Outer Sunset resident Peter Berkowitz, 25, had a dream. That dream, to live in a tiny wooden box ("pod") and perhaps sell versions of his human dog crate to others, at first appeared to be off to a great start. After some coverage here on SFist, and an op ed in the Guardian, Berkowitz seemed on the cusp of exporting this sad, sad product to other sad places. But oh, it was not to be. As reported by Hoodline yesterday, it turns out that not everyone shares Berkowitz's enthusiasm for the tinderbox coffins, and an official with the Department of Building Inspection confirmed to both the box creator and Hoodline that the pods violate building, housing, and fire safety codes.
"He would have to completely open it up or look at something different, such as a bed with a frame, with curtains, something that was open to the room," chief housing inspector Rosemary Bosque told Hoodline. "This would be the case for anywhere in the country with respect to building and inhabitability codes."
DBI was forced to comment on the matter, it seems, as Berkowitz appeared to be working toward spreading his idea — like so many spores propelled by solar winds through space — to other pod people.
"[If] you live in the Bay Area and are perhaps quite possibly vaguely interested in maybe having or living out of a pod yourself, please please please send me an email too," he writes on his website. " I'd love to work with you on building a suitable pod for whatever space/ needs you have at a very very very reasonable price (I'm more interested in getting good at building pods than in making money at this point)."
Hoodline also obtained an email Berkowitz sent to a neighbor, suggesting some sort of revenue share business proposition involving him building a pod in his neighbor's house for the neighbor to rent out via Airbnb.
"I'm wondering if you might be interested in having a pod set up (free of charge) in your apartment to enable you to make money from either subletters or Airbnbers," reads the email. "And if it doesn't end up working, I'd also come and take the pod away, again, free of charge. Also, I would help you find subletters or Airbnbers - a lot of people have emailed me who are interested in living in such a situation."
William Strawn of the Department of Building Inspection's legislative and public affairs manager, at this point, reiterated the thoughts of his colleague. "We're concerned that Mr. Berkowitz is going out and trying to increase the number of these, knowing that this is an at-risk type of thing to do," he told Hoodline. "It's not just a matter of high rents and a matter of how people are coping with rents in San Francisco; there are fire safety realities."
The fire-hazard devil is in the details, it seems. Perhaps Berkowitz should look into crawl spaces.