Micro-Apartments: San Francisco's Newest Housing Option

Photo by: SmartSpace Under construction by developer SmartSpace, this San Francisco micro-apartment saves space with an Inova TableBed, which converts from a dining table to a queen-size bed in seconds.

Looking for a rental in San Francisco is an adventure in frustration. That's a nice way of saying it's torture. While the difficulty of buying here – where a recent upturn in the market has led to homes selling at tens of thousands above asking – is well known, arriving at an open house for a $1,800 studio and finding a crowd snaking out the door and down the block is a new and devastating experience for fresh-faced members of the dot-community just looking for a place to call home.

Of course, many are also complaining that there's more to San Francisco than young, hip tech kids, and that families also need a place to lay their sleepy heads – but to solve at least one part of the problem, San Francisco politicians approved a plan last November to allow construction of "micro apartments." There have always been exceptions to the California Health and Safety codes governing allowable sizes and shapes of dwellings – for college dorms, for instance – but this is a large-scale change that developers had lobbied for and instantly jumped on, allowing two people to legally share a 220-square-foot space that, rather than invoking images of Soviet-era Moscow, looks downright spiffy.

The city placed a limit on these units – only 375 could be built – and the first will roll out in just a few months. The smallest come from developer SmartSpace, currently constructing two micro-apartment buildings in San Francisco that are being built to the highest green standards: solar water heating, low-flow plumbing and an attempt at LEED Platinum status. In addition, as designer Patrick Kennedy demonstrates in a video, the apartments are like a Murphy bed on steroids, with tables and couches and sliding walls combining to create an ever-changing, Lego-like living space.

They won't be any cheaper – they're estimated to run $1,300 to $1,500, the same as the cheapest studios in the Mission – but at least there'll be lots of them.

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