After pricing much of San Francisco out of affordable housing, budding tech-types are regrouping in style: hotels, theaters, and other gaudy structures are now converted group homes, and having 12 roommates has never been so cushy.
The San Francisco Chronicle says techie communes are hotter than ever, based on a lovely, 2013 distortion of what's made communal living so attractive in the past. Communes used to be about distancing oneself from society, rejecting traditional values, acoustic sing-alongs, living off the land, and fucking each other under the sweet influence of pot smoke. So all of the annoyances of sharing space with a bunch of doofuses, with none of the polyamorous fun: these startup-friendly communes are about stuffing as much of "the land" indoors as possible—this is rolling around in the greasy gravy of modern society, not getting away from it all. Just ask Ben Provan, a San Francisco developer who pitches communal living to a new generation:
"There's a lot of baggage around the word commune," said Provan. "So part of what we're doing is rebranding it."
Nothing says free love like a nice rebrand, and if that's not enough, the haute amenities will be:
Unlike hacker hostels, these "co-living spaces" are meant for entrepreneurs seeking a more permanent home and adopting a lifelong philosophy of communal living: shared groceries, family dinners and an emphasis on group perks (i.e., yoga rooms and bowling alleys) over personal space.
So, wait, are these "communes" really just giant luxury residences with an uncomfortable, probably illegal number of tenants, and maybe shared groceries? The infantilizing joy of a college dorm, with better Wi-Fi? Let's go inside one called "The Embassy," and take a look:
On the corner of Webster and Oak streets, it's a dramatic yellow Victorian with a grand portico. Inside, the walls are made of English oak. There's a music room, dining room, baby grand piano, solarium, craft room and a living room with three sunny stained glass outcroppings where residents lounge and work during the day. They have four 3-D printers and a bowling alley downstairs.
Four 3D printers! But what separates a "tech commune" and a "rich nerd's house"? Silicon Valley cultishness and blood-curdling pretensions, of course:
"We're seeing a shift in consciousness from hyper-individualistic to more cooperative spaces," said [commune resident Jordan] Grader. "We have a vision to raise our families together."
"What I liked about space was the idea of creating human settlements," said Schingler, the former NASA engineer and co-founder of Open Door. But "I don't have to go to space to do that."
"Co-living isn't a sacrifice - it's an upgrade," the 32-year-old Schingler said. "Having this over-the-top mansion is helpful because it sends that message."
Why won't you join us, mortal? Upgrade your existence, and never know the solitude of a studio apartment again. You can't afford one around here, anyway.
It goes without saying that this isn't just a way of excluding the 99.9 percent of western civilization that thinks Coin is a silly idea—it's a business plan, a way of monetizing the instinct that pushes these people to drop out of school and revel in their likemindedness. These people hope everyone will join them in living this way, eventually. If you're not lucky enough to have an employer who'll build you a company town, and there's no wilderness cult gathering on the horizon, sequestering yourself in a Victorian palace among billionaires and Bitcoiners:
And even in the low end of the co-living setups, there might be a billionaire in the next bunk bed.
"We have one of Twitter's first angel investors staying with us. I think he likes to know what the young entrepreneurs are up to," said Tom Bielecki, 24, who stayed in a co-living space in the city after flying in from Calgary to pitch his startup.
No, nothing strange about this, nothing strange at all.
Photo from the The Embassy