Making It in the Bay

Making It in the Bay: Some Choose $1,200/Month Sleeping Pods

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It's no secret. San Francisco is one of the most expensive cities in the world to rent an apartment. Buying a place in the city is out of the question for most people.

That's why some folks are choosing unconventional and cheaper approaches to housing, including one that provides people with a modest sleeping pod for $1,200 per month.

Housing company PodShare offers a co-living community featuring bunk bed-style sleeping quarters. The company was launched eight years ago in Los Angeles by Elvina Beck. The 35-year-old entrepreneur now has a location in San Diego and one in San Francisco.

"What if you could have access to housing but never necessarily own?" Beck said. "Do you even need to own your own washing machine? Can you share it? Do you need your own hair dryer? Can you share it? Do you need your own toothpaste? Can you share it?"

At PodShare, a sleeping pod comes with some shelves and a personal TV. It's in an open space with other tenants. No guests are allowed. The building has two shared bathrooms, a fully-stocked kitchen, a workroom, a TV room, an outdoor community space and free Wi-Fi, Netflix and Hulu. All utilities are included. There are also lockers people can use to store their valuables.

"In a way it's kind of like going back to college dorm living, except everyone's older and more mature," Philippe Dunbar said.

Dunbar said he chose the co-living lifestyle because, "it's crazy expensive in the Bay," and he works freelance, so he doesn't have a consistent income, which makes it even harder to get an apartment.

"Landlords really don't like unconventional," he said. "They want paystubs. They want proof of income."

At City College of San Francisco, a dozen or so students have formed a community, living off the grid in solar-powered camper vans at the edge of campus, building and maintaining their tiny homes together. Faced with some of the highest rent in the world, some say it's a financial decision to emerge from school with a small savings, rather than saddled with debt.

Tenants said the co-living lifestyle is a steal for single people who don't have children nor pets and are willing to live with strangers with very little privacy.

"I was super terrified about just sharing a big open space with so many people," Kat Walker said. "I'm like, 'Am I too old for this? Is this like a youth thing?'"

Walker has been living at PodShare locations in Los Angeles and San Francisco for almost two years. She now works for the company as a manager at its Tendernob location in San Francisco.

"It was completely unrealistic to be able to get an apartment on my own or even with a roomate or two," she said.

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To secure a space, tenants book a pod online and then show up with a government-issued ID and their rent payment.

"A traditional apartment is six months rent or an annual lease with credit score, background check, security deposit," Beck said. "We don't do any of those things."

Due to city laws in San Francisco, people have to book for one month at a time.

On the topic of safety, Beck argued that the open floor plan allows residents to keep an eye on each other and report anything out of the ordinary.

"If the whole community finds you to be a cancer, they will push you out," she said.

In the eight years she's been in business, Beck said the only incident the company has had involved two tenants who had a sexual relationship, which is prohibited at PodShare.

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Now, Beck wants to take the company to other cities outside of California.

"I love Seattle, Portland and Austin, and I would love for 2020 to be that," she said.

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