsuit.
The Pacific Justice Institute, the group threatening to sue, has been identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an "active anti-LGBT group." This fact helpfully puts their bizarre rhetoric about a spot for men to pee in context.
“This is more than stunning and disgusting," as Frank Lee of the Pacific Justice Institute bloviates in LA Times. "It's a human regression of mankind. If this is not stopped, this will become the norm in San Francisco and spread to other cities."
Upon reading the Pacific Justice Institute letter, it becomes clear that a big concern of the group is that someone at the park might accidentally see a penis. Now, we don't think people should be exposed to others' genitalia unless they consent to said exposure (which, in the case of consenting adults, expose on!), but equating someone relieving himself in a designated area behind a (admittedly flimsy) privacy screen with public indecency is a stretch.
However, in an ironic twist, the Pacific Justice Institute is arguing that a law pushed by gay San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener gives them the legal right to demand the urinal's removal for this very reason.
"San Francisco's Board of Supervisors has recognized and further articulated the self-evident proposition that privacy is invaded when a member of the public is 'unwillingly or unexpectedly exposed' to 'a person's private parts' S.F. Police Code S154(a)," reads the letter. "Urinating in the hole at the present location is an act facially in contravention to the text of the above-quoted law. It is important to note that this section, introduced by Supervisor Wiener, has survived legal challenge."
And in case there is any confusion about what is driving the anti-pissoir crusade, the organization helpfully clears it up.
"In sum, because the act of public urination causes innocent members of the community to unwillingly and unexpectedly be exposed to intimate parts of a stranger's body, the open-air pissoir necessarily intrudes upon privacy."
City officials, for their part, are taking the legal threat seriously.
“We intend to give their legal theories all the consideration they deserve,” Matt Dorsey, a spokesman for the City Attorney’s Office, told the Examiner.
The newly renovated Dolores Park, which fully re-opened to the public last month, has 28 toilets — including the urinal. If the Pacific Justice Institute has their way, that number will soon be 27, and men will likely return to pissing in the bushes.