Rancor over a proposal to allow “micro apartments” in San Francisco played out Thursday at The City’s Planning Commission, where a proposed 375-unit cap on such “experimental” living spaces was rejected.
Supervisor Scott Wiener has proposed lowering the minimum apartment living space allowed in The City’s building code from 220 square feet to 150 square feet. And in response to criticism of his proposal, he recently suggested limiting the number of such units at 375 until their true impact could be determined.
Commissioner Kathrin Moore said such a cap, or some other method of control, would be prudent because micro-apartments present a “new phenomenon without knowing in what circumstances they would arise.”
But fellow commissioner Michael Antonini was decidedly against any cap.
“Putting a cap on it is un-American,” Antonini said. “The market will determine how many units are going to be sold.”
With Antonini dissenting, the commission ultimately voted 6-1 to approve Commissioner Cindy Wu’s suggestion that planners require a “rigorous reporting program” about such units in lieu of a hard cap. However, the commission did urge the Board of Supervisors to “refine the concept of a cap” on the number of such units that may be permitted.
The commission’s deliberations only considered the proposed cap, and not the overall fate of micro-apartments, which still rests with the Board of Supervisors. A Board of Supervisors committee hearing on the matter is scheduled for Monday.
If Wiener’s proposal ultimately passes, Berkeley-based developer Patrick Kennedy could move ahead with a building full of the units on Eighth Street, which would complement a separate Ninth Street project containing slightly larger units already allowable under current city rules.
Originally billed as “Twitter apartments” designed to accommodate The City’s growing cadre of young tech company workers, proponents now say that the relatively cheap housing — at $1,200 to $1,600 per month — also could appeal to service-industry workers. Supporters say the units also could keep family housing affordable by easing the demand for two- and three-bedroom homes now occupied by multiple roommates.
Kennedy has said he wants to build hundreds of the new living spaces if the demand exists.
But during the commission’s public comment period, speakers complained that the units would still be unaffordable and, because they would be new, would not be eligible for rent-control protections. They also expressed fear that San Francisco would become more like crowded Tokyo.