After touring Patrick Kennedy’s newest micro-unit development, 38 Harriet, I am more convinced than ever that small living is not just a fad, but is a development trend that’s here to stay. The 23-unit property is being marketed for sale by Michael Thomas and Toby Costello at CBRE for $7,395,000.
Efficiency may not be for everyone (like freelance writer Steve Rubenstein, who was so dedicated to giving the building a fair shake he didn’t even bother to get the address right), but with affording housing options in San Francisco at an all-time low and an environmental need to ease off energy use, this kind of progressive development should be lauded and, wherever possible, emulated.
Tucked into what can best be described as a “transitional” block in SoMa, the property rises from what was once a vacant, graffiti-laden lot. Living here requires a tough stomach, and an inclination to wander south and west, rather than north and east.
A story board lines the ground floor hallway, depicting the building process, which is a marvel of cutting-edge modular construction. Assembled in Sacramento then trucked to the site, lego-like slices of two-units apiece were assembled on-site over the course of a year. Once reserved for mobile homes and other low-end construction uses, modular building is being adopted by companies like Zeta Communities for low-cost, high end projects.
The units themselves are 295 square feet and narrow, with a large window opposite the entrance flooding the units with natural light.
- Clean, modern aesthetic
- Full sink, usable kitchen with lots of cabinet space, dishwasher and near full size fridge
- Sleek Cesarstone countertops
- Window-side eating table transforms into a flat bench
- Lots of storage for such a small space
- Spacious bathroom
- Electric radiator tucked under the kitchen counter
- Murphy Bed doubles as dining room table (with the master lease to CCA, these units will come equipped with twin beds, but one was set up with with originally intended Murphy Bed)
- Washer/dryer in-one for each unit
- Built-in furniture (under-bed drawers, murphy bed) seemed cheap, clunky to operate
- 2-burner countertop stove and microwave convection oven are compact, but limit cooking options
- TV was prominently featured on wall and moving it was not an option
- Narrow layout could feel constricting
- More built-ins for storage and decoration on the walls could have given the room some texture and improved livability
- Commendable to achieve LEED Platinum on an apartment project
- Ample bike storage in common area and rear yard
- Comfortable patio, retained some of the graffiti from vacant lot days
Overall, I was really satisfied with the development. It is the first of Kennedy’s I have walked, and after hearing that he had a reputation for cutting corners on quality, I was pleasantly surprised. The only glaring example of this was the furniture, and I commented to a colleague “I wonder how long before this stuff starts falling apart.” But, being in the renovation game, I understand budgets and I am sure that if money were no object, he would have gladly flown in the highest quality European craftsman to construct the beds on-site.
I also appreciate the master lease approach, renting the units to California College of the Arts. And while there are some clear economic benefits relating to Below Market Rate (BMR) units and property tax breaks, these units are ideal for students who have sparse belongings, even sparser budgets and are used to living in dorms that are just as small and not nearly as well appointed.
I am definitely looking forward to incorporating some of the techniques, ideas and products found in this development into our own buildings.