Escama Studio's office is tucked away on a little side street in San Francisco's South of Market district. The area has changed a bit over the past ten years and these days it's easier to find a $5.00 Dixie Cup sized cup of coffee than it is to find a hypodermic needle on the ground. That's a step in the right direction some might say.
The news from San Francisco in this season, Spring 2014 is about evictions, displacement, and how the character of the Mission has been forever changed by the influx of techies. I am too uncool to have ever staked a claim to the Mission so I'll leave that discussion alone. But for those who are reading San Francisco's last rites do not dispair: the soul of San Francisco lives on.......in our downstairs neighbors.
Ah our downstairs neighbors..... they're nice, not noisy, they keep to themselves, we say hello and chat sometimes. Just a run-of-the-mill warehouse full of burners which in itself is not extraordinary. And yet they've always struck me as a bit of an enigma..... there's a steady parade of people coming back and forth between their two warehouses from one side of the street to the other. Doors knocking, people coming in and out -- and like a skit in a Marx Brothers movie -- it's never the same people. 'That's some strange shit' I thought to myself and left it at that.
Only now, four years later, have I finally found out what their deal is. Ironically, I had to read about them in the New York Times . Called 'Langton Labs', they are an 'intentional community' that draws about 20 lodgers per night in their two warehouses. The visitors have been accepted through an application process -- that explains the constant parade of new faces and why the people know exactly where they're going. It's $10,000 a month to rent the two warehouses and if split among 20 monthly lodgers (or 600 short term lodgers), that comes up to some very cheap accommodations. But to say that Langton Labs is a solution to high rents in San Francisco or a cheap place for a traveler to crash and eat instant noodles is missing the point. It's a community that pulls like minded people in from all over the region/country/world. They share space, food, music, parties and they're bouncing ideas off of one another. It's a chaotic environment where nobody does the dishes but it's a great creative space for new technology -- need a high throughput 3D microscope? need to place bulk food orders online? These are just two that I've read about but who knows what else they're working on.
At the end of 2014 this building will be blown up to make way for high rise condos. Escama Studio's office will have to move and Langton Labs will have to find another warehouse. No doubt, losing a couple warehouses won't put an end to Langton Labs. It'll become Howard Labs or Folsom Labs or 3rd Street Labs. And the Langton Labs intentional community itself? It's bound to evolve and morph into different forms just like everything else in the City.