San Francisco's 160-unit Micro-Apartment Building Seeks Approval

Even smaller than Mayor Bloomberg's 'micro-apartment' proposal for Manhattan, Berkeley developer Patrick Kennedy has his 'SmartSpace' model, based on his experience living in an Airstream trailer, headed to the Board of Supervisors on July 24.

Carolyn Said writes of an innovative "affordable-by-design" plan to address San Francisco's apartment shortage (vacancy rate near zero) and sky-high prices. Kennedy's building is now in the entitlement process. "It's designed for car-free living; the only parking will be for bikes, with a City CarShare spot outside."

"The goal is to provide flexibility to affordable and market-rate developers to produce all sorts of housing," said Supervisor Scott Wiener, whose proposal to reduce apartment sizes will be considered by the Board of Supervisors on July 24. "The fact is 41 percent of San Franciscans live alone. There are a lot of people who don't need or can't afford a lot of space."

"The new minimum would be 150 square feet plus kitchen, bathroom and closet - 220 square feet in total, about the size of a one-car garage. The current minimum with all rooms included is 290 square feet."

By comparison, Manhattan's Kips Bay apartment proposal would be no less than 275 sq. ft.

Smaller but more profitable than conventional studio apartments.

"The current average rent for a San Francisco studio apartment is $2,075 a month, according to real estate service RealFacts. Those studios average 493 square feet, making the per-square foot price $4.21. Kennedy's proposed units, at 220 square feet, would rent for $5.91 to $6.82 per foot - a big premium."

The San Francisco Chronicle editorialized in support of the micro-apartments. "The next frontier could be super-small apartments for singles or very well-adjusted couples looking to live inside an Ikea catalog. San Francisco needs to experiment with unconventional housing such as the mini apartment. It's worth seeing if buyers and renters are willing to do the same."

Yet according to San Francisco columnist C.W. Nevius, they already are. "In 2008, an innovative condo building called Cubix opened on Harrison Street, and although the hoots were just as loud - and it experienced some rocky financial times - it is now fully occupied with tenants who say they are neither dissatisfied nor claustrophobic." Unlike the Ninth & Mission streets proposal, Cubix on Harrison St. is for-sale condominiums.

One Chronicle reader was not pleased with the proposal, writing, "Working in a cubicle all day and living in a cubicle apartment does not seem emotionally healthy."

Contributor's Note: See 10-slide photo array above article.

Thanks to Kevin Turner

Full Story: Micro-apartments next for S.F.?



Michael Lewyn's picture


When I lived in Toronto several years ago, I had 140 square feet. So I don't consider anything bigger to even be newsworthy. In fact, there is already at least one 150-sf apartment available in San Francisco. ( ). Grab it while you can!

Slippery slope

Generally I'm all for choice, but didn't we create zoning in the first place to prevent landlords controlling the housing market from forcing poor people into living in tiny spaces? If we go down this route, we need to make sure that affordable family housing doesn't evaporate.

Irvin Dawid's picture

SmartSpace apts for $1,300 to $1,500 a month

Somewhat misleading about the micros being more profitable than conventionals - that's on a sq. ft. cost basis. From a renter's perspective, "The ultra-efficient efficiencies will go for $1,300 to $1,500 a month, he said. Per city regulations, 15 percent of the units will be allocated as below market rate for low-income residents; Kennedy thinks those would rent for around $900 a month."

Irvin Dawid, Palo Alto, CA

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