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My First Date with Airbnb

Washington DC Other

Crispy Garbonzo beans. If your publisher hadn't ventured into the Millennial "room sharing economy" this week, he might never have met them.

If you don't know Airbnb, it's the Uber of lodging. It currently has listings for 500,000 rooms, apartments, and homes in 192 countries you can rent online for a night or longer. That makes them the biggest lodging provider in the world. And it's changing the face of real estate—not just a major challenge to hotels, but increasingly to housing itself. Many folks now keep apartments, condos, and houses who might otherwise move because they can just "Airbnb 'em." Some even rent multiple apartments, sublease them, and make it a full-time business.

Because Airbnb started in San Francisco, your publisher figured a visit there this week would be a poetic occasion to try it out. Some do it to save money or find a larger space for a family that may also have a kitchen or washer and dryer. The main benefit your publisher found in two days in the house above (in the gentrified NoPa district) was a chance to stay in and feel the rhythms of a residential neighborhood—a place where there are no hotels, and where he otherwise wouldn't have visited, let alone walked the streets, explored the shops, or talked to "real people."  

Of course, being of a certain age, he wasn't about to stay literally in a room in a stranger's house. He chose the "total apartment" option. But as is typical, it was attached to a house. So he entered a gate with a locked code on the side (coming through that dark corridor on the right) to the back of the house where he stayed in the apartment through those doors with another locked code). It was no Ritz, but clean and pleasant: small bedroom, little living room, kitchenette, and bathroom (a laundry service provides fluffy linen, but it would be nice if a plumber could unclog the drain in the shower).

He got his breakfast foods at the cozy Bi-Rite Market…

…popped into neighborhood hangouts (the crispy Garbonzo beans in the picture at the top of this issue can be found at a fun restaurant called Nopalito)…

…and walked over to tranquil Alamo Square for a panoramic view of the city and, in the foreground, the famed "Painted Ladies" (multi-colored Victorian houses). Being nice weather, he walked three miles into the city, which allowed him further discovery of neighborhoods like Hayes Valley, Mission Dolores, Panhandle Park, Lower Height, and eventually…

Mid-Market, a transitional area with renovated creative office space where tech firms are locating like crazy, including the headquarters of the real-life Uber. Let our publisher (aka Mark Bisnow) know your adventures with Arbnb or similar services. You can reach him through our reporter:

Related Topics: Hayes Valley, Mission Dolores