Monday, May 7, 2012

40 Berkeley, Boston: tourism + residental works

We stayed at the 40 Berkeley hostel in Boston a week ago. (My TripAdvisor review and others here.) Mentioning it here because it does this great thing of bringing together people who are living at different economic levels in one basic but clean and welcoming building.

So, OK, it's an SRO. As shown here, an SRO ceiling is an SRO ceiling. And an SRO sprinkler system is an SRO sprinkler system. On the other hand, there's a locking door, good views from the windows (see below), blessed privacy.

The property, a former YWCA, functions partly as a high-end hostel. Dunno if you'd call it a "poshtel" but it offers clean private rooms with bathrooms down the hall. It's also partly a college dorm for Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology next door. Also it hosts a women's transitional housing program, Betty's Place. Reportedly the building has new owners, partly private, partly nonprofit, who intend to maintain the same mix.

Breakfast is free to guests, generous, various and well cooked. With free wi-fi.

Guess what? Everybody gets along fine.

Mentioned partly because, where we are in San Francisco there's a huge suspicion, for time-honored, good and sufficient rent control reasons, of landlords who mix nightly tourist business with long-term rentals to tenants. (Lately the tourist rental practice has spread to rent-controlled apartments as well as rooms.)

I do understand, locally, over here, why a sneaking increase in an SRO's number of tourist rentals tends to be bad for low-income tenants' rights. But it's also nice to think buildings can be set up to host people who are there for different reasons, at different times of very different lives.  That is, as long as it's in a spirit of fellow-tenancy, and not segregated grotesquerie-chic.

Sometimes in mixed residential/tourist SROs, newcomers and oldtimers get talking to each other. Sometimes they learn things. Sometimes they make friends.

We used to know a guy who was resident assistant manager at a hotel like that along one of the main drags in North Beach. He had a wonderful time playing Grand Old Man, Oracle And Protector to European tourists. I'm sure they had a wonderful time being his audience too.

Conversations like that, among people who wouldn't otherwise meet: good, right?

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