SAN FRANCISCO -- San Francisco could soon be home to some of the tiniest apartments in the country: studios for up to two people that include a bathroom, kitchen and a minimalist living area measuring 10 feet by 15 feet.
The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved legislation allowing construction of up to 375 micro units as small as 220-square feet. Building codes previously had required that apartment living rooms alone be that size.
Several city lawmakers said they were worried that sanctioning apartments so small would exacerbate, rather than help, San Francisco's shortage of affordable housing by driving up rents for bigger places.
The itsy-bitsy studios are expected to fetch $1,300 to $1,500 a month. The average studio apartment in the city now goes for more than $2,000 a month.
The board voted 10-1 to allow them as a limited experiment, ordering city planners to come back after 325 of the efficiency apartments have been approved with a report outlining what they rented for and their impact on construction of bigger units.
"Even though they do maximize their use of the space, you are still talking about very small units being very expensive," Supervisor David Campos said. "If these places that are 200 square feet are going for 1500, what is that going to do to the rest of housing prices in San Francisco?"
Tuesday's vote was preliminary. The issue is scheduled to come back to the board for a final vote in two weeks.
Already common in crowded cities abroad such as Tokyo and Paris, downsized urban dwellings are becoming more common stateside. In Seattle, where zoning requirements have allowed scaled-back studios to flourish, developers are putting up buildings with apartments measuring between 100 and 200 square feet and dorm-like communal kitchens.
A 42-unit building of 300-square-foot apartments renting for $650 a month in San Jose was fully leased when it opened this spring.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg this summer announced a competition for an apartment building on city-owned land that would have three-quarters of its units clocking in at between 275 and 300 square feet.
Supervisor Scott Wiener, a supporter of the San Francisco proposal, said the tiny apartments would be a worthwhile addition to the city's housing stock.
"We already have a lot of micro units in San Francisco. They are called roommate situations," Wiener said. "This will allow people the ability, if they choose, to live alone and to pay less rent than they would otherwise have to get a one-bedroom (apartment)."