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How Pee-Proof Is a Pee-Proof Wall? Not Very

We put San Francisco's newest urine-prevention initiative to the test—ON VIDEO!


Today, via front-page fanfare in the San Francisco Chronicle, the Department of Public Works announced that nine city walls have been coated with special paint that directs urine back upon the pants and shoes of a public pisser.

Rarely does civic government stray into the realm of Leslie Nielsen movies, but that seems to be where San Francisco finds itself. (In The Naked Gun, you will undoubtedly recall, police scientists crafted an anti-graffiti wall that fired paint back in the face of spray can-wielding miscreants.) It worked in the movies, but how about in a dank tunnel in Chinatown? With that question in mind, we tested one of the sites the Department of Public Works has listed as a urine free-fire zone: the oft-befouled stairwells in the Stockton Street tunnels.

We were underwhelmed. (SEE THE VIDEO!)

Using a squirt bottle full of water in lieu of method acting, we doused two different stairwell walls. While both were freshly painted—and water beaded up like rain on a treated windshield once it hit the pavement—it did not splash back at us. 

But, regardless, pee-proof paint can only do so much to combat this city’s army of public urinators. Just as the Mongols simply went around the Great Wall of China, anyone who finds urine flying back at him when he pees on a wall can simply pee at a 45-degree angle to the left or right. Problem solved. Or, he can pee into the gutter or onto the sidewalk. Our query to DPW asking whether time and effort saved by not having to scrub urine-resistant walls may be lost to additional scrubbing of sidewalks, has not yet been answered.

DPW officials told us that any steps to discourage cavalier pissings upon city walls are good steps. Well, fair enough. But just as flooding hot areas with cops arguably doesn’t so much stop crime as move it, the same could be said for flooding hot walls with pee-proof paint.

A goodly number of those who befoul this city deserve what’s coming to them. But, for those relieving themselves on a wall out of true desperation, dousing them with urine on top of all their other troubles is, well, kind of a pissy move.

And one that might put Stanley Roberts out of business.


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