Office Space 2.0: Shipping Container Workspaces Seek to Change San Francisco’s Real Estate Landscape

One Bay Area company is thinking out of the box when it comes to the real estate problem – by putting people in a box.

San Francisco startup Campsyte is using shipping containers to make office spaces. The result: money addresses for a fraction of the price. The SOMA-based company hopes the concept will attract businesses priced out of San Francisco real estate.

It’s first prototype, a one-story, 320 sq. ft. space made from two recycled shipping container boasts large windows, a small deck, heat, air-conditioning, spray-form insulation, sound proofing, adjustable desks and locks and alarms controlled by smart phones.

“We wanted to turn these otherwise dumb storage boxes into smart, workable, livable spaces,” Campsyte CEO Dennis Wong said.

This year, San Francisco office rents passed Manhattan’s for most expensive in the country. Campsyte’s rents are about half the price, according to Wong, and are flexible: $30 per hour, $150 per day and pricing for short-term leases too.

“You’re not paying for times you’re not using it, like nights and weekends. So you’re only booking on-demand for the time you actually need,” Wong said, explaining the company is also working on even cheaper spaces for artists, displaced by high rents.

The artist spaces will be “yurt-style structures” blended into the urban environment, not made from shipping containers like the spaces designed for startups.

Campstye is now waiting on approval from the San Francisco Planning Commission to build multi-floor offices with plumbing and pop-up shops. However, because the concept is so new, city codes for temporary spaces have not quite caught up yet.

“Just like food trucks, for example, when they first took off, the planning commission really needed a way to deal with food trucks,” Wong said.

Plus, where to put them? Wong says the pop-up offices will go on the vacant plots of land and unused parking lots. This includes lots owned by families who cannot afford to develop them, offices that have unused parking lots, etc.

Parking lot operators say they have not heard of the offices, but say there is hardly a space that goes unused at the moment.

“This lot — every day is crazy. We fill up all the way to the end of the street,” California Parking attendant Rolando Condes said. “I don’t think you can find an empty lot.”

Campsyte hopes to have their pop-up offices up and leased by this summer. It’s also in talks with the Mayor’s office to come up with ideas to house the homeless.

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