BERKELEY, CA — Hardly a stranger to political movements, this is a city that has championed free speech, no nukes, the antiwar movement and now: no sitting on the sidewalk.
During years of economic downturn, cities across the country have reported rising vagrancy and rushed to pass laws banning aggressive panhandling, giving food away in public parks and even smelling foul.
This bastion of populist politics is no exception. The City Council and mayor have put a measure on the November ballot that would ban sitting and lying on commercial sidewalks from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., at the risk of a $75 citation.
The San Francisco Peninsula (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
ROUGHLY two decades ago, during an earlier Internet start-up boom, many entrepreneurs and fast-typing coders and engineers set up shop in a still-gritty area of this city: South of Market Street.
The young tech crowd rented — and sometimes bought — in commercial buildings in this former warehouse area, converting them into “work-live” spaces where they operated their nascent companies and slept (once in awhile).
The boom-and-bust cycles in the tech sector move quickly, and the pace of constant reinvention and innovation is relentless.
The same is true of tastes in real estate. Today a new generation of tech dreamers is back in the South of Market area. But this time they are breathing life into a start-up wave not previously seen in San Francisco: high-rise condo living.
Most people see a parking space and promptly back up into it; Tim McCormick sees one and thinks, “I could live here.”
Who would willingly choose to live in something with the footprint of a parking space (8x10x16 feet)? Millions already do, argues McCormick, a communications consultant: bedrooms, dorm rooms, motel rooms, hostels, mobile homes and the like. “I myself live comfortably in a converted one-car garage of 200 square feet,” he says, “which allows me to live inexpensively near downtown in super-expensive Palo Alto.”
In cities where space is at a mind-boggling premium, McCormick’s idea of taking up residence in a parking space — in what he refers to as a “Houselet” — isn’t all that far-fetched. It may in fact be more appealing than the so-called “hacker hostels” that got a lot of buzz earlier this summer. Essentially apartments that house herds of would-be startup entrepreneurs willing to pay market rate to live in near-migrant-worker conditions, hacker hostels are proliferating in cities like San Francisco and New York where work culture calls for 24/7 commitments and lots of food-truck takeout (which no doubt inspired upLIFT’s prefab parking pods for the city).
These apartments are less living spaces than crash pads with a social networking component.