Bryant and 22nd streets, near the hacker hostel.

Tucker Leavitt bikes to Twitter every day for work from a beautifully renovated house on Bryant near 22nd Street. But life in the Mission is not so different from his dorm at Stanford – except that he has more roommates in San Francisco.  In fact, he bunks with five other young men in a room fitted with six bunk beds.  

The opportunity for a bed of one’s own costs a cool $1,300 a month. But he’s not complaining. Neither are the 19 or so other tech workers who live there. Like most, he wanted to be within biking or walking distance of his workplace and he wanted to be in the middle of an interesting neighborhood.

The rates, which fluctuate and have been as high as $1900 a month or $90 a night,  are seen as competitive for the homey feel and community atmosphere — an atmosphere that is kept harmonious with the inclusion of housekeeping services, fresh towels, and the occasional meal provided by the place.

“This is definitely more… intimate,” said Leavitt, who is interning at Twitter. “If it wasn’t San Francisco, [the rent] would be a lot …You’re paying for convenience and access to the goings-on.”

The Bryant Street house hosts around 20 people at a time. Many of them are young interns at the city’s big-name tech companies. But it also hosts entrepreneurs who are in town to start, fund or incubate their companies.

Take Phillip Mohr, an entrepreneur from Hamburg who is launching a company that enables gamers to immerse themselves in a video game played by another, remote, player through virtual reality. Mohr is incubating the company at Founders Space. While here, he is another of  Leavitt’s housemates.

“I saw apartments for $3,000 a month, $12,000 for an apartment, even $17,000 for a month. Absolutely crazy,” Mohr said, laughing incredulously.

Leavitt wanted to stay in the Mission.

“You could go to this place with culture and personality. Or you could go to a whitewashed, suburban, wealthy neighborhood that’s clean but there’s not much substance,” he mused.

Leavitt knows there is some tension here around gentrification, he said. He’s aware of his own role, and sometimes calls himself as “part of the problem.”

“I think there’s more of an awareness of the issue than maybe some people would give us credit for,” he said. “There’s certainly not any intention to it. I didn’t move here to displace anybody.”

Most of the six bedrooms are filled with men, but one of the basement rooms houses a group of young women. Everyone meets in the kitchens or common room, and shares the bathrooms. Leavitt says he usually gets home no later than 8 p.m. but most residents aren’t back from work until 9 p.m. or 10 p.m.

At that point the common space — a small living room with a couch, TV, and a long desk by the window — starts to fill with young entrepreneurs or interns working on their laptops; conversations start up in the kitchen.  On one evening, a six-pack comes through the front door and goes into the shared fridge, but as people gather around the kitchen table to share it, nobody’s cooking. In Leavitt’s case, it’s because his employer provides him with three meals a day.

In the summer, when tech companies take on interns, the house tends to fill up with young people looking to find a few months of housing. The host, Heigo Paartalu, says word has spread about the tech crash pad and most of the referrals come from residents or tech companies.

In case the close quarters and the common areas don’t give residents enough time to get to know one another, Paartalu helps organize house field trips — one recent trip took residents to a the computer museum in Mountain View and then to a vineyard near Monterey.

“I’m sure there is a lot of networking. We’ve had people who started their own startups from people that they meet here,” Paartalu said. “And some people become very good friends.”

That’s how Paartalu met his business partner for a customer service rating app he developed, called Grate. He bounces around from house to house — he owns at least three houses including two in San Francisco and one in Mountain View — and he lives by the shared-living rules he sets up. Those include respecting sleeping hours, minimal alcohol use and no guests.

“If you want to control who comes in and out of the house, you can only do that that way,” said Mohr of the last rule. “Otherwise you have people wandering around the house, you don’t know who they are.”

Most residents don’t seem to mind the rules.  At 28, Paartalu says he’s too young to have a relationship, and is focusing on his business instead.

“Once I’m old and ugly, maybe someone still wants me and I can concentrate on my relationship,” Paartalu joked. “I’m young enough to push the company that I’m building, so I want to concentrate on that most of my time.”

At the house on Bryant, “I’m actually quite surprised how well it’s organized, and that you can live with so many people and not get annoyed,” said Mohr.

That’s exactly how Paartalu wants to set himself apart. He wants to be more than a hostel, more than a homeshare.

“The main goal is that once the person leaves, they leave with an experience,” he said.

Part 2: Navigating the legality of hacker hostels

Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that Paartalu is the owner of the house on Bryant street. He is a renter there. 

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2 Comments

  1. The new sharing economy: twenty people bunking at a minimum of $900 per month each; $18,000 a month income.
    Undecided whether to be appalled or amused, I’ll be both: less than a hostel, less than a homeshare.

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