Thursday, July 3, 2014

34 unit "CoLiving" on Octavia in SF

Build Inc has released plans for its proposed 34-unit CoLiving building on Octavia Boulevard in San Francisco. 

174 square foot Residential Suites
The project features 34 residential suites28 of them are 174 sf standard units and 6 are 273 sf wheelchair accessible units.  The regular units feature:
- a 10'x10' bedroom / living room
- a 9'x3' bathroom with storage above
- a 9' long kitchen

Rooftop and 5th floor common space
The site presently has a community garden, that will be relocated to the roof.   Just below it on  the 5th floor there will be two common areas (kitchen and dining on one side, living room on the other), each around 700 sf.  This is an unusual location for common space, as residents would not pass by the space on their way home.  However, the choice to locate it at the top floor does ensure more sunlight and closer access to the garden.  It will be interesting to see if residents end up using these 5th floor and roof spaces often, or if they just hang out in cafe and parklet on the ground level. 

By the numbers
- The site is 120' long and about 25' deep, for a total area of around 3000 square feet.
- The building appears to have a total of 15,000 square feet.  Of this, roughly 2,000 looks like retail and the other 13,000 residential. 
- The 34 units provide a total of 6,510 sf rentable space, which at the developer's estimated rent of $1,350 per unit per month, would bring in around $550,000 of rental income per year. As this is classified as group housing, no below market rate units are required.
- 34 residents makes a good community size, many successful communities are about this large.
- Private space is about 50% of total residential area.
- Bedrooms are about 26% of total residential area.  This is comparable to similarly sized Berkeley student co-ops, however, Build Inc's project has less common rooms and instead opts to provide each bedroom its own bath and kitchen.

Compared to a traditional apartment building
An identical site next door has a 22-unit apartment building proposed.   This one features 10 two-bedroom units (avg 600 sf) and 12 studios (avg. 271 sf), for a total of 32 bedrooms and 9,252 sf rentable space.
As such, the population density of Build Inc's CoLiving project will probably turn out to be similar to that of a traditional apartment building, and possibly less - because in SF, people will use living rooms as bedrooms.
- Assuming that studios will rent for $2000 and two-bedrooms for $3500, and 20% of the units are below market rate units that go for half price, the traditional apartment will bring in around $600,000 of rental income per year.  

Different, but not dramatically more profitable or denser
It appears that CoLiving as designed will have slightly less revenue than a traditional building, though the modular suites (to be built offsite) may bring enough time and cost savings to give it comparable profitability.  The need to provide all those bathrooms and kitchens eats up a lot of space. 

What's next?  10-bedroom full floor apartments?
While a departure from the typical apartment building with it's mix of one and two bedrooms, Build Inc's CoLiving fails to realize significant space efficiencies.  Understandably, professionals paying $1,350 a month probably don't want to share bathrooms with 34 people.  However, a smaller community size, of perhaps 10 people, might make it more palatable.

A 10-bedroom apartment could easily fit on this size of site, and would be more efficient than either the CoLiving or a traditional apartment as it would not need as many hallways on each floor.  The popularity of old Victorian houses for group living suggests this could be a future model. 


  1. Strange, this seems to have the worst of both worlds. They are going to be really cramped units, where a little bit of imagination it could have been nicely spacious with for example kitchens shared between 4-6 people and 2 bathrooms for 6 people, the room freed up in each appartment would make them much nicer - just look at the tradeoffs. Full bathroom v. fold-down desk.

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