City of San Francisco tells man he can't live in wooden box in friend's living room

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I’m OK with this.

It seems at first blush like bureaucracy run amok when the city government is interfering with an agreement that this guy and his friend made. But rules about spaces for rent are important protections for the people on the less powerful side of the landlord-tenant relationship.

If Mr. Berkowitz had kept quiet about the agreement, everything would have been fine. I bet he wishes now he had. I feel bad for him. But I would feel bad for the large number of people who would live in wooden boxes if the government allowed it.


This ruling banning sleeping in hermetically sealed wooden boxes seems like it would be unfair to vampires… And I thought SF was a liberal city. Sheesh.


I can see how “sleeping inside a box that has a single small entrance” could be a safety issue in a fire. He could probably get away with it if he just knocked out one of the walls and called it a “partition.”

Reminds me of this incident from last summer in which someone set up a storage shed in their London flat and tried to rent it out as an extra room.


this all doesn’t make sense within the dialogue described.

(1) there can’t be regs on sleeping in a box right? what if the homeowner did it himself (like maybe he was the Daredevil, or had agoraphobia or whatever (just like it)…that can’t be illegal right?).
(2) I can understand having regs on fixtures in your house - you need permits to do kitchen redesigning etc…perhaps this is considered a fixture/redesign w/o permit…that makes sense…and fire code comes into play.
(3) is there a law about having a paid guest? sounds something like that is the main focus here…the city doesn’t want people stacking 10+ “paying guests” in a 2bd apartment turning him into a slum lord/ hostel owner essentially.
(4) why the box? I guess to get privacy for sleeping activities? why not just crash on a cot in the bedroom…its not like the cot has room for anything other than sleeping and maybe some storage?


So what is SF’s deal with not enough housing? Can’t build new structures? Can’t build high structures?

Somewhere in Japan someone is reading this thinking how many family members they could fit in that luxurious pod.


@japhroaig? Is this article about you?

That’s a pretty nicely built box, anyway.


Both. And the city is on a Peninsula, meaning it can’t build outward. Also the large number of highly-paid tech workers in the Bay Area means most available housing is snatched up pretty quickly.


Soooo - seems like they should alter the laws to make more apts? I dunno, we just sprawl out around here, and let the old areas go to shit.

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I’d much rather buy a van off craigslist and sleep in that. Down by the river, ideally.

I live in a pretty expensive area of the country (Greater Boston), but I consistently find the Bay Area housing situation pretty fucked up. It will have to implode- there’s no other choice, really. At some point, the cost is too high and organizations start moving away, and then things crash. Right?

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“No, you can’t stay on my couch, even though you are having financial difficulties. But I do have this box in my living room…”


There have been some major new housing developments in recent years, the problem is that most of it has been targeting rich people. Because if you’re a developer and you have a choice to rent to either rich people or poor people it’s kind of a no-brainer from a business standpoint.


Well, the trubs is that VC’s and foreign powers and corrupt buisness people have started “investing” in property to launder money, keeping the prices high with a steady trickle of money into a given region.

Apparently there are entire swathes of london now that are basically just vacant condos with cheap furniture to keep up appearances.


Well I agree that this is not a bedroom. But isn’t it really just a piece of furniture? Specifically a bed? Are there rules about putting a bed in the living room? Or how many people can share an apartment?


The thing that makes this calculus difficult for me is that choice isn’t between live in a small box and have the goverment provide a larger home (they aren’t doing that). It’s a choice about trading off rent for ammenities. I wouldn’t want to live in that box, but I am no stranger to sacrificing space for rent or location. If the choice is a box in SF or an apartment an hour aways, it may be the right choice for him.

The bigger issue is the income disparity that forces this situation.


Home of the brave and land of the free…

I assume he could use the box to store his collection of assault rifles, though.


I know that there are regulation on occupancy limits in some jurisdictions however even if there are I doubt this would put them over the edge. I agree it does look more like it should be considered furniture. Maybe he should paint it and call it an art installation and apply for some sort of grant to live in it as a piece of performance art.

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Hmm… ugh, I can’t believe I am suggesting this… but since there seems to be a real need - require that housing like that has a certain percentage of apartments that are for lower income or even middle income? Possibly three tiers? So you could make your bank off of having it primarily full of the wealthy, but then have a few floors with smaller, cheaper apartments (you can forgo the gold plated toilets, etc.)

I remember when I went to NYC that I could never imagine living there and wondered how an average person could afford it. I guess a lot of people who come in and sell you pizzas or what ever come in via the subway. And then some places are rent controlled.

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If it really is a “fire code” issue, then couldn’t you simply build a new box from fire-proof or fire-resistant materials, create an alternate point of egress, and ensure that there is nothing in the box plugged into mains power (battery-powered light, battery-powered laptop while you are in the box)?

I have a sneaking suspicion that eliminating fire hazard as a point of objection would probably end up being an exercise in the fine art of goalpost-moving by city officials…


They actually do have some rules to that effect; certain developers are required by the city to sell or lease 12% of their new units at “below market rate” for that purpose.

Unfortunately as you might imagine there are loopholes aplenty about exactly who gets dibs on those units, and there still simply aren’t enough of them to make a big dent in the problem anyway. Setting aside 12% of housing for working-class people still means 88% of the housing goes to rich people.