America is not ready for DIY pissoirs

In my rants about the Bay to Breakers race, I mentioned the fact that, despite lots of porta-potties, many of the participants thought it was just fine to use the bushes. At Webloggin, which reprints some of my posts, the editor found a perfect picture of a wall and sidewalk being liberally sprinkled by revelers. I have no words for how disgusting I found this. One of the hallmarks of modern civilization is proper waste disposal. Even in Paris, for goodness sake, they’ve done away with the pissoir — which, for those who don’t know, was a little metal circle wall set up on the sidewalks of Paris. Men walked into that circle and, free from prying eyes, peed all over the sidewalk. Paris stank.

It turns out I wasn’t the only one upset by this complete lapse into societal degradation:

It’s often called the world’s longest party, but this year’s Bay to Breakers race through San Francisco was anything but fun for the residents, cops and public workers who bore the brunt of the drunken young “runners” who staggered around Golden Gate Park and the city’s west side, relieving themselves wherever it proved convenient.

“We tried to get out in front of the problem, but this year some of these kids were just beyond gone,” said city Recreation and Park Department spokeswoman Rose Dennis.

“The media covers this as some kind of wonderful party, but at the end, there is a lot of crap and people urinating,” Dennis said.

Much of the problem at Sunday’s 97th running of the crosstown race was blamed on the early-20s crowd, which has been growing in recent years.

“They were stumbling around, hammered,” Dennis said. “Peeing. Women with their boobs hanging out. Staggering around Balboa and 31st waiting for a bus to take them home.”

Indeed, the Park Police Station, which covers the eastern end of Golden Gate Park, got so many complaints that Capt. Teri Barrett sent out an e-mail blast Tuesday asking residents for help in documenting just “how out of control the Bay to Breakers was this year.”

The race’s party rep has been building for some time. This year, a local news and entertainment Web site, SFist, even posted a map of liquor stores along the route to help participants through stretches “painfully lacking in places to buy additional smokes and booze for your continued ‘running.’ ”

Runner Ryan Cunnane, 28, agreed with officials that Sunday’s race was “by far the booziest” he’d seen in his nine years of racing. But he called it a “disgrace” that sponsors hadn’t furnished more portable toilets, saying people needed to relieve themselves whether they were drunk or sober.

“Once people realized that waiting in line was a death sentence, it became a free-for-all,” Cunnane said. “The wall of the gas station at Divisadero and Fell turned into a makeshift bathroom, with 10 guys lined up on the wall to relieve themselves.”

It appears that the City may also have provided too few urinals at the race’s beginning, but that doesn’t explain the mess at the end, in Golden Gate Park. There were no lines at the porta-porties. In fact, it seemed as if most were empty at any given time. Nevertheless, the “party-goers” were standing in the street peeing within feet of the empty porta-potties.

The whole thing was a disgrace, and San Francisco should crack down. This is no way to treat a City.