Not to go all “you kids get off of my lawn!” at you, but has anyone else noticed that lately it’s not enough to have a good idea; the idea has to “change the way we live and work!” Even a bad idea, like COVID, changes the way we live and work.
In fact, every single technological upgrade, since the first time a caveman rubbed two sticks together, has arguably changed the way we live and work. Every upgrade is going to change our lives, and we eat it up. Bring the change. It’s always for the better, right?
But not every new idea can deliver on this, can it?
Of course not, but someone in the real estate world really is trying to change the way we live and work. In a world of sound and fury, often indicating nothing, Starcity, a co-living outfit with properties in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Barcelona (!), stands apart from the myriad would-be change agents. If they can pull off their plans for the next two years, they will indeed change the way many people live and work — but are these changes for the better?
Up to now Starcity has been a pretty standard co-living provider, offering furnished rooms in rehabbed homes in San Francisco and other cities. They charge residents a membership fee which covers rent, utilities, internet and common area upkeep/perks. They’re basically streamlined, upscale boarding houses, temporary in nature (memberships can range from three to 15 months), tailor-made for newly-arrived white-collar workers. But this wasn’t enough for Starcity. They’re taking a huge swing next year, and it could result in, in a world of would-be game-changers, an actual game-changer — for a specific type of San Franciscan.
At some point in 2021, Starcity will start construction on a project at 457 Minna St. When it’s completed, Starcity Minna will be a 15-story, 270-unit co-living monster, built in modular fashion to keep down costs but festooned with all manner of upscale (and, let’s admit it, youthful) perks: an event space, a bike repair and storage area, a massive rooftop deck.
Each level will consist of 18 en-suite units, a “chef’s kitchen,” a dining area that, per online drawings, will double as a laptop-strewn workspace, a media area and a lounge (more laptops). It is a dream come true for a certain type of renter. I’m just not sure Starcity is ready to admit who that renter actually is.
You may as well lose the drawings of energetic, fashion-forward seniors mingling with their young co livers, Starcity, and technically, I guess the project is aimed at “low- and middle-income residents,” but let’s be honest, here; this is a giant upscale dorm for young tech workers.
Imagine the catnip Starcity Minna will be for exhausted techies who’ve been couch-surfing and sleeping in eight to a room in “tech pods?” Imagine getting all of these perks for well below market rent? So what if I have to share a kitchen? I mostly do take-out anyway. Young tech workers, new to The City and at adulthood? They’re the ones, perfectly positioned for the soft landing of grown-up dorm living.
Not satisfied with this single revolution, last week Starcity rolled out another game-changer, invest.starcity.com, which expands real estate investment beyond the reach of institutions and high-rolling individuals, offering opportunity to anyone with $5,000 to invest. It’s a chance, Starcity CEO Jon Dishotsky says, to “democratize access” to real estate investing, in a city where traditional home-buying is well out of reach for many.
With this program, and with Starcity Minna, the company has changed access for renters and investors, while also truly creating “a new way to live and work.”
And let’s be clear about that new way to live and work. Is it a revolution everyone wants? Or needs? Starcity Minna is many things, but what it is at its core is a co-working space with bedroom suites attached. Google may have game rooms and fitness centers to keep you at work (“Need your dry-cleaning done? Don’t leave! We’ll do it right here!”); at Starcity Minna, you never have to go to home because you’re already there. Your home office gets lonely; at Starcity Minna, you’re never alone.
This is the real revolution, a world where work and home are one, a life where you can still take Zoom meetings in your pajamas and then afterward retire to the coffee station to kibbitz with like-minded peers. It may not be the revolution everyone wants, but Starcity isn’t lying when it claims to be changing the way we live and work.
Larry Rosen is a San Francisco-based writer, editor, podcaster and recovering former Realtor. He is a guest columnist and his viewpoint is not necessarily that of the Examiner. The Market Musings real estate column appears every other week.