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San Francisco Says No To Sleeping Pods, Says They're Fire Hazards

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Building inspectors sic fire code on Sunset illustrator's odd rental innovation

Scratch that: It looks as if San Francisco is not going to become a town of Pod People after all.

Last week we brought you the story of Peter Berkowitz, a Bay Area illustrator who rents the corner of his roommate’s Sunset apartment and sleeps in a pod of his own design for $400 a month. We weren’t alone: Berkowitz’s story popped up in the San Francisco Chronicle, the Washington Post, the Guardian, and NPR, just to name a few.

Some found the idea of a man confining himself to a plywood box at nights depressing (Berkowitz is quick to point out that he could afford a bigger living space but that the pod seemed like a creative way to cut down on his cost of living), but since his story went viral he’s had inquiries from others wanting to commission pods of their own.

Not so fast, says the Department of Building Inspection. When Hoodline wrote this week on Berkowitz’s thoughts about monetizing his pods via Airbnb, the city squashed the idea tout suite. Although Berkowitz defined the pod as merely a piece of furniture, essentially an enclosed bed, DBI characterizes it as something closer an illegal dwelling unit.

Chiefly, the problem is the fire code: Nobody wants to be trapped in a box with only a tiny portal of egress if the apartment goes up in flames. DBI’s legislative affairs manager William Strawn told Hoodline that "fire safety realities" trump whatever problems Berkowitz or anyone else are having paying the rent.

To be legal, the pod would have to resemble more of a room partition than an enclosed space. But that’s exactly the kind of setup Berkowitz was trying to avoid when he hatched his pod idea in the first place. Curtains and temporary walls effectively reduce the size of a room, while the pod was meant to be as unobtrusive as possible and monopolize only as much space as necessary to lie down for a nap.