More units, less zoning? SF microapartments avoid “NIMByism”

San Francisco’s housing crisis is now legendary: the average rent for a 2 bedroom studio is $5000. To add housing stock fast, one developer has created the city’s first micro-apartment high rise (with units as small as 254 square feet, slightly larger than the city’s new 220-square-foot minimum).

Patrick Kennedy has been crusading for increased urban density for years, when I first met him in 2011, he was surprised there weren’t more people focused on the same goal. “San Francisco’s an interesting city: 42% of the population lives alone, much higher than any other American city, and yet there’s very little stuff that addresses the needs of a single person, especially something that can be affordable to a single person.”

Back in 2011 he had built a 160 square foot unit inside a Berkeley warehouse to experiment with just how large a unit needed to be to be livable. “We built this prototype, it probably cost us a couple hundred grand, but we really needed to know if we needed to know whether we could make a room 9 foot 6” or whether it could be 9 foot 9”.” See original 2011 video:

In 2012 San Francisco supervisors dropped the minimum allowed apartment size to 220 square feet and Kennedy began plans for the city’s first micro-unit high rise. In 2015 the building opened with units as small as 254 square feet. To fit 160 units on a 9000 square foot lot, Kennedy replaced car parking for a Zip car and the city’s “largest, climate-controlled bicycle parking garage” (with space for 200 bicycles). He also installed a heated Uber bench and a transit screen with real-time listings for available bike/electric scooter shares, Zip/Uber cars and bus and light rail schedules.

He had designed the tiny units for “garden-variety hipsters” like the employees from the Twitter headquarters across the street, but in the end, California College of the Arts and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music leased the space for student dorms: rents are just under $12000/year for a shared double.

Original video:

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  1. Khu NoPie
    May 4, 2017

    I'm a gluten free hipster

  2. John Smith
    May 5, 2017

    I'll admit that these apartments look nice. But they start at $1495 based off the website. Give me a fucking break!

  3. GcoEnterprises
    May 10, 2017

    Please bring back the days when one could own a Brady-Bunch style split-level Home with a nice yard for sale once again for only $60,000!

  4. R K
    May 11, 2017

    I thought of the idea of micro apartments but with higher ceiling and a lofts at the end, with half the cost of a normal apartment for people in transition or people who want to save up money to make a big purchase like a business or a house,

  5. Alyissa Jay NORCAL
    May 12, 2017

    WHY do you waste electricity for a "climate control" bike room when SF is already climate controlled. It never freezes or gets above 80 degrees…. especially in the basements…

  6. Davy Appleseed
    May 21, 2017

    10:55 okay until he said that I was thinking its a scam. but he keeps it real.

  7. Paisley Campbell
    May 23, 2017

    The sad statistics. People accommodated as singles, sterile. Cool guy though, love his voice. ❤️, I feel minipulated…

  8. Tamara Fletcher
    May 28, 2017

    I definitely appreciate the sound proofing – that is one of the biggest issues with apartments I have had. But I wish I could buy a shell with the smart exteriors to fit out myself. I don't want a designated bedroom and bed that takes up space all the time etc. These lack the flexibility I want to make a small space work exactly to my activities, and how and where I want to spend my time. Are there any developments targeted at people like me who want to design the internal space themselves?

  9. Christine Trzcinski
    May 29, 2017

    hilarious! would this guy live in one of those?  I think not……

  10. Josh fedora Moore
    June 12, 2017

    still $3,000-$6,000 a month :/

  11. Lisa Kilmer
    June 14, 2017

    Thanks for doing this update – I remember the original interview and have often wondered what SF has done in the interim. The Panoramic website says prices are $1495 for shared bedroom, and $2980 for a studio. Ouch! But I imagine still cheaper than elsewhere.

  12. Victor 11rus
    June 19, 2017

    Nano boxes for next 50 years of mortgage. Next step is bedroom inside the closet? So that is success look like for SF.

  13. Graydon Buchleiter
    June 22, 2017

    Didn't levitt town suck for like a bajillion reasons

  14. Kent Bey
    June 22, 2017

    Interesting …………….

  15. Random overpopulated world ideas
    June 28, 2017

    I'd rather live in my 40' 5th wheel. I'll pay $1200/yr ANYWHERE. i'm not 1 but 2. fuck your lonley 1 person space. fuckin A that's depressing. look up the Hemisphere 5th wheel w/ 2 bed & 2 whole bathrooms. there's no room for family (of any type.) go grab a nomadic home & piss the bay off. they don't want low income to OWN anything either. my $40000 rig is amazing compared to that shithole. Its an investment we get to own. whats own? the sheep say?
    oh, my mop makes me so happy cause i'm cleaning my property. not your shitty wannabe tiny home apartment shack…

  16. Random overpopulated world ideas
    June 28, 2017

    Sitting is "deliberately uncomfortable" unless you are waiting for an Uber. SHEEP. Skinner tortured animals. LOL

  17. Alex Pires
    July 13, 2017

    Kasita's look more futuristic

  18. L.D. McQuinn
    July 19, 2017

    Major sick building syndrome with that one, too bad – I couldn't even walk through it…let alone live in it.

  19. Stella Bell-Murray
    July 24, 2017

    The bike garage is amazing.

  20. robertsd247
    August 1, 2017

    So basically these people are renting out hotel rooms? Extended Stay America has 20 years on this joker.

  21. estelle patella
    August 3, 2017

    I couldn't live in something like that. Too industrial and devoid of hominess. Reminiscent of an institution.

  22. H N
    August 7, 2017

    How much??

  23. Vocaloides
    August 17, 2017

    They look like Soviet-era apartment buildings – pretentious social engineering masquerading as enlightened progressivism and everything.

  24. IntarwebUser
    August 30, 2017

    This guy had a lot of interesting things to say. I like how he showed off the prototype and explained which parts did not turn out well before showing off the apartments he decided were good enough to build and rent out. And the door hanger was a nice touch!

    I'd like to see more of this guy. You should hit him up again and see if he has any other apartments or design ideas to show off!

  25. lalakuma9
    September 3, 2017

    Uhh, I lived in a studio apartment in Japan for 2 years. The size was only about 200 square feet, and it was perfectly livable, even though I was messy and had a lot of things. I think people in US are just way behind on the idea of a micro-apartment because America is so big and they're so used to having giant houses and giant appliances. The smallest apartment he showed doesn't utilize the space very well and has a lot of big unnecessary installations that just cramped up the unit. He needs to go to East Asia and do some research on tiny studios, or just watch all the youtube videos about them.

  26. Ion-Christopher DiMeglio
    October 17, 2017

    That's what I said in 1997 – fix the bottom of the market so people have a place to go – and you spare the rest of the city. Great, great lesson. Inspiring people all around.

  27. Ion-Christopher DiMeglio
    October 17, 2017

    To all the people who hate the design – you've got no point. These micro-apartments are designed for tech 'hipsters' who appreciate Apple over – RCA VICTOR? This is APPLE MINIMALIST TOTAL FUNCTION DESIGN – even the latest iteration. It's not for everybody, obviously. Even a bunch of upper-middle class hooters and pluckers will appreciate that – it makes a cool dorm atmosphere – and it's not going to look obsolete in 20 years – it will keep that amazing utility. Kind of like an Airstream trailer never loses it's cool.

  28. A.L. Sheehan
    November 2, 2017

    I used to live there and eventually had to leave b/c of the difficulty in finding affordable/available housing, I lived in some expensive tiny rooms with crazy ppl and not very good living conditions sometimes… so I totally appreciate what this guy is doing.

  29. Rozmaheswari 01101963
    November 5, 2017

    I need plan drawing

  30. Daren Wilson
    November 12, 2017

    Reminds me of university dorms. Especially Eigenmann Hall at Indiana (1980's). Small rooms to sleep and work in, but private, and larger common areas to lounge about, read, gather. One big difference is these tiny apartments have kitchens, while most dorms typically don't offer any way of cooking.

  31. Erick Juarez Jr.
    November 12, 2017

    Wow. This is the reason I love this channel. As someone living outside of the city because of prices this is amazing. I already live a minimilastic life by choice and the design and location of this apartment complex is perfect. Are they building more? Can I get on a waiting list?

  32. The Hollanesian
    November 21, 2017

    Besides the trolleys, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the show "Full House", I don't see anything else fascinating enough to make me want to live in San Francisco. Definitely not the price.

  33. Steve Seiler
    November 22, 2017

    i would rather live under a tree because we have to go back to nature cities are not the answer

  34. PageMonster
    December 2, 2017

    The acid test is: would HE live in one? I'm betting "No".

  35. PageMonster
    December 2, 2017

    "The Market" is not a living thing. It has no wants or needs.

  36. PageMonster
    December 2, 2017

    No parking – no deal.

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