Something must be shifting with the local economy, and as San Francisco continues to be a hotbed of artificial intelligence innovation, the people moving here for a piece of that gold rush are finding what many of us found coming here in years past: really high rents.
While much media attention has been paid to everyone leaving San Francisco, the reality is that rents still haven't gotten much cheaper in the last few years — a little, maybe, for new units, but not a lot. And highlighting the fact that tech newcomers are arriving every day to make their AI dreams come true and they're having sticker shock about rents here, we have a new story from ABC 7 about a new iteration of the sleeping-pod dorms we used to see around the time of the last tech boom.
Now, SFist's Apartment Sadness column — which came about back during the last tech boom because of the wealth of hilariously awful and hilariously expensive apartments that were popping up for rent on Craigslist — featured its share of pod-type and bunkbed arrangements eight and nine ago. Somebody was even renting out a box truck as a living space, and somebody with a house near Google's headquarters in Mountain View was renting a tent in their backyard for $965.
Back around 2015 there were literally dozens of listings for communal living situations where someone was making a buck off these newcomers by renting them bunks and packing 13 or 20 people into a three-bedroom apartment. And there were lots of news stories about twentysomethings coming to town and living this neo-commune life, with laptops.
If one thing never changes, it's the frugality of newly arrived engineers and so-called founders, who are just all about the work and can't be bothered to, like, have sex or pay for a place where they could bring someone to have said sex. There's just too much work to do! And why pay $2,000 or $3,000 for an apartment when all you're going to be doing there is sleeping a few hours?
So, we have a new story — a story that pretends, anyway, that this phenomenon is not just a replay of eight years ago — about a pod-rental outfit that appears to be in the Mission District, renting little sleeping pods for $700 a month.
"The pod is the size of a twin bed. So it's not very large but it gets the job done. You just need a place to sleep," says SpellCraft AI founder Christian Lewis, speaking to ABC 7.
Lewis has a pretty familiar story too. He came here from Illinois, he put off coming here because it's so expensive, but now that he's here he wants to stay and he's "met some of the smartest people I've met in my entire life."
Lewis says there are at least 20 people living in this pod palace who are working in the AI space — they don't give the address, but it appears to be this one in Mint Plaza, which was first proposed in 2021 and which still appears to be seeking permits for a full renovation inside. SF YIMBY reported in July that the firm behind the pod hotel at 12 Mint Plaza, Elsey Partners, wants ultimately to have a full-service, eight-story, Japanese-style pod hotel here with 137 pods and a basement spa.
And just as some economists have discussed over the years, the human capital and synergies of places like San Francisco and Boston, surrounded by world-class higher-education institutions as well as great amenities, will likely always have high rents because the supply-and-demand equation is different than in many places.
"Like smart engineers, investors, incubators all that sort of stuff," Lewis tells ABC 7 of who he's met here. "There are tons of resources, tons of human capital here. That is why I'm here and why I'm staying here."
Someone should tell these people that you can, if you're planning to stay, just go on Craigslist and for a few hundred dollars more find a normal-sized room that can fit an adult-sized bed in any number of neighborhoods around town.