Wednesday, June 27, 2012

For tinkering space in supportive housing

Just saw a neighbor out fixing his motorbike on the sidewalk. He lives in a subsidized Shelter Plus Care SRO building that's nearly all single-room units. The property doesn't have indoor space for the kind of work that suburban people do in garages and that better-off urban renters do in balconies or courtyards, like working on bikes and fixing appliances and gluing stuff.

So the guy is sitting in the hot sun on a narrow sidewalk in front of the grocery store opposite his building, with his bike set against one of those inverted-U public bicycle racks, trying to keep himself and his tools out of the way of passers-by and also trying to fix whatever has gone wrong with the bike. This is not fair to him.

There's a second-floor outdoor terrace in that building, true, but it's kind of the territory of the people whose windows look out on it, and anyway I don't know if the desk clerk would allow a motorbike to be brought up there. And then presumably there would be hassles about oil drips and so on, as there have been when people tried to work on bikes in the courtyard at our building.

So, if SRO designers and managers understand the need to provide a kitchen for people to cook things in, then how about providing workshop for people to fix things in?

I mean to say this without any special disrespect to our particular local building's management, who work pretty well with the physical space and institutional culture they've inherited. My question is more, why have I never seen a workshop space in a subsidized SRO building? Where's the institutional culture to enable and nourish the often very high level of fix-it ingenuity that people develop through years of making do?

And, is this just me being sour, or does the lack of attention to self-help workshop space have to do with the level of physical control that it's thought appropriate for poor people to have over their environment?


  1. well, I live in an SRO and have a bicycle that I hang on my wall with hooks. Can't do that with a motorcyle, so that's more like having a car. I've known people who live in small apartments who actually drive cars for a living (delivery) and rent out space in a parking lot nearby cause there's no place else to park

    as for support for that, THC actually tried that once with bicycles and it proved too much to handle because people were trying to rip off and strip the bikes

    They actually had a room set aside but couldn't control it all the time. You would basically need a 24 hour guard on the door. The other reason of course is liability for a workshop space, any owner would need extra coverage for that

    I would like to have a motorcycle and go to the Sierras sometimes. I don't because there's no space to keep one unless i rent a storage unit

    I consider that a luxury just like a car, and for those occasions I want to get out of town and can't with a bike, i rent a car

  2. also, that's not really an SRO problem per se. There's a lot of people living in apartments with no room for motorcycles or a car

  3. OK, some good points there. Wonder if it's a kind of thing a neighborhood or a whole housing program could get behind, so it would be on a big enough scale that someone could be hired to watch and maintain the place?

    Eh, maybe I'm just being a busybody.

  4. But then if TechShop SF can offer incredibly sophisticated machinery to DIY tinkerers and inventors starting at $99 a month, couldn't a workshop with much more basic equipment offer monthly use really affordably, so it would work like joining a gym, maybe with scholarships available to subsidized housing residents?

    Just saying. (Yes, likely still being a busybody.)

  5. yeah, there's already a goof place like that for bicycles

    btw, they were in mid market a couple years ago, near 8th and mission

    i just don;t think there's enough people to support a motorcycle are somewhat rare in the city, probably less than 1%, compared to lots of bicycles and cars

    most motorcyclists are out in the country. it's much more suited for that, open road

  6. Easy Rider - criterion collection, 1969

    check it