SF tech companies! Time to build your OWN worker dorms

September 18, 2015 Originally published on SFGate

Time you stepped up your employee benefits game, Facebook Google Apple Twitter LinkedIn Uber, et al.

Time you put some of your billions to good use and took some actual social responsibility for your respective armies of young, twitchy male worker drones currently swarming SF like nervous gnats – and yes, that means beyond all the free sushi, Google busses and complimentary napping spaces you already provide.

In short, SF is tired of taking the full brunt of the worker housing burden. It’s time the tech giants built their own employee lodging. Apartments. Dorms. Micro-dorms. Pods, bunks, closets, converted rail cars, whatever. Just make them clean, environmentally efficient, reasonably attractive from the outside, and – perhaps most importantly – a good distance from the urban cultural center. Easy!

Shall we propose a ballot initiative? City ordinance? Something like this:

Any Bay Area tech company with over, say, 50 single male employees under 30 must build (or convert) some subsidized company dorm units to house them all, and it must be located somewhere that is, say, not the Mission. Or NoPa. Or anywhere in the City proper. Maybe Excelsior? Hunter’s Point? Livermore? Now you’re talking.

Don't these young, sun-deprived tech bros sort of DESERVE to all live together in tiny dorms? At least until they learn to dress better? Or get real girlfriends? Obviously.

Don’t these young, sun-deprived tech bros sort of DESERVE to all live together in tiny dorms? At least until they learn to dress better? Or get real girlfriends? Obviously.

Here’s the thing: San Francisco is cooked. Done. SF has already absorbed enough eager, socially maladroit young males – many of them misguided dropouts – from Generation Hoody, all cramming their way into our little 7×7 bubble and jamming up the already overstuffed housing market, and then sauntering about the Mission like prides of squishy lion cubs who refuse to honor local heritage or learn how to tip properly.

It’s become rather serious. All this “techtosterone” (new word! hereby coined) is having ill effects on the City indeed, and is shoving out far more desirable, established SF citizenry – schoolteachers, artists, immigrant families, non-profits, health workers – you know, all the people for whom pitching a new app idea to Andreessen Horowitz is, in terms of life goals, right up there with a flaming colonoscopy.

It’s not exactly a new idea, these micro-dorms to house SF’s tech workers. Seattle is, apparently, trying a variation of it. And indeed, some of SF’s savvier young technocrats (ugh) have taken it upon themselves to experiment with new living arrangements and concepts already, often by converting SF mansions into “co-living” cooperatives for groups of entrepreneurs interested in the philosophies of long-term communal living, even communal child-rearing. Quite wonderful, but also quite beside the point.

Maybe previous SF micro-housing ideas have foundered because developers aren’t keen on building cheap units when the luxury market is so insanely lucrative? Or maybe it’s resistance from SF’s engorged landlords, currently glutting themselves on tech money as fast as possible, often by semi-legally cramming dozens of young bros into IKEA bunk beds around the City, and charging them upwards of – what’s this nonsense now? – $1,800 a month. Each. Silly, silly bros.

Whatever the reason, I hereby propose we take it a step further. The City could perhaps (legally?) compel the tech companies themselves to pony up, to build subsidized dorm housing for their own young, single employees, maybe right near their own main campuses.

Hell, you could even modify City code so companies can convert a few floors of their own buildings into micro-dorms, and get those bodies out of the prime housing market, so the families and schoolteachers can stay. Possibilities abound! Hey, it works great in China. Well, not counting all the suicides. And the awful living conditions. And the factory workers’ bleak, harrowing futures.

But this is America. And these are young, privileged, mostly white males from premium breed-stock and mediocre American schools. Their futures are golden and candy-coated and possibly even (shudder) Republican! Hell, they almost deserve to suffer. You know, just a little.

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Mark Morford

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