SF approves Twitter-sized apartments for tech workers


San Francisco is giving Twitter tax rebates to help grow a business that reduces our communications to 140 characters or less, and now the city's Board of Supervisors has approved the creation of extra-small apartments for the Twitter drones who toil long hours in the company's new mid-Market headquarters, along with their brethren at other tech companies, the target audience for these tiny living spaces.

Supervisor Scott Wiener today finally won approval for the “efficiency units” that he's been pushing for months, apartments with living space as small as 150 square feet for up to two people (the total square footage with closets and counters will be at least 220 square feet, with an extra 100 square feet required for each additional resident), to be made available for monthly rents in the $1,200-$1,400 range.

Some progressive supervisors have expressed concerns about the vaguely Orwellian idea of cramming the city's worker bees into ever-smaller living spaces, so the legislation initially caps the creation at 375 units and requires the city to study how it's all working out. “As we do this, it's important that we carefully study this,” Sup. Jane Kim, whose downtown District 6 is expected to absorb most of these experimental new units, said today.

But the legislation was approved on a 10-1 vote, with only Sup. John Avalos – the progressive favorite in last year's mayor's race – voting no. “Overall, this does not make a lot of sense in the San Francisco I know,” Avalos said. “I cannot stomach supporting this idea.”


It should be noted that the ordinance allows unrestricted construction of these "efficiency dwelling units" for student housing, group housing and affordable housing. The 375-unit cap only applies to market-rate units. These EDUs are only likely to be a niche product for folks seeking entry-level and workforce housing. The chief beneficiaries of this ordinance will be folks in lower income brackets. However, there is a persistent narrative that EDUs are harmful, are not "real" housing or they force existing residents out neighborhoods.

EDUs are now common in many other countries, are starting to be built in other US cities and are a sensible solution for a dense, land-constrained city like ours. They are a logical, necessary response to providing housing in an extremely expensive housing market.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 20, 2012 @ 4:37 pm

I missed the part where these units were dedicated solely to people working for twitter.

Since its the title of this article, I was very surprised that you didnt mention at all the part of the proposed legislation that specifies that these apartments are only allowed to go to people who work for twitter or some other tech company.

Maybe you didnt mention it because it doesnt exist, and the reality is that these apartments could go to anyone who can afford them and/or want them.

Posted by Dedicated_local on Nov. 20, 2012 @ 4:51 pm

people that live here want to ever see again. It fascinates me that the politicians that crow the most about the housing problem in SF always oppose any attempt to build new housing to alleviate the problem.

Now, personally I would not want to live in a 150 sf crib. I lived in a 400 sf studio once and it was tiny. But needs must and many of these workers literally only want a place to lay their heads. And of course there are much smaller "cubicle homes" in Tokyo.

This is really a non-issue because it isn't taking housing away from anyone else and, indeed, reduces the pressure on the existing housing stock. Without these cube-homes, these Twitteree's would be driving up rents and home prices in the Mission, which of course makes Marcos happy because he has already got his, but not anyone else there.

Just build the things already.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 20, 2012 @ 5:24 pm

And Americans are no where near as hygienic or minimalist as the Nipponese.

Posted by cubicle homo on Nov. 21, 2012 @ 12:46 pm

Since we all come from somewhere else anyway.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 21, 2012 @ 1:14 pm


Posted by mychal on Nov. 28, 2012 @ 10:34 am

Tenement slums by design.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 20, 2012 @ 6:03 pm

But hey, nobody will force anone to live there anyway.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 20, 2012 @ 6:34 pm

Tenements were abolished due to Jacob Riis' photojournalism because human beings living in stacks upon one another represented a public health threat.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 21, 2012 @ 8:01 am

modern, code-complying, habitable cubehomes.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 21, 2012 @ 10:55 am

The tenements were a problem shortly after they were built as Jacob Riis pointed out 100 years ago when these buildings were 100 years younger, idiot.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 21, 2012 @ 11:33 am

standards as all other homes, and there is simply no reason to expect them to turn into slums.

And of course it is the left in SF that prevents the removal of slums as has happened in many other places.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 21, 2012 @ 12:16 pm

Depends how cheaply they're built. Remember the loft craze of the first dotcom boom, many of those buildings are starting to look a little lopsided.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 21, 2012 @ 1:33 pm

I'm not aware of any structural issues with them and they were developed to a fairly modern and strict set of building codes.

And they certainly aren't slums, at 500K plus a pop

Posted by Guest on Nov. 22, 2012 @ 8:59 am

The tenements of the previous century did not start out as slums - they devolved into them. It's simply a matter of time. $1,200 to $1,400/month for what is actually a 220 square foot SRO - that you SHARE? Insane.The solution to the housing problem in this town is not these overpriced shoe boxes, nor is it heavily subsidizing other people's apartments. It's to increase the supply of decent housing. And that's only going to happen if you allow new/re-development.

Also, as pious and noble a notion as it is to suggest that new housing should be able to accommodate families - THOSE AREN'T THE PEOPLE WHO ARE MOVING TO THE FUCKING CITY! You need to supply the market that exists, not the market as you would like to see it.

Posted by so what on Nov. 21, 2012 @ 12:44 pm

Dude, I would love to move my family to the city. I had family in SF going back to the 1860s. Too bad I can't afford to live there now that it's unaffordable for anyone but the really wealthy or desperate.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 21, 2012 @ 1:35 pm
Posted by Guest on Nov. 22, 2012 @ 8:59 am

...families. These units are for single people, probably young, who most likely won't put down roots in the community, at least not while living in them. They're the direct opposite of the kind of housing that will contribute to a thriving community because they don't foster family or something like family.

Posted by Hortencia on Nov. 22, 2012 @ 9:19 am

Families generally do not want to live in the downtown area's of major US cities anyway.

But if SF is serious about wanting more families and kids in SF, they should address the number one reason I know of for families leaving SF:

School bussing.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 22, 2012 @ 9:42 am

Thanks so much for sharing. The reason most families leave San Francisco is because they can get more for their money elsewhere.

Posted by Hortencia on Nov. 28, 2012 @ 9:05 am

Exactly right. And in a city where officials talk out of one side of their mouths about "losing families," now they talk out of the other side about building cribs for people who work all day and merely sleep within San Francisco. This is not about tenants. It is about developers and their profit margins.

Posted by CitiReport on Nov. 30, 2012 @ 2:18 pm

to approve new housing of all types - there are more than enough people who would prefer a small private living space like these at a relatively (to the market for 700+sf 1 br units) low rent. manhattan probably has thousands of micro units that were created by chopping up larger apartments over the last 150 years. last time i checked "slums" were becoming more scarce than ever on that particular island.

Posted by mychal on Nov. 28, 2012 @ 10:41 am

Homeless shelters for the middle class...at current market rates for minimally livable units and based on inflated rent amounts normalized by Academy of Art University’s charges for dormitory-style housing (multiple students in one bedroom, priced per student at former market value for the entire unit).

Yes, Academy students are paying forward, so that bastions of affordable housing no longer exist in S.F.

In my district, the (illegal) Academy of Art University’s Lower Nob Hill campus, rents have nearly doubled, from a former ceiling of $900 for a 10’ x 12’ studio, to $1,700 per month.

Under the circumstances, the desperate middle-class couple will be more than happy to escape to a micro unit, rather than face the street.

Tom Ferriole

Posted by Tom Ferriole on Nov. 20, 2012 @ 8:16 pm

90% of Americans identify themselves as being "middle class" even though they statistically are not.

Posted by middle class? on Nov. 21, 2012 @ 12:49 pm

Your post is interesting, and I'm not disputing your numbers, nor am I minimizing your frustrating situation, but I'm curious about something. Did you factor in currency devaluation and inflation when assigning blame for the rent increases?

Not that those components would nullify your point, but it seems like any fair analysis of San Francisco's history of cost-of-living increases must necessarily consider these strands if it is to honestly reflect the situation. Yet, I so rarely see anyone acknowledge, or even mention, these aspects.

Just curious.

Posted by Snoozers on Nov. 22, 2012 @ 8:31 pm
Posted by Tom Ferriole on Nov. 24, 2012 @ 8:44 pm

" the Twitter drones who toil long hours in the company's new mid-Market headquarters"

Steven is just jealous that he lacks the skills to be a Twitter drone.

Posted by Demented, Yet Terribly, Terribly, Persistent on Nov. 20, 2012 @ 9:07 pm

Today's commercial software work culture is not very different from a highly paid sweatshop with amenities and is wonderful if you have no other ambition than to work all of the time.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 20, 2012 @ 9:37 pm

sports facilities, free concierge services to get errands and chores done, flexible working hours, work-at-home options and of course great pay and benefits.

Since everyone doing that is volunteering for it, and probably makes more in a week than you do in a month, I wouldn't feel too sorry for them.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 21, 2012 @ 7:35 am

WRONG! I'm a software engineer myself working on building the infrastructure to commercialize a UCSF biomedical informatics innovation that will further the cause of evidence based medicine and get a handle on cost control.

I get to work the hours of my choice, generally a 35 hour work week that accommodates my schedule and life. We have no foosball tables, furnished snack centers, on-site dry cleaners and food court or zip guns. At 50 I am at the median age of my coworkers (!) who are there to do the work and have a life afterwards, not to forfeit our right to life on the dreams of an IPO lottery.

Don't assume that the fresh out of college web developers make more than a classically trained computer scientist, okay? My name is on the HTTP RFC for chrissake. I've been in this industry for more than 30 years and have seen it devolve from a really fun sector in which to work into a veritable gilded sweatshop.

The term "golden handcuffs" originated during the first dot.com speculative boom for a reason.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 21, 2012 @ 7:56 am

there. We're talking here and cutting edge internet software developers, not ageing COBOL hacks.

Anyway what do you care? If someone wants to live in a shoebox because it's cheap and nobody is forcing him, WTF?

Posted by Guest on Nov. 21, 2012 @ 8:07 am

UCSF is the largest employer in San Francisco and is world renown as a center for health care innovation. IT has long since been decentralized at UCSF and each operating unit calls its own tech shots. During my first stint there in the mid 1990s, we were on the cutting edge of the development of web standards that are the infrastructure for the online economy today and the taxpayers paid to send me around the world to the first WWW conferences where I'd present papers that, yeah, broke new ground.

There is no such thing as "cutting edge" internet software developers, these folks are users of real software developed by real computer scientists. The work of web development is boring and tedious and breaks no new ground all for the creation of time sponges that don't add value to much of anything.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 21, 2012 @ 8:15 am

The folks I work with are innovative scientists who are respected in their fields and who are the public sector financed innovators that push the private sector along as the private sector is too short sighted and fixated on immediate stock price to fund any real original research themselves.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 21, 2012 @ 8:20 am

But again, why complain if some young kids want to live in cubicle homes?

Posted by Guest on Nov. 21, 2012 @ 8:50 am

I'm doing just fine in software, thanks. The only problem is that my current hourly rate is 90% of what it was 13 years ago as the dot.com bubble inflated. Likewise, salaries for the web developer drones working at the post-start up web N+1 firms, the ones who seek to get rich off of peddling time sponge applications, are at 2/3 or so of what full time staff salaries were in the late 1990s.

Fortunately, one of the H1-B visa holders who mysteriously held a PhD in CS from some Indian institution of higher learning as well as a couple of masters degrees has returned to India, leaving me to clean up his software mess that resembles the droppings of a temple elephant, with his FT public sector research staff position mine for the taking in the new year.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 21, 2012 @ 9:35 am

I question how demanding it can be and how ambitious you are.

I've hired lots of H-1B guys from India and elsewhere and, with one exception, they've been excellent. They speak better English than I do too.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 21, 2012 @ 10:56 am

When you've done this work as long as I have, programming since I was in middle school in 1974, it comes second nature to me and I can do it in my sleep. Pity that others have to forfeit their lives to make a buck creating time sponges for the speculative venture capital economy.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 21, 2012 @ 11:32 am

their work so they can post drivel on chatrooms all day long. The fact that you deem this a worthwhile use of the time when your employer pays you to do other things devalues your content here.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 21, 2012 @ 12:18 pm

The difference between the speculative world and the research world is that we pace ourselves such that the work gets done and we get to have a life. I've even taken on the responsibility of making the H1-B drone's java code work in a production environment. The work gets done on schedule.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 21, 2012 @ 12:31 pm

But you know and I know that your heart isn't in your work. I rarely meet anyone in the public sector who does. It's a passport to a pension, that's all.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 21, 2012 @ 12:44 pm

One wise engineer manager who's partnering with the firm referred to me as an example of a rare remnant species in the engineering world these days, he called me a Unicorn because I actually know how a computer works from soup to nuts, have experience programming a front panel with binary instructions and data, not to mention assembly language and a working knowledge of operating systems theory, and that I see computer languages as tools not prisons.

Compare this to the latest crop of disposable tech tradespeople who know how to program web apps and nothing else, who break into a sweat when confronted with a language not of their choosing i.e. the only one they know. If the next door apartments are any measure, they work 9-18 months until they're burned up and wash out upon which they return to whatever suburb emitted them and are replaced with the next comers. Lather, rinse repeat.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 21, 2012 @ 1:40 pm

"have experience programming a front panel with binary instructions and data"

Jesus, I have experience with doing that too.

It's just means that I'm old, not that I'm competent.

"One wise engineer manager who's partnering with the firm referred to me as an example of a rare remnant species in the engineering world these days"

Is the "wise engineer manager who's partnering with the firm" trying to butter you up, because he wants a follow-on contract?

Posted by Demented, Yet Terribly, Terribly, Persistent on Nov. 21, 2012 @ 5:09 pm

Nope, because both of our firms are trying to solve the same problems and we've been working collaboratively towards that engineering solutions comprised of a wide range of the latest technologies. Knowing how computers function at the fundamental level is critical to designing scalable systems and that is no longer taught in CS school. Some of these tradespeople need to work 70 hours to get their jobs done. Too bad for them.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 21, 2012 @ 5:30 pm

I'm a Unicorn! Wheeeeeeee!!!

Posted by Guest on Nov. 22, 2012 @ 8:49 pm

If you're switching gears to silly insults, apparently you have nothing to say to what marcos is asserting about brittleness and trendiness among computer workers.

Posted by DifferentGuest on Nov. 23, 2012 @ 5:45 pm

In that case, obviously they should be denied housing.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 24, 2012 @ 8:38 am

Because we learned 100 years ago the high cost of tenement housing.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 21, 2012 @ 9:36 am
Posted by Guest on Nov. 21, 2012 @ 10:57 am

A software developer gentrifying SF? Shame.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 21, 2012 @ 9:56 am

Computer Scientists have been here for 50 years. Web developer automatons and the speculative frenzy that rent seekers squeeze out of government is what has gentrified San Francisco.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 21, 2012 @ 10:12 am

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