San Francisco: Where the Walls Pee Back

Before you decide to paint the town yellow in San Francisco, be aware the public walls that are most likely to be peed upon now have a fighting chance. The walls can pee back.

City officials are tired of asking police to write tickets after the crime has been committed. They want the criminals to pay the price for their indiscretion as the indiscretion is being committed. Immediate retribution is what the San Francisco Public Works Department wants, and now they have the means —they hope — to make it happen.

They have a special paint that lets the wall pee back on the urinator.

It’s an age-old, chronic problem in San Francisco. Too many people — primarily men, if only because of anatomical ease — decide when it is time to drain the vein to make the bladder gladder they will just leave their pee in San Francisco, wetting down the closest outdoor public wall available.

Even if they don’t want to do it. Even if they know it is wrong, they do it.

It isn’t just San Francisco that has this problem. A scandal branded “Bladdergate” flared in Hong Kong when a Chinese toddler was spotted urinating on a city street and the resulting video went viral.

The world is floating in public urination. Berlin is the only major city that lets one pee for free.

Hopesandfears.com reported other municipalities around the world have fines ranging from absolutely nothing in Berlin — where it is also legal to consume beer in public — to 100 Indian Rupee or $1.58 in U.S. dollars in India to $455 U.S. dollars in Queensland, Australia. But it never is enough to get a guy to hold his water until he can find the nearest available restroom, if there is even one available.

Homeless advocates argue ordinances against public urination are actually discriminatory in nature because people with money can always find a bathroom in a shopping mall or department store.

Be that as it may, city officials in San Francisco have found fining public urinators $50-$500 per whiz isn’t enough to stop the flow of people peeing on walls. KPIX-TV reported the Public Works Department has received nearly 400 requests to steam-clean pee-soaked walls since January.

San Francisco bureaucrats are hoping against hope a commercially available paint, the aptly named Ultra Ever Dry, will give the outdoor public walls of San Francisco a fighting chance by peeing back on the urinator.

It’s a product of Ultra Tech International, a company based in Florida with manufacturing facilities in Ohio. Ultra Tech’s mission, since it was founded in 1993, has been to create products that help contain oil spills, facilitate wastewater management and even transport radioactive material.

Evidently Ultra Tech never imagined its Ultra Ever Dry would be used to keep the walls of San Francisco pee-less, but necessity is the mother of invention.

A statement on the company’s website claims “Ultra Ever Dry is a superhydrophobic (water) and oleophobic (hydrocarbons) coating that will repel most water-based and some oil-based liquids. Ultra-Ever Dry uses proprietary omniphobic technology to coat an object and create a surface chemistry and texture with patterns of geometric shapes that have ‘peaks’ or ‘high points’. These high points repel water, some oils, wet concrete, and other liquids unlike any other coating.”

The company also claims “Ultra Ever Dry has vastly improved adhesion and abrasion resistance, compared to previous superhydrophobic technologies, allowing it to be used in applications where greater durability is required.”

San Francisco Public Works crews have painted nine of the most peed-upon walls in the city with Ultra Ever Dry and are just waiting for some guy to try to relieve himself.

“We are piloting it to see if we can discourage people from peeing at many of our hot spots,” Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru told the San Francisco Chronicle. “Nobody wants to smell urine. We are trying different things to try to make San Francisco smell nice and look beautiful.”

San Francisco is not the first municipality to try this paint. It was first used in Hamburg, Germany, where it has cut down on public urination.

Of course painting the walls and then posting signs that read “Hold it! This wall is not a public restroom – please respect San Francisco and seek relief in an appropriate place” doesn’t come cheap. Each painted and signed wall costs $200.

But Nuru said it should be worth it in the long run.

“We will send people to see, visually, if there are any wet signs to indicate urination has happened,” he said. “We will also use our natural nose to smell and see if urine is there. If it seems to work, we will continue it after the pilot phase ends."