In July, the developer of a new 52-unit apartment building at Church and Market streets announced that he would be leasing all of its market-rate units to Sonder, a San Francisco-based startup specializing in short-term, furnished apartment rentals.
The decision met with controversy in the neighborhood, with many local residents expressing concern about the loss of permanent dwelling units amid San Francisco's ongoing housing crisis.
Today, Sonder will be opening up the units for rent as part of its subscription-based product, Sonder Residences.
Subscribers to the service will pay a monthly fee to Sonder for stays as brief as 30 days or as long as a year or more, moving between neighborhoods and even cities as desired.
The program currently features two other buildings in San Francisco (600 South Van Ness Ave. in the Mission and 1463 Lombard St. in the Marina), with buildings set to be added in New York City and Chicago.
All of the Sonder Residences units are furnished, with utilities and wifi included in the subscription fee. Creature comforts, from linens to cookware to shampoo and conditioner, will be provided in each unit, with optional services like housekeeping, babysitting and dog-walking for an additional fee.
Pets will be allowed in the Market Street building, which will also offer a fitness room, bicycle storage and mailboxes for residents.
Given San Francisco's ongoing housing crunch, many area residents took umbrage at the concept of a newly constructed apartment building being used for people who may not permanently reside in the city, a perception that was not helped by Sonder's motto of "redefining the hotel experience."
But while Sonder's core product is short-term rentals, the company insists that the 2100 Market building is intended for customers who are looking to stay longer in one place, while still retaining the flexibility to easily move between neighborhoods.
And by requiring residents to stay for a minimum of 30 days, Sonder is exempt from the city's short-term rental restrictions, which only apply for periods shorter than that. (A representative for Sonder says that only individuals, not corporations, are allowed to lease the units, ensuring that all stays are for 30 days or more.)
As SF Planning spokesperson Gina Simi told Hoodline in July, "technically, no laws or rules are being broken."
Nonetheless, many neighbors have expressed frustration with developer Brian Spiers, who didn't reveal his plans to lease to Sonder when he gained city approvals to construct the apartment building, on the site formerly occupied by Home restaurant, back in 2016.
In July, District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman wrote on Twitter that if existing laws allowed the units, "we need to change the law and close this loophole."
Hoodline reached out to Mandelman's office to inquire if such legislation was now in the works, but did not receive a response.
Kimyn Braithwaite, president of the Duboce Triangle Neighborhood Association, told Hoodline that her organization will "be scrutinizing even more thoroughly any project that is presented to us, such that this doesn't happen again."
"We are planning to adjust our conditional use approval for upcoming projects accordingly," she said.
In the meantime, Sonder's units at 2100 Market are now available. A furnished one-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment will rent for $4,150 to $5,270 per month, while a two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment will run $5,270 to $6,450.
By comparison, Zumper's most recent rental report found that San Francisco one-bedroom apartments currently have an average monthly rent of about $3,700, with two-bedrooms going for an average of $4,720.
Mason Harrison, Sonder's director of communications, said that existing Sonder customers will get first crack at the units. Their ranks will include Sonder's CEO, Francis Davidson, who plans to live in the Market Street building.
Addressing the concern that tenants won't stay for long, Harrison said that a few customers have already signed up for 12-month subscriptions to the building.
Neighbors who'd like to tour the building can drop by seven days a week, starting today.
2100 Market also has eight below-market-rate units, whose inclusion in the building is mandated by law. Spiers, not Sonder, will continue to manage those units, which will be leased by the Mayor's Office of Housing.
Update, 12:37 p.m.: A representative for Supervisor Mandelman's office confirms that legislation to address the loophole that allowed Sonder to lease the building is underway.
"Our office is working with the City Attorney’s office and our colleagues on the Board of Supervisors on legislation to address this growing issue," he said.
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