SF Man Has to Stop Living in Box in Friend's Living Room
Peter Berkowitz's brilliant $400 rent idea was an illegal one
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 14, 2016 8:41 AM CDT
A photo of the box.   (PeteBerk.com)

(Newser) – It seemed brilliant, so long as you're not claustrophobic: In early March, Peter Berkowitz armed himself with a few friends and a few tools and built a 32-square-foot wooden box, euphemistically referred to as a "bedroom pod," and placed it in a friend's living room. With a negotiated $400 in rent, the pod, which cost $1,300 to construct, seemed the perfect solution for a 25-year-old who couldn't afford a whole bedroom of his own in San Francisco's pricey market (median rent for a one-bedroom, per figures cited by Business Insider: $3,460). Unfortunately, it was an illegal solution. Though SFGate reports a door, windows, and a skylight open it up somewhat, the city's chief housing inspector tells Hoodline that Berkowitz "would have to completely open it up" to comply with housing, building, and fire safety codes. She suggests a bed surrounded by a curtain.

William Strawn, with the department of building inspection, warns that a fire in the building could render Berkowitz "toast" and says space, air, and light requirements were being breached. It seems Berkowitz's ambitions, in addition to all the publicity and online photos, may have sunk him: Strawn tells Hoodline there was concern that Berkowitz "is going out and trying to increase the number of these," ostensibly in response to an earlier Hoodline article that suggested he planned to sell pods to others. (A post on his website backs that up.) Berkowitz now says he was just trying to "gauge interest" in the idea, which he isn't moving forward with. But he has moved—out of the pod. He tells the Guardian he's "100% concerned with doing this legally" and the box has been dismantled. He's currently bunking with family. (Here's how to live in Manhattan for $1,375 a month.)