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The Guy Who Lived In An 8-Foot Box Has Since Left Because The Pod Was "Illegal"

The pod didn't meet San Francisco's housing requirements related to light, ventilation, and approved materials for safe habitability.

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Updated on

That's Peter Berkowitz on the very right of this photo with some friends. He's a 25-year-old freelance illustrator and a new resident of San Francisco's Sunset District.

Peter Berkowitz

Berkowitz was a cook in New York City's Flatiron District before he moved to Oakland, California, in 2015 to pursue a career in illustration.

He set out on an apartment hunt with a friend and was immediately struck by the all-too-common San Francisco real estate dilemma where a place might have a huge living room, but not enough bedrooms. So he decided to build a bedroom, or pod, of his own.

Peter Berkowitz

"It seemed to be something where I could do it cheaply enough and actually make a space that I enjoy living out of, save money, and I wouldn't have a subsequent drop in quality of life," Berkowitz said. "I think that's how it turned out."

For three weeks in March, Berkowitz lived out of this 8-foot box in his Sunset District apartment. He paid $400 a month in rent.

Peter Berkowitz

Berkowitz lived with four other people in the three-bedroom apartment, not including the pod. He said the other roommates pay about $800 each for their rooms.

It cost about $1,300 to construct the entire pod, according to Berkowitz's website.

Despite how this pod may look to outsiders, Berkowitz said it was very comfortable.

Peter Berkowitz

The pod, inspired by Japanese capsule hotels, was the type of comfortable and soundproof space Berkowitz said he was looking for in a room. Calling himself a "neurotic sleeper," Berkowitz said he needed peace and quiet to rest.

He spent his time in the pod reading and working on a built-in computer table.

"I do the stuff you do in a bedroom," he said. "Nothing too crazy. I'm not using it as a meditation chamber or for sensory deprivation."

Berkowitz kept his clothes behind the backboard of the bed and stores his shoes and backpack outside of the pod. Putting on pants, he said, "requires more yoga than I'm used to doing."

But Lily Madjus, San Francisco's Department of Building Inspection spokesperson, told BuzzFeed News in a statement that the structure was "illegal."

Peter Berkowitz

Chief Housing Inspector Rosemary Bosque contacted Berkowitz after hearing about the pod in the media.

He told him that the pod is illegal under San Francisco's housing code requirements for light, easy access, ventilation, and approved materials for safe habitability.

"It also failed to meet the required square footage requirement of a minimum of 70 sq feet for a habitable room," added Madjus.

Berkowitz acknowledged in March that the idea may appear crazy to some, but he said he is a firm believer in maximizing living spaces in light of the city's housing issues.

Peter Berkowitz

He also pointed out that his private pod is probably more comfortable than sleeping on a couch or sharing a room, which is how some city dwellers have dealt with the expensive rental market in San Francisco.

"Living in the box is an instance of sanity," Berkowitz said. "It is crazy, but only crazy to the extent that the housing market is crazy. I think it's a smart solution to the situation that happens to work for me and may work for other people."

The Department of Building Inspection said Berkowitz no longer lives in the pod.

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