In early 2017, Berkeley Councilmember Ben Bartlett (among others) sounded the call for what are called “micro-homes”. The plan, the brainchild of San Francisco Developer Patrick Kennedy, of Panoramic Interests, remarked to the press that tension among residents was caused by close spaces. Kennedy’s idea for micro-apartments, in contrast, intended to offer privacy as a tool for avoiding conflict, and that included having private bathrooms, too.
In January of 2017, the then-new Councilmember Bartlett wanted to commission 100 of the MicroPAD homes to help Berkeley’s homeless, saying “It’s the best thing out there”. The Berkeley City Council unanimously approved of the plan.
Kennedy’s plan was called MicroPADs: tiny modular apartments modeled on shipping containers, which Panoramic Interests makes in China and ships to building sites in America.
This was Councilmember Ben Bartlett and Patrick Kennedy on KPIX CBS 5 in 2017:
Fast forward to 2018, and Kennedy and Bartlett saw their dream become reality, though for U.C. Berkeley Students: a 22-unit housing complex at 2711 Shattuck and designed by Lowney Arch. It was the first building to use the MicroPADs approach in the world. As Pankow, the builder, wrote on its website “This four-story prefabricated modular building, located south of Downtown Berkeley, will house 22-units of efficiently designed spaces for students of UC Berkeley. Each unit is an efficient micro-unit that features sleek, stylish finishes, ample storage, large operable windows, and amenities that include a backyard and car-sharing space.”
The objective of using MicroPads to meet the demands of Berkeley’s homeless still remains unmet as of this writing. The main problem is the once-powerful tool of redevelopment financing that was used to fund the construction of millions of units of affordable housing in California over the years is gone and has only been partially replaced. The SB628 Bealle legislation, once considered to be redevelopment’s revival, has not been widely used. And a bill called AB 11 (by Assembly Member David Chiu) that would bring back California Redevelopment Law died in committee January 31, 2020.
But credit to Berkeley Councilmember Ben Bartlett for advancing the MicroPADs plan, and with the rest of the Berkeley City Council, opening the door to its actual use in an urban area. (Note: Bartlett’s law firm Tackett Bartlett LLP is a Zennie62Media client.)