"For Rent:" Photographer Parodies San Francisco’s Ludicrous Rental Scene

By Riya Bhattacharjee
|  Tuesday, Mar 25, 2014  |  Updated 6:01 PM PDT
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San Francisco: For Rent

Scot Hampton Photo

Waterfront condo near Civic Center for $5000: San Francisco photographer Scot Hampton's "SF For Rent" photo essay makes a point about the city's current housing crisis.

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Picture this: $5,000 for a 33-square-feet waterfront condo near the Civic Center, $7,350 for a “penthouse” planter on Market Street and $3,500 for a “basement” manhole all to yourself.

If you are thinking these rents are too high, even by San Francisco standards, you are right. They are all made up by San Francisco photographer Scot Hampton.

Disgusted and disheartened by San Francisco’s crazy housing market, Hampton decided to go around putting “For Rent” signs on manholes, dumpsters, parklets and post-boxes to make a statement.

Earlier this month, a Craigslist ad which listed a mansion in the City’s Forest Hill Extension neighborhood at $45,000 a month set tongues wagging about how San Francisco was no longer an affordable place to live.

With local and national media obsessed about the city’s income inequality and subsequent housing wars, it was only a matter of time before someone like Hampton came along and created a satirical account of what’s going on in the city.

Hampton told NBC Bay Area that he created his “SF: For Rent” photo essay as “a mordant exploration of SF's current housing crisis, emphasizing how ludicrous the rental market has become."

“I came up with the idea last year and started shooting a little over a month ago,” Hampton said. “I grabbed some ‘For Rent’ signs at the hardware store, and spent a few days walking around the city, doing some street shooting with my film camera, and then shooting pictures for this series on my DSLR when I found a suitable spot, someplace that I thought, with the way rental prices are going, this will soon be for rent.”

Hampton’s collection has real-life elements to it -- birds, people, even a San Francisco city employee – and a witty caption summarizing the property valuation and amenities in real-estate lingo.

“A lot of it was luck: The seagull - the city worker picking up trash; both were spontaneous and un-staged,” Hampton says of his photographs, which went viral on the local blog scene.

“I’m very surprised at how much attention it's gotten,” he said. “I didn't know it would touch a nerve with so many people. I guess there are a lot of people out there who are just as disgusted with the insane rental prices as I have been. Also surprising, the Craigslist ad for the waterfront condo is still up.”

His next project?

“I'm working on a companion photo essay of portraits, documenting the people displaced by the housing market and/or evicted by the Ellis Act,” he said.

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