The story of the starry-eyed youngster moving to San Francisco and into an over-priced community living space as he or she attempts to learn to code and land a top-paying job is now so common as to be cliched. However, the latest entry into the field — posted to Alternet — is of particular interest because the living space in question appears to not be some random shit-hole but rather a seemingly illegal 13-person Airbnb possibly run out of a luxury apartment complex with many nice amenities in Mission Bay.
Although the author of the post, David Garczynski, never identifies the building by name, he drops enough details into his story to easily figure out the location with a quick Google search. "The Airbnb posting did boast of access to a 24-hour gym, roof deck, and bocce courts," he writes of the ad that drew him to the rental. "The building has an indoor basketball court, an outdoor hot tub and even a rock climbing wall. The 19th-floor business lounge alone comes with a pool table, a porch, several flat-screen TVs and an enviable view of much of San Francisco."
An indoor basketball court. A rock-climbing wall. Bocce courts. A 19th-floor business lounge. These are all familiar sounding perks. However, the well-appointed life advertised by this building was far from what greeted Garczynski which we can't independently verify.
Seventeen floors below [the business lounge], I lived in an illegal Airbnb with 12 roommates split between two rooms. There were six people packed into my bedroom alone — seven, if you included the guy who lived in the closet. Three bunk beds adorned the walls, and I was fortunate enough to score a bottom bunk. Unfortunately, though, it was not the one by the window, which, with the exception of one dim lamp, was the only source of light in the room. Even at midday, the room never lit up much more than a shadowed cave.
Garczynski says he paid $1,200 a month to live in the 7-person room (presumably another six slept in another bedroom — he says it was a two-bedroom apartment), which, if the rent was split evenly, means whoever managed the Airbnb was grossing $15,600 on the hopes and dreams of those too lazy, desperate, or broke to find a decent place to live.
The most expensive two-bedroom currently listed that building's site rents for $5,725, suggesting this scam is a well-paying one.
The entire thing sounds incredibly sketchy — right down to how Garcynski and his housemates were forced to access the building all 13 of them had to share a single key, and none had access to the building's front door.
I’d have to sneak into the building every night. The only way I entered the building was by waiting until someone exited or entered, and then I’d slip through the door before it closed. From there I’d walk straight past the front desk guard and head to the bank of elevators. Despite my nerves, that part was surprisingly easy. The building caters to the young tech elite, so a backwards hat and a collegiate T-shirt practically made me invisible. When I got to my floor, I’d make sure none of the neighbors were watching, and if no one was around, I’d stand on my tiptoes and grab the communal key hidden atop the exit sign. Once the door was unlocked, I’d return the key to its perch for the next tenant to use.
This, of course, is not the first time we've seen such a scheme. It was just last December when we took a look at a totally shady Craigslist posting for a shared living space at 320 Berry Street — just one block away from this one.
As for Garcynski's roommates? Well, let's just say that much like his room's decor, they were not what he expected. "They weren’t who I thought they would be — a community of intelligent and inspiring men and women bouncing ideas back and forth," he explains. "Rather they were boys and girls, coddled by day in the security of companies that fed them, entertained them and nursed them. At home, they could barely take care of themselves."
Garcynski eventually moved out, and he makes no mention of the fate of the apartment or its unnamed managers. We can only assume that the building owners and management will be none too keen on this operation if they catch wind of it. But with numerous coder camps still operating and drawing in the hopeful, we don't imagine this will be the last time we hear a story like Garcynski's.
In his brief bio, we learn that Garcynski has lived in SF for a year, and must not have stayed long in this packed Airbnb. "In that time," in addition to these cramped quarters, he also has lived "on his cousin's couch, in two short-term subleases, and has been evicted once." The details around the eviction are not given.