Welcome to Curbed Comparisons, a regular column exploring what you can rent for a set dollar amount in different neighborhoods. Is one person’s studio another person’s townhouse? Today’s price: $1,850.
For the curious, $1,850 is just a little bit more than what the U.S. Census says was the median rent across all of San Francisco in 2018. That’s the average for every type of SF home, from houses to condos to studio in-laws. But as we’ll see, just because your neighbors are paying roughly this much and getting a great deal on a big place doesn’t mean that new renters can find the same pickings. For example, here’s a “boutique building featuring a charming studio” in Hayes Valley renting for $1,850. It may be charming, depending on your definitions, and obviously its hard to beat the neighborhood, but it’s also small enough that nearly the whole thing can fit in one photo. And the loft is actually just that—a bunk-like platform barely big enough for a mattress. No pets allowed, either.
In Miraloma here’s an in-law cottage studio that offers a price break at $1,750 per month. The home measures a mere 300 square feet altogether, fitted into a narrow, boxcar-like setup with living room, kitchenette, and bathroom lined up in a row like hopscotch tiles. The renter splits the backyard garden with the main property, and rent covers utilities, which includes the wi-fi, but that’s about all there is to it in terms of amenities. The ad tries to increase the appeal by bringing up the fact that there’s no street cleaning on this neighborhood and thus no worry about parking tickets. No mention of pets.
The Tenderloin will always offer the best general value for a rental anywhere in San Francisco—that’s essentially the neighborhood’s niche in the grand ecology of city living. But in this case the pickings are a studio measuring barely more than 250 square feet. Per the ad, famed pulp writer Dashiell Hammett once lived here; the Association of Library Advocates terms this property a “literary landmark,” crediting it as Hammett’s home from 1926 to 1929, a critical period when he wrote his first three books, and he even later modeled hard-luck private eye Sam Spade’s own apartment on his unit in this building. There’s no discounts for historicity here though, as it costs $1,850 per month. At least the building allows pets, a reliable earmark of the neighborhood.
If renters want a full-bedroom unit at this price point, they’ll have to look to Parkside, where $1,800 nets a 550-square-foot one-bed, one-bath in-law apartment on 22nd Avenue with a very narrow kitchen. Note: The lower apartment gets the backyard. And the landlord says that, “Quite a bit of effort has been put into the house to insulate the up and downstairs from noise, but it’s not perfect,” which is decently forthcoming of them. No pets though.
And last up, right smack in the middle of Bayview is a “great modern studio garden apartment” nestled in a typical barrel-fronted Bayview home, pried at $1,800 per month. No pets allowed, and the front door opens immediately into the kitchenette, the counter for which runs the entire length of the unit and morphs into a sort of desk after it crosses the meridian into the living room. It can get tight trying to live in places like this one, but a lot of real, working San Franciscans labor to call these places home—and that’s the real face of the city’s housing imbalance.
Which rental would you choose?
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Hayes Valley Studio