On Thursday, San Francisco resident Edwin Neil Acosta and his former roommate sued the management of Chez JJ, a “hacker hostel” founded by Jade Wang. According to the San Francisco Chronicle:
Since 2010, Acosta, 45, a government investigator, has lived on the bottom floor of a beige two-unit building on a quiet street in the Castro district. Chez JJ set up shop in the upstairs three-bedroom flat in spring 2012, hosting up to 10 visitors at a time. Initially Acosta was mystified about why so many people were coming and going, and about the noise. Then in July 2012, he saw a flattering New York Times profile about Chez JJ, “Crammed Into Cheap Bunks, Dreaming of Future Digital Glory.”
Acosta thinks Chez JJ’s $5,422 in fines from the city planning department (the “hostel” shut operations down in January) is insufficient. His complaints include bedbugs, mold and infliction of emotional distress among other things.
“City codes were implemented so makeshift hotels don’t appear in residential apartment buildings,” Mark Hooshmand, Acosta’s lawyer, told the Chronicle. “The difficulties Edwin encountered in attempting to bring these issues to light show planning’s inability to enforce codes. Affordable housing stock is being lost.”
“Hacker hostels” — where tech entrepreneurs crash in crowded temporary housing until they make names for themselves — are a common occurrence in the Bay Area. In Acosta’s building, up to 10 temporary residents at a time would live in the apartment above him. Chez JJ, like other similar operations, used Airbnb for booking. Elsewhere this week, San Francisco officials admitted the city is having a hard time enforcing a recent Airbnb law intended to regulate how residents can rent out space in their homes.
Jenn Stanley is a freelance journalist, essayist and independent producer living in Chicago. She has an M.S. from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.