how to be a rich homeless intern in SF, research braindump

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[Edit: 15 May 2012: I came to my senses and realized I don’t actually want to be homeless this summer, and am now looking for an apartment next to a makerspace like a normal person.]

this post is a work in progress, last updated 18 April 2012.

well I’m working for fitbit (yay wireless shiny / internet of things)
and they gave me an offset for housing
but then I realized I’d much rather spend that offset on cool classes and project materials than housing

it’s a no-brainer for me ^__^ if your brain is on a different frequency see:

Also, again, I would much rather dump 2k into a makerspace or some worthy cause rather then spend $2000 on something I will rarely use just to “fit in.” I want to live and breathe making things. The second choice would be to find a [free] camp-able place near these spaces (dump the $2k into classes and materials), but I don’t think I’m that hardcore yet. 

email I sent, date: Sun, Apr 15, 2012 at 5:00 PM || subject: Re: Live-in makers’ space in SF? Re: SF digs

-1. summary of findings

(you can also skip to the very bottom of this blog post to see my current plans)
From Nancy Ouyang on Sun, Apr 15, 2012 at 4:07 AM

 I am looking for summer accommodations as well. I am able to afford a reasonable flatshare, and Ted and Guilia and I are looking for apartments (possibly not all of us together).
 Specifically, I myself would much prefer to pay for
[project storage + knowledge acquisition + tools access + after-work maker community]
[human storage].
Are there “art” or “maker” or “shop” spaces that would be okay with me crashing there for three months? I’m willing to pay as much as for a flatshare (3k or 4k over 12 weeks).
 I have ruled out American Steel Studios and the Crucible due to Oakland shootings hotspot research (they are not officially live-in either and thus likely are not lively after work hours). I believe Noisebridge does not welcome this, and have not yet called NIMBY. Obviously the Tech Shop is not an option.
 My requirements (“human-livable”)

  • bathroom w/ running water within 1 minute walk
  • wifi
  • safe after 5pm
  • approximately zero inertia between waking up and making things (or at least talking to interesting people)

My preferences (“MITERS … in San Francisco”)

  • in San Francisco
  • has large mill, esp. cnc mill+lathe, welding, other heavy machinery, lasercutter awesome
  • community of people making things after 5pm
  • also has EE (high voltage community)

I am fine with making my own foldable bed or pile of blankets and paying for daily showers at a 24-hr gym or making a bucket shower garden or whatever if that’s the optimal solution. Obviously, I have no problem falling asleep anywhere.

Now I will go into more detail.

Here is the progression of my summer plans

initial estimated search constraints

  • work (625 market street)
  • makerspace (unknown)
Therefore my initial step was

0. ask future work people & current maker friends about prototyping resources in San Francisco

after checking out the hackerspace listing of course.

I asked Sat, Mar 17, 2012 at 2:25 PM ||

I am curious as to the existence and/or extent of use of hardware prototyping equipment (3d printers, small cnc mills for pcbs), or if anyone knows of / goes to places where people build larger things (makerspaces, places with welding equipment, [tesla] coiling meetups).

and got the answer Mon, Mar 19, 2012 at 5:02 PM ||

There’s a hackerspace in SF that’s just a short hop away on BART (https://www.noisebridge.net/wiki/Noisebridge) and a placed called Tech Shop that’s within walking distance of the office (http://techshop.ws/tssf.html).  The Tech Shop is equipped with programmable mills, 3D printers, welding gear, soldering stations, etc.  I think the Berkeley public library has a pretty good power tool library that you can check out things like drills from.  UC Berkeley and Stanford might have some sort of educational workspace that as a student you could get access to (though that’s just a guess

Further, I emailed out to the general MITERS mailing list.

Pranjal Vachaspati had this to say Date: Sun, Mar 18, 2012 at 9:18 PM

 Check out Noisebridge, they certainly are one of the biggest
hackerspaces, and they have a reasonable selection of equipment, as
well as people working on pretty much any DIY project you can think of
(not just electronics/meche, they have a lot of people hacking food
stuff as well, for example).
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noisebridge. The community there is
certainly very… interesting, they have a somewhat anarchist ethic of
radical inclusion that has both positive and negative consequences
(e.g. can you kick someone out if they seem to be homeless and just
using the space as a place to sleep?).
If you’re working somewhere and planning to use their equipment, you
should be aware of intellectual property considerations; you probably
have to sign an IP agreement that states that stuff you make on their
time and with their equipment belongs to them. So this might be a
problem unless you have explicit permission to open-source it or

Furthermore, From: Dane Kouttron Date: Sun, Mar 18, 2012 at 9:47 PM

Techshop has a boatload of stuff. I’ve heard good things from comrades
who used the workshops. […] the cost for a month or two of membership

I was also recommended to check out allpowerlabs, NIMBY, Cataclysmic Megashear Ranch by Bilal Ghalib.

Robert Han said about Noisebridge Sun, Mar 18, 2012 at 11:48 PM

Nice place with a lot of basic EE tools and some makerbots (not for public use). They recently amended their policy to kick-out homeless people (but still have some less sane elements of society through)

and about techshop

Seconded TechShop, there is one in SF in Soma. Based on what I have heard, it might be more like edgerton machine shop than miters, well equipped machine shop but less of a hangout place. They do host meetups, when everyone is welcome without paying an entry fee. Note; they are for profit, hence actually care about sneaking in

and recommended

Couple other places are 

Ace Monster Toys in Oakland –  http://acemonstertoys.org/ : sort of a good balance between noisebridge and techshop, with a nicer guest policy(free visits but eventual membership) and more sociable. they have as much tools as miters does plus a laser cutter

Hacker Dojo, http://www.hackerdojo.com/, never been there but heard it’s more like noisebridge but in Mountain view 

Chris chimed in Chris Merrill Mon, Mar 19, 2012 at 12:57 AM

Techshop (all of their locations) has a large area with tables and a lounge-ish area for hanging out.  Generally people are pretty cool if you want to talk about what they are working on, but the density of people is pretty small because the entire shop is huge. They have limited hours (close at about ~11:30).  SF and SJ tend to have nicer and cooler tools, but the Menlo Park staff are friendlier :).  The Menlo Park location also has lots of random junk you can grab lined up on a wall.  Got myself a few nice pieces of scrap from there.
TechShop also tends to require paid training for using most of their interesting tools, which really frustrated me a lot of the time. 

Hacker Dojo has a much smaller selection of tools — they’re primarily focused on having space and meeting rooms to let people hack on startups and software projects.  They have a bunch of the basic electronics tools, a cnc mini-mill, a 3d-printer that sometimes works, etc.  They have a pretty flexible stop-by-and-hang-out-and-pay-if-you-actually-want-to-use-it policy.  If you decide to become a member, after a month (or two, I forget) they give you an RFID card that gives you 24-hour access.  The environment here is much more active during the normal work day, and dies down later except when events are running.


Okayyyyy so there’s like a million possibilities all not quite what I want.

1. stay in a hostel

(because it might be fun) I said in an email on Date: Wed, Mar 28, 2012 at 1:02 PM

Has anyone investigated staying at a hostel during their summer internship? It seems like hostels tend to be conveniently located and offer a good fuss:cost ratio, and have the perk of meeting random people I probably wouldn’t meet otherwise. | 

[… later on zephyr] It’s much lesshassle to get the same f(price, nearness to BART, nearness to powertools) result

people on zephyr said

seph Thu Mar 29 13:11:25 2012

hostels don’t usually feel like good places to leave stuffunattended. Which is fine for lightweight travel, but Iwouldn’t want to live in one for a month 

 erinp Time: Thu Mar 29 13:20:31 2012

I really love hostels. That said, it’s not muchcheaper than a shared apartment, and you have a rotating group ofroommates who are completely unknown to you. And noise levels can behigh (especially for hostels with good locations), which can be aproblem if you’re trying to work full time. […]  Some hostels have safes, and you can keep a backpack of valuableswith you. (computer, camera, phone…) But yes, for long-term, itgets annoying.

oh yea also Marie McGraw Wed, Mar 28, 2012 at 3:30 PM

I’m not super familiar with this but based on my summer experiences, I think that for the long term, the privacy and amenities of an actual apartment are worth it–private bathrooms, less worries about your stuff getting stolen, more space, (probably) a kitchen…also, living out of a suitcase is pretty depressing, at least to me. 

oh then Stanislav Nikolov Wed, Mar 28, 2012 at 6:00 PM

Occasionally, there are posts on craigslist about rooms in warehouse-type makerspaces, so keep an eye out for that. Or perhaps googling around will uncover some of them and you can contact them directly. Good luck!

2. find a flat to share with friends near a makerspace and the BART station (for work commute), or within biking distance of work (625 market st)

don’t care about privacy (roommates fine)
prefer <30 min commute if I can’t nap (biking, standing on a bus)
prefer <1 hr commute if I can (train, sitting on a bus)
bonus: situated close to cheap eats or community of makers

Cathy Wu  Wed, Mar 28, 2012 at 1:16 PM
I don’t know about hostels in SF, but as a side note, you should check padmapper’s crime feature to avoid living in some of the more crime-ridden areas. The Tenderloin (near 400 Market St), for example, is an area to avoid.  […] Point is, if you’re willing to live a bit farther from the heart of SF, it’s possible to pay well under $1000. 

really awesome site

padmapper.com > Show Super-Secret Advanced Features > Mass Transit Overlay: (in select cities), SpotCrime Crime Overlay: (in select cities)

Eventually I decided Wed, Mar 28, 2012 at 6:03 PM

Nevermind guys! New plan, convince either thecrucible, american steel studios, or nimby that I’m an artist and they should make an exception to “work-only” studio policy ^__^ Seriously, if they’re willing to give me space, there is zero reason why I should be going back and forth from a third space (apartment). Collapse apartment into makerspace = win.
http://www.yelp.com/biz/the-american-steel-warehouse-oaklandthe building is a buffet of larceny and even armed robbery of an artists while in his very own studio within the building.
If you are a single female, work late at night, or have anything of value in your studio you are INSANE to rent there unless you are just as dangerous as the armed addicts that scale studio walls for your possessions or install barbed wire around your space (as some have done). Unless you create giant art that two dudes can’t hump to recycling, you could be next.

Maybeee not American Steel Studios. idk
Then find a swimming pool / fitness thing close to work and go swimming every day before work, wheee! What is it, lifetime fitness? ?__? 

Thus, I decided to investigate the option of…

3. accidentally fall asleep at an amenable makerspace everyday

To explain my thought process:

Class: help Instance: housing Time: Fri Mar 30 06:29:20 2012  From:
So, new plan.
Any thoughts on just living in some art studio ala thecrucible (http://thecrucible.org/studio-access/studio-rental, pics at bottom),and finding some swimming pool near work for daily pre-work swims?
Possibly with my name nominally on some friends’ aptmt or something, but based on last summer half the time I’ll fall asleep at the shopanyway u.u so my rent would be a waste of money that could be going toward projects. And if I really need a break I can visit some friend in the area for a night or two.

cue extensive research into every space I can find.

the crucible

BART: 4 minutes from West Oakland BART
hours: Monday – Friday 10AM – 10PM, Saturday
Renters have access to the private studio area 24 hours per day, 7 days a week. This includes access to bathrooms & shop sink. Please use entrance in the gated parking lot.
s & Sundays 10AM – 6PM
Yelp: reviews
cost: Shared [work-only] spaces are available at $350/month

The Crucible is soooo awesome. Just look at this:

and this flickr gallery:http://www.flickr.com/photos/jgilbert20/5743624085/sizes/l/in/gallery-thecrucible-72157626788560952/

The definitely not living spaces look like this:

The space inside looks like this:

and the Fire and Arts Festival / Fundraiser looks like this:

I WAS SO EXCITED. but I think they rented the the tesla coil :'(

But uh, it turns out there’s a lot of shootings there.

I eventually decided it was not an acceptable level of risk / I did not rank experiencing getting shot high on my life priorities list (mostly due slim risk yet absolutely unacceptable death/maiming outcome).

[below sections are a WIP as of 16 April 2012]


Q: What are your hours of operation?
A: Our hours of operation are 9 AM to Midnight, 7 days a week!
Storage for members’ small and large projects is available for an extra charge. A limited number of Private Workshop rooms are also available to members for rental by the month or year.
Please ask the friendly front desk staff for pricing and availability of storage and private workshop rooms.
SF techshop
8ft x 11ft cages, 300 without membership, 400 with membership / month.


location: 2169 Mission St, San Francisco
BART: 4 minutes from 16th street mission
$1.75 to noisebridge(3 stops / 5 minutes) from work, or bike there


location: 8410 Amelia Street Oakland, CA 94621
BART: Coliseum/Oakland Airport BART, 20 minutes walk to station, $3.80 21 mins 5 stops from work 
Contact Michael Snook, 510-633-0506
do-it-yourself industrial art space
NIMBY has been the largest workspace/gallery of its kind in the City of Oakland and continues to provide a workspace, storage and display area – a one-stop shop for big, innovative art.

american steel studios

location: 1960 Mandela Parkway Oakland, CA 94607
contact: 510.776.7694
BART: West Oakland BART 15 minutes walk to station, 8 mins / 2 stops to work (53 mins by bike / 26 mins by BART transit)
yelp: reviews
A six acre community in two adjacent yet distinctly different warehouses. 2006 to provide affordable space in which artists and entrepreneurs can create and inspire.
from yelp:
Bathrooms: 3 non-gendered rooms with toilets and various other random things. No guarantee that one or any of them will have toilet paper. No shower facilities (to discourage people from living here).

My studio has been broken into three times in just over a year. Every time, I get the same response: “Sorry about that, but we are not responsible, protect yourself”.


mill / lathe not CNC (but that’s okay, techshop has CNC)
gmap directions — to look into: how crowded the KT light rail is usually (can I sleep on it)

langton labs

Bilal Ghalib said on Sun, Apr 15, 2012 at 4:10 AM

Try some of the warehouse living spaces like Langton Labs: langtonlabs.org

Waahh that would be very awesome because it would actually be legit.
However, someone emailed them for me and they do not have open spaces :'(

ace monster toys

6050 Lowell Street in Oakland, California
BART: near Ashby BART (7 mins to station by bike, 18 mins by walking),
Time on BART: (22 mins, 6 stops) Ashby to Montgomery

have lasercutter, cnc mill (also see Dane’s comments above). about membership

Start giving us membership dues: standard rate is $80/month. In addition, there is the “Desk Membership”, for $250/month you can have a dedicated personal desk that will always be available for just you to use.You are now a “provisional member”, with access to the space, including an RFID key so you can work/play whenever you want. http://wiki.acemonstertoys.org/Becoming_a_Member

eee! There’s a Desk Membership… hmm… *plots*


of relevance to me:
code for america
155 9th Street
San Francisco, CA
some workspaces (no sleep)
robot Mon, Apr 16, 2012 at 11:52 AM

Otherlab, allpowerlab, makanipower,instructables resemble miters
Boxshop in sf may Suit you, place for sustainable living inOakland, Peter Childs incubator in the old prototype thiswarehouse on treasure island

okay, this is getting frustrating / annoying.

4. build a mobile home

robot Mon, Apr 16, 2012 at 11:52 AM

SF City won’t care about vehicle dwelling, but the metermaids will want your shack to have a license plate.

*sigh* If this were on google plus I could just link to it and it wouldn’t class with my color scheme, but because it’s on facebook I will copy paste this below:

http://www.fastcodesign.com/1662870/chinese-architect-builds-egg-house-on-sidewalk-to-escape-insane-rents eeee new plan parking lot next to makerspace. and have hexapod legs under it so I can move it in case anyone complains (this house was eventually evicted by beijing police)


Beijing’s architecture is a scene of extremes: on one end are Rem Koolhaas’s multibillion-dollar structures; on the other, Dai Haifei’s $964 sleep-pod — which the 24-year-old architect built because he couldn’t even afford to live in the city he helps shape. [Image via Getty, for use by Co.Design]H…

 ·  · Share · 20 hours ago

5.  live on a yacht

This is the current plan as of 17 April 2012: have a “home base” so I can pretend I’m not homeless.

  • boat: $210 for 6 months captains’ share
  • gym: $50 per month
  • Subtotal: $260
  • possibly ace monster toys desk membership: $250 per month
  • Total: $1010
Hmm, that is to say, have yacht option as “plan zero” and the gym membership for sure. Then go to ace monster toys once I’m in San Francisco in person and see if they are amenable to me sleeping under a desk there (once they realize I’m a friendly, sane, and hygienic person), and if so buy desk membership.
The $750 would mean… well actually I have 3k to 4k offset for housing for the entire summer, so I should be happy regardless. But in terms of classes $750 would be equivalent to not taking 1/3rd of the TheCrucible classes I’d planned to.
the crucible classes to take

glass flameworking 360
fusing and slumping 225
blowing 600
jewelry and metals 320
welded sculpture 355
tig welding 385
3d enameling 145


my “blurb”
I live and breath making things. I want to go to sleep the sound of people working on projects, not the sound of barking dogs, I want to stay up until 2 am learning how other people make things, I want 24×7 access to oscilloscopes and power supplies and if not welding equipment at least drills and small cnc mills. I don’t want to worry about when public transportation stops, I don’t want to worry about where to store my project, I don’t want to worry about whether I will wake up my neighbors.
It’s possible I’m looking for a MITERS-clone in SF that doesn’t exist. That’s okay, the space doesn’t need to meet all the criteria (e.g. I can bring in my own oscopes and small cnc mills) but this is where I am coming from.

misc. tips

gym memberships
$45 for one month all-club access, $44 for one-month single-club access (to gym right next to work), $349 for one year.