In Pod-Based Community Living, Rent Is Cheap, But Sex Is Banned
With the rise of community living and workcations, an alternative might be to just sleep where you cowork.
PodShare's DTLA location. Image: PodShare
Airbnb, once a saviour from overpriced hotels, has become the new overpriced hotels since becoming the short-term accommodation staple. But with the rise of community living and workcations, an alternative might be to just sleep where you cowork. That's the idea behind PodShare, a coworking space with beds, which has three locations in Los Angeles.
Defined as a "co-living space," PodShare was co-founded in 2012 by entrepreneur Elvina Beck and her father, who have built the shared living spaces for social travelers and mobile workers who rent the beds for $35 to $50 a night.
Rather than having 100 beds under one roof like a hostel, PodShare has 10 to 30 beds, which turn into desks by day.
"PodShare makes life more affordable because there is no security deposit or cost of furnishings and we provide flexible living," said Beck. "Pod life is the future for singles which are not looking to settle down, but focus on their startups and experience something new."
The industrial-esque locations have Murphy beds, napping station, Xbox 360s and 24-hour access with a keypad code. They also have a pay-by-day policy downtown, Hollywood, and soon in Los Feliz, which allows members to work, rest, network, do laundry and dine in the community kitchen together.
PodShare's site is laden with millennial-friendly tech buzzwords, like the sharing economy, pod culture, nomadic freelancers, access not ownership, and even "Podestrians," the company's name for guests, each of whom get profiles on its website.
"We're creating a social network with a physical address," said Beck. "Our open-floor model offers the highest rate of collisions for social travelers. We do not identify with hostels—we are a co-living space or a live-work community."
PodShare locations are right by public transportation and most of their travelers don't have cars. Still, there are three kinds of folks who check in: travelers, those apartment hunting in LA and temp workers.
The co-ed locations are unlike Japanese capsule hotels, which are only for men. Here, there is almost an equal visit from men and women (59 percent men to 41 percent women). Beck and her team aim to end world loneliness with a global network of PodShares, which will allow more co-living.
"I started it to cure my own loneliness," said Beck, "so I never had a night without friends."
Beck is probably never alone, as she lives in the pod with 23 ever-changing roommates, 84 percent of visitors are international. The locations have 92 percent occupancy, a 19 percent return rate and over 4,000 members who have stayed with them over the past four years (a number have gotten PodShare tattoos).
The prices are affordable. Pods in Hollywood are $50 a night but in downtown LA, they are $35 a night, $225 a week and $900 a month.
At the heart of it all is community. "At check-in, we say, 'you get your own pod, but we share everything else,'" said Beck.
"Sharing an open space with strangers who have their name written beside their sleeping quarters, and who cook different foods, leave different toiletry products in the shower, and play different music on the PA system, is the reason we travel," Beck said.
Beck hosts meetings with her team at the shared tables, which are surrounded by guests, who can listen in on the daily ins and outs of running the pod business.
"We always invite participation," she said. "We build the pods surrounding a common area, never a corner or boxing anyone out. If community was a shape, it would be a circle."
Could pod life be the future of living in cities with skyrocketing rents? It might not be for everyone, but it has proved one thing.
"There is a market for affordable, flexible, multi-location, co-living in an urban city," said Beck.
There is a pre-screening process before one sleeps at PodShare. There is also a post-profiling process, which includes their profile page, which includes a personalized review of every visitor.
"We built the pods facing each other so the community polices itself."
"People love hearing the horror stories over the good news, but with our pre-screening and post-profiling process, we really get safe, sane and social individuals here," said Beck.
Affordable and set in central locations, some of the obvious limitations, especially for long-term guests, include the lack of privacy. There are also rules that include "No PodSex," which can be a challenge for their queen-sized pods, which are a great money-saver for couples.
"We built the pods facing each other so the community polices itself," said Beck.
Even with that, podestrians still manage to connect.
"A boy from Michigan loaded up his car and drove west while a girl got on a plane from Paris and checked into PodShare," said Beck. "He is the bearded IT guy that wears sandals in 30 degree weather and she is the tattooed, alternative tattoo artist. They fell in love after three months together here and now, they live on Spring Street together."
Almost anyone can afford to stay at PodShare with a few bare necessities, including community, which is becoming more important.
"We are trying to strike a balance between social good and creating enough of an economic reserve to keep building more pods," said Beck. "The nightly, weekly or monthly membership is meant to be setup in a way that if you just have a toothbrush and clean underwear, you can survive here like a baller on a budget."