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Is This Ad for a Shipping Container as an Apartment For Real?

No, but the truth is even more bizarre

Just when you think you’ve seen it all…you may be right. On Friday, SFist featured a Craigslist ad for an "apartment" consisting entirely of a single shipping container, located in an ambiguously defined "gated community" in the Bayview.

Converting shipping containers into housing and office space has been a vogue in San Francisco for a while now. But you’ve got to actually convert them, you can’t just plop down a container, open the doors, and call it an apartment.

And yet, this giant metal box was listed as a 160-square-foot "home," available for $600 a month. The ad has since been removed, but lingered at least until this morning "This is not something that a person who is not being human-trafficked across an ocean should be doing," SFist observed, which is as sage an observation as any ever uttered.

So, we wondered, is this it? Is this finally the bottom of the barrel (or box, as the case may be) in San Francisco’s rental market?

Being that Friday was April Fool’s Day, our first instinct was that this ad was a joke that people were perhaps taking too seriously. It is, of course, illegal to rent out an unadorned metal box as housing; in San Francisco, a legal housing unit must have heating, plumbing, weatherproofing, electricity, and working phone jacks, at the least.

(When asked whether a shipping container would violate any tenant protection laws in the city, a spokesperson for the rent board said that it would "depend on when the property was built," which is a bit of a headscratcher in this case.)

The ad listed the address as 951 Hudson Avenue, home of the BoxShop, a Bayview business that rents studio space to artists converted out of — you guessed it — shipping containers. But a BoxShop representative assured us that the ad isn’t theirs, and that they lease containers only as perfectly legal workspace.

BoxShop did note that local entrepreneur Matthew Pigman procured a lot right next to theirs and plans to open a virtually identical business.

Perhaps it is his ad?

Not so, says Pigman. In fact, he was apoplectic when he heard that the ad had remained in place for days on end and that SFist had written about it.

It’s all a bizarre misunderstanding, Pigman insists: He signed a deal to lease a container to a man from Washington DC, "a very nice guy, very entertaining to talk to, but a little on the awkward side." The man in question says his operation is completely legal, and no one is going to be living in any of his boxes.

Although, with some disbelief in tow, Pigman testifies that on Sunday there were two women on the verge of agreeing to live in the box for the prescribed price. "One works for the parks service," he says. "The other is a hygienist."

We may wonder where these women will end up living instead, although the possibilities are probably too disconcerting to ponder for long.