Fighting public urination with splash-back paint

Public nuisances can lead to innovation in San Francisco:

The city’s Public Works agency is testing a pee-repellant paint on walls in areas that have been saturated with urine. Anyone urinating on the specially treated walls will get the spray splashed back onto them.

San Francisco’s director of public works, Mohammed Nuru – whose Twitter handle is @MrCleanSF – got the idea when he read on social media about the use of the paint in Hamburg, Germany’s nightclub district to stop beer drinkers from relieving themselves in the street.

The paint, called Ultra-Ever Dry, is sold by Ultratech International Inc and is billed as a superhydrophobic coating that will repel most liquids…

In a pilot program, San Francisco last week painted nine walls in areas around bars and other areas with big homeless populations.

This may be welcome in many places. Yet, the lack of bathrooms in many major cities is a big issue. For example, Mitchell Duneier has a section in his ethnography Sidewalk on the issues homeless black street vendors have in finding facilities. The paint may help deter people – particularly those around bars who could use the restrooms there – but doesn’t address the bigger concerns about clean public restrooms.

WSJ declares 2014 the “year of the McMansion”

The “Characteristics of New Housing” 2014 report shows more new homes had McMansion features:

Meanwhile, 2014 will go into the history books as the year of the McMansion. The percentage of homes built with four or more bedrooms last year was 12 percentage points higher than at the housing market’s recent nadir in 2009. The same goes for the percentage built last year with three or more bathrooms. Those built with three-car garages was up seven percentage points from its trough in 2010…

The annual Characteristics of New Housing report found that 46% of single-family homes constructed last year had four or more bedrooms, up from 44% in 2013 and from 34% in 2009. Thirty-six percent of the homes built last year had three or more bathrooms, up from 33% in 2013. Meanwhile, two-car garages remain the norm, but they’re receding in popularity – to 62% of homes built last year from 64% in 2013 — while three-car garages increased to 23% from 21%.

The latest numbers are a reflection of a multiyear run-up in median new-home sizes, fueled by builders’ focus on better-heeled buyers with better credit while entry-level and first-time buyers largely remained sidelined in the recovery.

This evidence fits with a narrative of the return of McMansions (though perhaps it is a blip): new homes were larger and they had more bedrooms, bathrooms, and garages. At the same time, these homes aren’t necessarily McMansions just because of these features. Other criteria for being a McMansion includes:

1. The proportions of the new home next to homes nearby. Are these homes primarily suburban/exurban builds or are they teardowns (which are on the rise) in established neighborhoods?

2. What is the quality of these homes? McMansions are often said to be poor construction or have bad layouts.

3. Are these homes primarily for wealthier residents or people trying to show off their status?

Having a larger house may be the beginning of defining a home as a McMansion but it is not the end.