Courtesy RenderingBerkeley developer Patrick Kennedy has been promoting the microapartment idea since Twitter moved into its new Market Street headquarters.

Supervisors make way for tiny apartment experiment

Developers can now build San Francisco apartments with as little as 150 square feet of living space because of a building code change that supervisors approved Tuesday as a housing “experiment.”

These micro-apartments are planned for an Eighth Street building in the South of Market and are being billed as housing for students, seniors, service industry workers and The City’s growing tech industry workforce.

Despite the Planning Commission’s suggestion last week that the concept of a hard numerical cap on such dwellings should be “refined,” the Board of Supervisors honored a compromise with tenant advocates and approved complementary legislation capping the number of such units at 375 until city officials can better understand their impact. While some tenant advocates hailed the units as a partial solution to The City’s crippling housing costs, others called the expected monthly rent of $1,200 to $1,600 still too high.

Berkeley developer Patrick Kennedy, who has been pursuing the project since excitement began building about Twitter’s new Market Street headquarters, has said he wants to build hundreds of the units. He said the market will determine the demand and demographics for such units, which opponents call small and inhumane.

But Supervisor Scott Wiener and other supporters argued that many San Franciscans already live in micro-units in the form of roommate situations. Such people choosing to live in their own units could free up homes for the families that city leaders have been striving to keep in San Francisco, Wiener added.

Tuesday’s legislation lowers the minimum allowable living space — not including kitchens and bathrooms — from 220 to 150 square feet. Kennedy is currently finishing a Ninth Street project featuring 220-square-foot units.

Supervisor David Campos, who voted in favor of the measure, urged the Planning Commission to vigilantly identify problems that arise due to the smaller units.

The final vote was 10-1, with John Avalos dissenting.

dschreiber@sfexaminer.com

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