333 12th Street Site

Panoramic Interests plans to raze the single-story industrial building at 333 12th Street and build up to seven stories and 274 apartments on the parcel and adjacent parking lot between Folsom and Harrison.

333 12th Street Rendering

As currently zoned, the Western SoMa site could support around 200 units of housing in buildings up to five stories in height, but Panoramic intends to invoke California’s Density Bonus law, which could allow for the additional height and density for the “affordable-by-design/workforce” project if approved.

Regardless, the proposed units would average 398 square feet apiece, or roughly 350 square feet excluding the bathrooms.  And that includes the two-bedrooms as well.

333 12th Street Floor Plans

Based on the City’s Western SoMa Community Plan, at least 40 percent of the units within the 333 12th Street project would be required to have two bedrooms or more.  And as designed by Macy Architecture, that’s the case.  But San Francisco’s Planning Department has concerns which were formally raised last week:

“The Department has concerns that the small size of the 2-bedroom units proposed meets the letter, but not the intent, of the Plan’s 40% 2-bedroom requirement, which aims for a mix of unit sizes in new housing units, to provide housing opportunities for a variety of household types.”

And with respect to intent, the City’s bedroom minimum’s are intended “to ensure an adequate supply of family-sized units in existing and new housing stock,” according to San Francisco’s Planning Code.

We’ll keep you posted as Panoramic’s proposed project works its way through Planning and if it happens to trigger any new amendments, micro-unit pushback or laws.

103 thoughts on “400-Square-Foot Two-Bedrooms Proposed, Planning Has Concerns”
  1. San Francisco; where after spending 4 years as a college student, you can find a 100k/yr job and still live like a college student

    1. Not many college students have a 400 sq. ft. apartment to themselves so this would be an upgrade. Regardless this is the tradeoff when you move to one of the country’s most desirable and expensive cities. If more space is important, then live in San Jose or just about anywhere else in the Bay Area where you can get double that space for the same cost. Or move to any of the hundreds of other USA cities where you can get four times the space for the same price.

      No one is forcing new grads to live in tiny SF apartments.

      1. The point is that this need *not* be the “tradeoff” for living here. And if it’s approved, it essentially does “force” people to live here, to the extent it’s the only option for some people.

        I think these units are ridiculous, and for once I actually support Planning’s intercession. A “two bedroom unit” requirement wasn’t meant to allow for create of a dorm, but for families. No family would proactively desire to live in such a cramped cell as this.

        1. I agree we should make larger 2-bedrooms, but I also think planning should allow for reasonable height limits in industrial areas, to allow there to be a reasonable number of units/buildable plot.

          Unfortunately, Planning wants West SOMA to stay at it’s 5 floor limit (to protect the view of Jackson Brewery and the highway?), so this is what they get.

          1. The western soma plan is as useless as post-wipe toilet paper. The MINIMUM for new building in western SOMA should be 10 stories

        2. I’ve watched enough coverage of the tiny house movement now to suspect that there are at least a handful that would.

          But I’m 6’3 so I’d not be among them.

        3. If these were built larger, it would still be a tradeoff, just a different one. The tradeoff would be that the resulting units were fewer in number and more expensive.

          If these are the only option for some families, replacing these with larger units would not give them better options– it would give them no options.

      2. I was thinking more of two college grads sharing these “2 bedrooms,” probably at $1.5k per person. My freshman “double room” dorm was probably about 300 sq ft

      3. And no developer/owner should be allowed to build units like this. Every bedroom should, IMO, have direct access to light and natural ventilation.

        This urban trend of windowless “bedrooms” is ridiculous.

        1. Every other large city in the world has this type of micro unit. Why not let the market decide instead of playing MAO

          1. So because EVERY other city does something, does it mean we must follow and make the same mistake?

            This kind of housing is nothing more than a developer squeezing out maximum profits for lowest cost and maximum income, without regard for any “quality of living” standards.

          2. Yeah, because SF is the trend setter is good urban planning… If I want a cheaper unit without windows it’s none of your business. BUILD BUILD BUILD.

          3. Every other city also seems to keep their streets clean so they don’t look and smell like a shopping cart convention is in town.

        2. This is literally “affordable by design” – why should we dictate how other people live?

          Oh that’s right, you’re an architect… it’s your job.

          1. Yes, we should. That’s what building and planning codes are few: quality of life in housing, and health, life-safety issues.

            Next we could have developers petitioning for smaller windows than the code minimum to save money. Or narrower doors, or lower ceiling height, or bathrooms with no sink. (hey, let them use the kitchen sink). Why not just eliminate the windows all together?

          2. Yes, building code requires a closet of minimum dimensions for a room to be called a “bedroom”

          1. Nothing wrong with the Midwest. Of course, nothing really compares to Noe Valley…nothing, I say.

          2. I grew up in the Midwest as a boy and it was a great place to be. But winters are tough, summers are sticky, it’s too flat and it’s conservative.

            Plus I like where I live.

  2. Plenty of space! You can put a California King in bedroom 2 and still have 8 inches of space on each side and leave you with around 2.5 feet between the edge of the bed and the retractable curtain to fit the rest of your bedroom furniture.

      1. But it won’t happen, you see. Just like people apparently buy cars regardless of whether or not they have somewhere to store them. And then the city has to make room for them on the street, which leads to all sorts of problems.

        Maybe that’s what’ll happen– if they won’t fit in their apartments, people will store their California King beds on the street. That is a problem!

  3. The idea that if we force developers to build 2-bedroom units they will automatically get filled with families is typical San Francisco utopianism. The far far far more likely scenario – two single, unrelated adults in their 20s will be living in those 2-BR units as roommates.

    1. At 400 sq ft, it’s also likely that a single person would just rent a 2bd and use the smaller “bedroom” for storage or a very small dining/living room

  4. Oh yay, yet another “win” for the Western SOMA Community Plan. Can’t wait until it’s succeeded by something more sensible. That said, of COURSE this is cynical way around the requirements.

  5. i’m not sure that a bedroom where one of the walls is a ‘retractable curtain’ really qualifies it as a true bedroom. It seems that the intention is to call it a bedroom technically but practically someone will leave the curtain back and use it as the rest of the living room.

    1. practically speaking the one bedroom options is better as a two bed and two bed is better as a 1 bed…. i mean look at the plans, id rather have a tiny bedroom than a bedroom with a fricken sheet as a wall.

  6. The debate over this is easier if we just call it what it is – a 21st century tenement. From tiny cramped spaces all the way down to the “retractable curtain” across the bedrooms, this sounds identical to something you’d see of crowded immigrant quarters in 19th century New York. Now, if that served a valid purpose and that’s what we want here, fine. But if we think that’s a horrible way to live and that we can (easily) do better, then crap like this can and should be criticized and opposed.

    1. Yes, completely dumbing down the quality of living in SF. These units are complete junk, with horribly minimum dimensions, hardly a kitchen at all, no storage and minimal access to natural light and ventilation from the major spaces.

      These should be not allowed.

    2. Hardly an appropriate analogy. You’re trying to equate very substandard housing for families of immigrants with little prospects for, at least, a generation with temporary quarters for singles about to achieve their “next step.” No comparison whatsoever, but even the 19th Century multi-family “tenements” served a valid purpose.

    3. Even if this were true, the thing that ultimately caused the decline of the tenements in Manhattan was the subways, which allowed the construction of huge amounts of new housing in the outer boroughs that people could live in and travel from in a reasonable amount of time.

      But we don’t have plans for massive transit investments. Even if we did, there are no locations within a reasonable commute that would allow large-scale housing developments.

      Indeed, I think tenement-like situations do exist already. But not in new construction– it’s in old units which are shared by increasingly large groups of people, because that’s the only way they can afford it (they wouldn’t be interested in paying the premium for new construction). It’s in the unfashionable neighborhoods. They are usually under the radar, but they’re there (I have been in some), and if the housing situation doesn’t improve, I expect they’ll only become more common.

  7. Small units for young people make sense in this location. I doubt families really want to live across the street from the Eagle and within a block of at least a dozen nightclubs.

  8. Can we stop pretending that forcing developers to build 2-bedroom units is going to provide housing opportunities to regular “families”. The median 2-BR rent in SF is over $4,700 a month. That’s $56,400 a year. A “family” paying that kind of rent and staying around 30% of gross income towards rent needs to be earning nearly $190,000 a year – or pretty much 200% of median income for SF.

    Forcing the construction of 2 BR units isn’t creating housing for families. Its creating housing for 20-somethings who would rather be roomates and pay $2300 a month each than pay $3700 a month for a 1BR.

  9. If they made the units bigger, they would be regarded as exclusive “luxury housing.” Can’t have it both ways.

      1. If I could’ve afforded a place like this when I first moved to SF 8 years ago, I for one would’ve been happy in this space. If I weren’t attached to a human and dog nowadays, I might still.

  10. The crucial consideration is how much is such units are going to sell? Let say it goes for $400,000 ($1,000 /sqft), I’d say it create a great opportunity for people to own a piece of San Francisco. If it is not spacious enough for you, you are free to look elsewhere and pay for privilege. On the other hand, there are plenty of people who find spending less and living small is a prefect trade off.

    To demanding a house to built to certain size is the flip side of demanding a minimum price on house.

      1. Not as amazing as what people are paying in Manhattan, Hong Kong, etc. We still have a way to go in SF, as we are relatively cheap compared to other global cities.

        1. If I had to choose between my smaller ingelside studio apt underneath a crazy old lady that invovled me having to hold down her cat for daily morphine/saline injections or THIS… i’d choose the crazy cat lady again hands down.

  11. When I first moved to SF I would’ve much preferred a nice, new, tiny space of my own instead of sharing a ratty 2 bedroom with someone who turned out to be a crazy slob.

  12. I am forced to wonder if it is not just a bit late in the economic cycle to be planning projects of this size targeting only a very specific well-heeled young tech demographic. Similarly, the large apartment block already in development to rise on the car park at 12th & Harrison, site visible at the lower right of the top photo, as proposed will comprise of essentially dormitory style units with shared kitchens and common areas. Both rental projects by definition would seem to pencil out long-term only if the markets prosper and there is no restriction of VC flow; unit size and layout in these buildings would not appeal to most people outside the 20s Soma tech demo, nor lend themselves to ultimate condo conversion in the case of a significant economic correction.

      1. When last I heard, in addition to the Planning retrenchment cycle there are some issues viz. the proposed ‘Leather Park’ envisioned to close off traffic on 12th @ Harrison outside of SF Eagle and its impacts to the project.

        Were I the prospective contractor of this apartment block I would drop the absurd dorm layout and design small proper flats, maximise ones market flexibility in the long term.

  13. What many seem to forget is the density. I live on Bernice, a small side street nearby. So many people in these huge project ruins the area. Such small units will be transitory and not add to the stability of the nab.

    Remember these developers are looking to maximize a profit–but this is a boom and the boom is near the end. Who would want to live in such small spaces when the start ups crash and rents go down as the did in 2000 and 2010

    1. I entirely agree John, I myself have owned a home on wee Isis Street for 11 years and the idea of roughly a thousand new transitory residents appearing on a short block is daunting. Pity at least one of the 2 planned 12th Street projects will not comprise condos — which I believe would be the smart financial move for the builders anyway.

  14. For a young person at a startup, whose eats at work, does laundry at work, and has a wardrobe of jeans and a few different color hoodies, who spends almost all their time at work, whose entire life is on their laptop and/or phone, these seem perfect. I’m none of those so not so good for me, but for someone that wants to be near work and opportunities and just needs a place to crash for the night, looks great.

  15. If it’s 2BR you could rent it for what, $4,000? $3,500 if it’s small? $10/foot/month.
    Easy to see how something like this pencils out. Modular construction over concrete podium gets it built in 12 months… Would love to know what they paid for the site.

  16. the original part of my 1907 home has 2 bedrooms and a living area all in about 400 square feet. It’s not all that bad to be honest. Remember people made due with a lot less space not too long ago…before we had so much crap. I also like that the size will make these units less costly by design.

  17. We (me, wife, 2 daughters) rented a lovely apartment in Kyoto that was pretty much exactly the size and layout of these places. Perfectly adequate during our week there — even had a washer/dryer.

    Many residents in the building lived there permanently with 1-2 kids in similarly-sized apartments. It could be done, but really only with a Japanese-ish minimalist lifestyle. Futons that are folded and stowed during the day open up a lot of living space. Not a whole lot of clothes/books/DVDs or other possessions. Minimum of cookware and dishes.

    I guess the real problem is that I’ve never met anyone in the U.S. that lives like that (I imagine they exist but are rare). It is a lifestyle that would enable one to live in SF on a much smaller income, and someone who adopts it would gain a lot (but certainly with some downsides). I could do it but would rather not. Japan has accommodated this type of lifestyle by building lots of awesome public spaces — we don’t have those on anything approaching the same scale. I’m all for places like this.

    1. Given the choice between living like that and not living (in the city) at all, I think a lot of people would choose to live like that. I think they should be allowed to make that choice.

      One of the curious things about “public space” is that American cities– including San Francisco– actually dedicate a lot more of their land area to public space (as opposed to off-limits-to-most private space) than most older cities abroad. The difference is that most of our public space is used for moving and storing cars. The upside, however, is that it could–in theory–be repurposed.

      1. The “public space” that you refer to for moving and storing cars is actually called streets and roads. Also used for public transit, also used for delivery of the goods we use and buy.

        Would you suggest that we just “repurpose” our streets and roads into, say, more parks, or maybe unicorn grazing fields?

        1. He’s not talking about closing down the streets as thoroughfares, Just repurposing excess space. Cars consume a lot of space especially considering their #1 use is to move just one person.

          1. 1. parking (see parklets being used to allow more people to benefit from the commons. Also see vehicle storage space being repurposed for wider sidewalks, bulb outs, intersection daylighting, and bike lanes)

            2. excess car lanes (see road diets being used to allow more people to use the ROW)

          2. getting rid of street parking is fine by me, if the city would allow more large garages to be built. The cars have to go somewhere. In a city with 3rd world public transit, and a lot of people working in SV, cars are a necessity for most people. Once that changes, maybe we can have less cars.

        2. Yes, they are called streets and roads– streets and roads which occupy a far larger portion of a neighborhood’s land area than do streets and roads in other neighborhoods of similar density abroad, which still manage to have deliveries, public transit, and even private cars.

          1. The two streets bordering this development are 12th, which is one lane each way and Norfolk, which is a one-way one lane alley with narrow sidewalks. There are only 4-5 street parking spaces adjacent to this lot because of the existing curb cuts and yellow zone. Within 2-3 blocks both east and west are major on/off ramps for a very busy and vital freeway. I doubt many of those cities you refer to “abroad” import a third of their work force by car from outside of the city itself. And that hasn’t changed in SF for more than a generation.

            We do have excess space devoted to cars in SF. Certainly in the sunset, but certainly not in SoMa. Not unless we are willing to build off-street public parking lots to reclaim curbside spaces. Recall the city wasn’t willing to do that to help make better bike lanes on Polk and didn’t even consider it while eliminating traffic lanes and parking on 2nd.

            I hope if they approve this they make it set back from Norfolk. This population density with 3-foot sidewalks is unwise. Families with strollers and all.

  18. I am single and live in my 1000 sq ft 2BR/2bath unit but I hardly ever use the living room. The kitchen is where I cook and eat, the bedroom is where I sleep and watch TV, the second, smaller bedroom is set up as a study/home office. I’ve often thought if I had a slightly larger kitchen I wouldn’t need a living room at all. These units could work very well for someone like me I think.

  19. Micro-units such as these (only even smaller and with less amenities) have been built by the thousands in recent years in Seattle and have been a source of conflict and controversy in addition to finding a ready market. The objections primarily centered upon the location of such buildings in established less dense neighborhoods.

    Compromise legislation was passed last October which seems to have quelled most the problems for the time being. Much could be learned by study of the Seattle experience.

    I see no problem with such developments which certainly meet the wants and needs of a niche. Again, the largest source of potential problem is where they are located. These seem very appropriate for their location.

    With respect to the complicating factor of the number of bedrooms requirement, while there is a valid purpose to the desire for a mix of numbers, that mix need not necessarily be obtained by application to each multi-unit development. The diversity should be obtained with allowance of all single bedroom or even studios (also meeting a necessary end) buildings as well as others designed primarily for families.

  20. The spatial distributions seem silly at a glance, sort of a kitchenette, yet room for a study. And then the other option…a bedroom 8 by 18: that’s sensible. no closet either? it looks like a dorm or flophouse design.

      1. It looks like a waste of anyone’s money. Why build misery into a structure? The spatial proportions, lack of real kitchen, etc. sad sad sad. cry me an urban infill.

        1. this would work very well for a single person, using the 2nd bedroom as closet/office. you could build a walk-in closet there. i wouldve been happy in a place like this in my 20s and early 30s

  21. I believe this is precisely what “Affordable Housing” should be. Let those who can’t afford to live in SF to live like this.

    Living in SF is a privilege, not a right. Then move the people from Western Addition into this building and burn down the Western Addition and build more of this mixed with Market Rate and some below market rate as well.

    This would allow for amazing density and all demographics to thrive or at the very least, survive!

    I’m down with this but only for “Affordable Housing”!

    1. Totally! These smaller units can be very liberating for the residents, freeing them from the stress and financial burden of pursuing 1,000 sqft units. They can rest easy without slaving for the real estate debt.

  22. The argument that plenty of people in other parts of the world “live like this” might solve our “homeless” problem overnight!

    1. yes, instead of bearing the stigma of “homeless”, they can be known as those “unfettered by shelter”
      freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose…..

      1. most of our homeless should be involuntarily institutionalized, sobered up and put on meds for a 1 yr minimum. Then we should help them get jobs, they need to keep the job or they get out. its shameful that we are allowing people to live like this, when they clearly are too screwed up to make a choice to clean up and get a better life. sometimes mandatory hospitalization is needed.

        1. “or they get out”….to…where?

          I tried offering homeless in downtown a one-way bus ticket on the 38-Geary to the Outer Rich’d, but had few tickets taken. Like most people, they prefer the sunnier downtown weather. All that demand is driving up rents, or so some say.

          1. jail, if they refuse to get off the streets after they are clean, sober, in AA and medicated

          2. for how long would you jail those who “refuse to get off the streets after” your program of loving kindness? and after they serve their jail time, what if they return to living on the streets? what about recidivists? there are always recidivists.

            the new san francisco jail will cost much more per cell than the cost per unit at 490 south van ness to which you’ve objected as excessively expensive. and it costs more to keep someone in jail in san francisco than most homeless people would make in those jobs you want to help them get. doubt san francisco can afford your generosity.

            sounds like the kind of kindness traditionally extended to jail ‘shiftless’ citizens endowed by their creator more in melatonin than in political power.

          3. My assumption would be that they’re more concerned about their next meal– and I imagine it’s easier to get food in the downtown areas (whether soup kitchen or burger king) than it is in the outer Richmond.

        2. moto mayhem, I look forward to seeing your petition going around to repeal the Lanterman–Petris–Short Act (since what you’re proposing is illegal currently). But even if you get enough signatures, the budget impact of your solution would sink it’s chances at the ballot box.

          Just curious: did you vote for Yes on Proposition K?

  23. the “typical one bedroom” will likely be used as a two bedroom, even though the “study” doesn’t meet code requirements that a bedroom have outside light and ventilation

  24. If it’s a flophouse on purpose, for whatever reasons, I would think a real live kitchen (aka stove) would be a nice touch. What if some starving nuclear family inhabits; they couldn’t even cook. Where would the old world granny hammer out the thrifty meals? Whilst a study sits empty to her right. It’s wasteful of resources.

      1. it’s just two burners i think….i’m running with the idea that this is a flop house for poor people….i mean….if i was single and could afford 2000-3000 a month for something it wouldn’t be this. would you rent this if money were no object? i’m struck that it’s a waste of money as far as buildings and resources go. not much snob appeal, not functional space, not particularly nice space, i guess it’d be fine for a world famous artist that doesn’t cook. but artists are usually unconventional so they probably wouldn’t want to live here either.

        1. Would I rent it if money were no object? That’s an abolutely bizarre yardstick. No, I would live in a mansion with gardens and swimming pools and servants at my beck and call.

          And I still don’t see why having two burners = not cooking. I suppose you’re right about the snob appeal, anyway.

  25. Sorry, but I must have a full sized fridge, a dishwasher and a microwave. An in unit washer/dryer would also be nice. You can fit that into a small apartment.

  26. The issue with the design of these units is not the small size per se, but that there is no apparent regard for how people will actually live and function in such a small space. Where will residents store their clothes, keep food, tuck away a broom or vacuum, hang up a jacket? Small space living requires more than careful editing of own’s belongings; how about design professionals build in some functionality? Design decisions here seem driven not by how to make small spaces function well for those who inhabit them, but how to meet the letter of the two bedroom planning requirement, thereby maximizing developer profits.

  27. Good example of a bad idea gone wrong or how far can you bend the law before people notice? This looks like a good place to store your extra robot.

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