Floating office faces eviction from Pier 50

A floating office that's home to half a dozen companies could soon be evicted by the Port of San Francisco.
October 8, 2013 6:05:21 PM PDT
San Francisco is a haven for startups and the group work spaces that house them, but there's one startup incubator that may take the prize as the most unusual. Now it might have to shut down.

On a sunny September afternoon, you might find Creon Levit strolling the deck of his boat, docked on San Francisco's waterfront. Watching him this way, you might guess a lot of things about him, but you'd never guess this:

"I'm not really a boat person believe it or not," said Levit.

So what's he doing with a meticulously remodeled Icelandic ferry boat called the "Maritol"?

Open the massive hydraulic hatch and you'll find his cargo: a full shipment of entrepreneurs -- hackers and engineers, working on startups -- in a space that's affectionately become known as the "Icebreaker."

"Ships are optimized for large workspaces, collaboration and teamwork. And that's why a ship works so well as a place for a startup," said Levit.

Gathered on couches on the main deck, or at the long table down below, they work on inventions like a 3D camera, an underwater robot and a service that helps you order supplies, like argyle paper cups.

They're people who are going places even though they're on board a vessel that doesn't move.

Though she has working engines and a full set of navigation tools, the Maritol never sets sail. All that creative energy stays in one place at Pier 50 and that's created a problem with the landlord.

In short, the Port of San Francisco says the owners of the Maritol have basically rented a parking space. Now they're taking issue with how they're using that space, the same way your landlord might not like you living in your garage."

A port spokeswoman told us by email: "The lease does not include uses such as office space, special events, or living aboard the vessel."

They've given the owners until the end of the month to either move the boat or move the startups off of it.

Levit says it's all a big misunderstanding. He said, "If they understood who we truly were, they would want us here, and if we understood what the requirements truly were, we would probably be able to meet them."

He's hoping to work out a compromise before the deadline.

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