Living small in San Francisco often means closing oneself off in a studio or micro-unit. But, as Build Inc. principal Michael Yarne points out, "a lot of people are tired of living alone in a studio." Yarne was speaking at the recent (and provocatively titled) SPUR forum "Tenements for the 21st Century?" at which he and architect Mark Macy of Macy Architecture presented their proposed coliving project, 1532 Harrison, in western SoMa. The three-building, six-story development, which will be classified as group housing under San Francisco Planning Code, is currently under environmental review. As proposed, it will include 235 private suites between 231 and 253 square feet, clustered around 28 shared living spaces (860-1,003 square feet each). The development seeks to answer an important question, says Yarne: "How to create a building that helps people build community?"
Though small, the units are designed to be more self-sufficient than your typical house share: each suite comes with its own "micro-bathroom"—including a small shower and toilet—and a wee kitchenette equipped with a convection microwave, micro-fridge/freezer, and sink. That means there's no forced socialization every time you have a hankering for a bowl of cereal. When you want to, "you can withdraw," notes Macy. The units will also have private balconies or Juliet terraces, while the shared spaces will hold chef's kitchens, dining areas, living areas, laundry facilities, and outdoor balconies or gardens.
According to Build Inc, rents at the coliving development are likely to be lower than current rents at studio apartments in SoMa and the Mission. The target demographic covers a wide range, and includes young people struggling to afford market-rate rent, 34-to-60-year-olds who are seeking a greater sense of community, and older empty nesters looking to downsize. Students will be welcome, as will "social identity groups" who want to build a stronger sense of community by sharing a group house.
Macy Architecture's design will fit into the warehouse character of the neighborhood with a weathered-steel cladding that self-patinas. Landscaped laneways between the buildings will create pedestrian connections between 12th Street and Norfolk Alley. The trio of structures would also be connected internally with a sequence of transparent sky bridges hovering over the laneways.
1532 Harrison is the selfsame project linked to Build Inc.'s proposal for Eagle Plaza, which would transform a block of 12th Street between Harrison and Bernice into a park, slow street, and public plaza with an LGBTQ theme. Build Inc. also intends to improve public sidewalks surrounding the buildings and to add new trees, landscaping, and potential bulb-outs.
—Tracy Elsen and Lamar Anderson