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San Francisco ranks high for shoebox apartments

Residents look out their apartment window in San Francisco on Tuesday, April 28, 2020. | Carlos Avila Gonzalez/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

New Yorkers may righteously complain about the high prices they pay for their tiny apartments. But San Francisco doesn’t fall far behind on pint-size living quarters, according to a new report by the apartment search website, RentCafe.

While Seattle, Washington, takes the top spot for smallest apartments in the U.S., San Francisco ranks sixth for compact abodes, following the New York boroughs of Queens, Brooklyn and Manhattan. 

Although the average San Francisco renter gained an extra 52 square feet of space over the last 10 years—and apartment sizes overall saw a slight bump in square footage during the pandemic due to work-from-home demands—the average size of a newer SF apartment is still 16.5% smaller than the national average, according to the study, and analysts anticipate that SF apartments will only continue to get smaller. 

The average newer apartment in SF is 741 square feet compared with 887 square feet nationally and 135 square feet smaller than the average new California apartment. The average size for all SF apartments is 689 square feet, and as of March, the average one-bedroom apartment in SF goes for around $3,000 per month. Forthcoming apartments are expected to measure 591 square feet on average in the years to come. 

RentCafe says that shrinking square footage is part of a national trend toward downsizing. According to the report, the average U.S. apartment has 54 less square feet than 10 years ago, dropping from 941 square feet to 887 square feet.

Last year saw the biggest drop in square footage, with new builds shedding 30 square feet. Analysts also attribute the trend in part to more studios and one-bedrooms entering the market in 2022, reaching a record share of 57%. 

Those looking to stretch out might turn to Silicon Valley neighbor, San Jose. The South Bay city ranks 58th on the list of small apartments. The average apartment size in San Jose is 824 square feet, slightly below the national average. But newer builds are on trend, averaging 886 square feet. Over the last 10 years, San Jose apartments have netted 62 more square feet of space. The average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in San Jose is around $2,500.  

Christina Campodonico can be reached at