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Berkeley considers building 100-unit development of stackable prefab homes

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Local micro-developer’s invention may finally have its day in the East Bay

A tiny, prefab apartment sitting on the back of a truck parked in SoMa.
Local developer’s modular pads are not the only option for such a building, but they’re in the running
Adam L Brinklow

When local micro-developer Patrick Kennedy parked one of his MicroPADs in front of his office in October—the 160-square foot prefab apartments are suggested as a solution for the homeless—Curbed SF was the second in line for a tour. The first was Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates.

Now Berkeley’s City Council seems to be getting on board with the micro plan, although the city doesn’t seem to want to commit to Kennedy by name just yet.

On January 24, three city council members will introduce a measure to “obtain zoning approval and a building permit for a four-story and approximately 100 unit building consisting of stackable modular units” somewhere on city-owned land.

They also want to “amend the permitting and approvals process to facilitate the rapid creation of below market housing” and find a non-profit to run it.

Based on that, it sounds like Berkeley wants to get into the MicrodPAD business. The measure even allocates $1,000/month for rent (payable by the city) for the prefab units.

Inside a MicroPAD (facing the front door).

However, councilperson Ben Bartlett told Curbed SF that, despite appearances, the proposal is not tailored for Kennedy’s MicroPAD program, though he admits that is indeed where they got the idea.

“It’s the best thing out there,” Bartlett said of the MicroPAD. “But in terms of process, we have to open it up to others too.”

He emphasized that he and his cosponsors on the measure are definitely serious about creating prefab, low-income housing in Berkeley, via one developer or another, “as quickly as possible.”

He adds, “I don’t do exploratory. Outcome is our focus.”

The measure notes that “conventionally built buildings cost the city [of Berkeley] an average of $429,4001 per unit.” The proposed prefab building may cost as little as half that, on a per-unit basis.

Manufacture of the prefab homes could happen simultaneously with permitting, and construction may take between four and eight months.

Prefab homes are designed to snap together like Legos as cranes stack them up.
Adam L Brinklow