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Maybe underground ‘sleeping pods’ in the Mission aren’t a bad idea after all?

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Don’t pooh-pooh the pupae-living spaces just yet

A series of wooden box pods with beds and ladders.
A rendering of what the underfoot utopia might look like.
Renderings by Prime Design, courtesy of Elsey Partners LLC

Of the 219 units micro-housing developer Chris Elsey of Elsey Partners LLC wants to build in the Mission District, 65 of them would be underground sleeping pods renting between $1,000 to $1,375.

And why not?

Underground space is typically used for storing items (cars, bikes), so, amid a housing crisis brought on by an influx of startups, problematic progressive policies, and NIMBY toxicity, using subterranean methods to store people isn’t the worst idea ever, especially for new arrivals who want to break into tech.

“The question I would pose would be what is a more pressing need in San Francisco, beds for people to sleep or place to park bicycles,” said Elsey when asked by phone why he thinks sleeping pods are a good idea.

Elsey, a Kansas-based developer, would like to build two apartment buildings in the Mission District, located across from each other on surface lots at 401 South Van Ness and 1500 15th Street, that would each include two basement-level floors.

Floor plan of the basement-level living space.

“Above ground, the building would feature eights floors with 161 units—each 200-square-feet including a bathroom and kitchen,” reports SFGate. “In the basement-level floors, the sleeping pods are stacked on top of one another, like bunk beds, with one side opening to a common living space.”

Think of the cellar spaces somewhat akin to capsule hotels, popular in countries like Iceland and Japan, where people sleep comfortably on the cheap in pod-like rooms. But unlike the overseas hotels, Elsey’s underground pods would only come with curtains for privacy, as the city’s building code won’t allow them built with a wall and door. And while the basement units won’t come with windows, Elsey says that the common space, which would face an outdoor courtyard, would provide some natural diffused light.

Though abnormal and ostensibly outrageous, exceedingly tiny sleeping units have, due to the city’s “cruel and inhumane” housing crisis, proven successful in San Francisco as of late. For example, the $1,200-per-month bunk bed pods in the Tenderloin, which made headlines last year, sold out as soon as they hit the market. And in the Mission District, which has turned into a neighborhood-wide dormitory for tech ilk who yearn to maintain college-era youthfulness well into their 30s, this might be the best place for subterrestrial living.

The buildings’ above ground studios would rent between $2,000 to $2,375, a bargain in a city there the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment is $3,683.

The project has been in the pipeline for four years. It needs to clear Planning Department and Building Department before moving forward—or, in this case, under.

Rendering of one of the two buildings.