In search of reasonable rent, the middle-class backbone of San Francisco — maitre d's, teachers, bookstore managers, lounge musicians, copywriters and merchandise planners — are engaging in an unusual experiment in communal living: They are moving into dorms.
Shared bathrooms at the end of the hall and having no individual kitchen or living room is becoming less weird for some of the city's workers thanks to Starcity, a new development company that is expressly creating dorms for many of the non-tech population.
Starcity has already opened three properties with 36 units. It has nine more in development and a wait list of 8,000 people. The company is buying a dozen more buildings (including one-star hotels, parking garages, office buildings and old retail stores), has raised $18.9 million in venture capital and hired a team of 26 people. Starcity said it was on track to have hundreds of units open around the San Francisco Bay Area this year, and thousands by 2019.
These are not micro-units, nor are they like WeWork's WeLive housing developments, where residents have their own small kitchens, living rooms and bathrooms but share common event space and industrial appliances for parties. These are not single-family homes that are being used as group houses.
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Instead, Starcity residents get a bedroom of 130 square feet to 220 square feet. Many of the buildings will feature some units with a private bath for a higher rent. But Jon Dishotsky, Starcity's co-founder and chief executive, said a ratio of one bathroom for every two to three bedrooms makes the most sense for large-scale affordability. The average one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco rents for $3,300 a month, but Starcity rooms go for $1,400 to $2,400 a month fully furnished, with utilities and Wi-Fi included.
"If you think about the most private things that you do, a lot of them are related to the bathroom," said Mr. Dishotsky, 34. "So that's probably the hardest part."
Starcity's target demographic makes $40,000 to $90,000 a year. Most of the residents, who range in age from their early 20s to early 50s, have no political philosophy around communes nor any previous experience in them. Moving in was a practical decision they each made. But after they arrive, what they are most surprised by is how much the building changes them.