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Long time friend-of-Toolmonger Joe Brown now lives in San Francisco. And according to him, Cali landlords are less forgiving the New Yorkers when you tear down your Moto Guzzi in your living room.


So he’s looking for some shop space to rent. He writes: “I went on Craigslist, and there ain’t s#!$. I emailed everyone who is renting out garage space, and got the same response every time: PARKING ONLY. I even have a buddy who is willing to go in on a larger space with me, and I’d love to set up some kind of co-op for people who need a place to work on their cars, but I think I just don’t know where to look.”

Obviously most residential-district garage owners are scared shop work’ll burn the place down. But I can’t believe that there’s not some kind of shop-space collective in the Bay Area, considering the other great opportunities I’ve heard of, like TechShop and The Crucible. Do any of you West coast Toolmongers have some helpful advice?

(Thanks, Andrew Ciscel, for the great cc-licensed photo. And yes, we know that’s not Joe’s Guzzi. It’s a Bimmer. It’s a stock photo.)

Update: Reward! We’ll send the first person who clues Joe in on space he rents something nice. And not gloves nice. Like tool nice.


23 Responses to Reader Question: Shop Space For Rent In San Francisco?

  1. jeff says:

    This is what I found in the online yellow page listings. Bay Area Motor Club would be ideal but they are currently looking for a new location. San Francisco Auto Repair might be the only place.


  2. jeff says:

    Here is the link for Bay Area Motor Club. While their website says they don’t have a facility currently, a call to them might provide more up-to-date info.

  3. PeterP says:

    I’ve been looking for something similar in Atlanta. It’s almost impossible to find garage space with power, much less water.

  4. Nick says:

    If you aren’t going to be doing anything big, you could try looking for a rental artist or musician studio.

  5. Piett says:

    Worth calling and checking into:
    San Francisco Auto Repair
    611 Florida
    San Francisco, CA 94110 Map
    (415) 285-8588

    The online description claims this:
    * “Do -It- Yourself ” Membership Available

    There also used to be a garage/shop with tools that was rented hourly in San Jose but they have closed down.


  6. Brian says:

    Your best bet might be retail space or something similar. It would be quite expensive in San Francisco I imagine, but if you could start a co-op and spread the cost, I’m sure there’s a lot of people looking for what you’re trying to find. There have to mechanic’s shops in the area too; ask them if they know a shop that has closed down recently, and you could maybe rent that. There’s also warehouse space, and rental storage places usually have power in them if you can find a nice rental business owner.

  7. dan says:

    there used to be quite a few rent-by-the-hour garages (even paint shops) around… and more than a few garage co-ops.

    a former neighbor owned two in san fernando valley, but had to close them due to insanely expensive insurance and numerous environmental-related fines. the problem being that so many users/renters treated the places like crap, made messes, equipment was stolen (even the lights at one time), etc… he couldn’t charge enough to break even.

    i used to belong to a co-op that was pretty cool… albeit not “cheap” at $200/month, it was in a nice sized industrial building, people shared tools/equipment, there was a lift, and a ‘fridge filled with soda and beer paid on the honor system.
    more and more users left once they got their own garage or their project was complete, until there were only 5 or 6 of us… we’d have to pay $400/ea to keep the place (couldn’t find anyone else interested)… then we had a break-in, a bunch of stuff stolen, then the building owner decided to charge more… all at the same time. that was the end of it.

  8. patmac says:

    try the boxshop

    The Box Shop
    951 Hudson Ave
    San Francisco, CA 94101
    (415) 642-7467

    if they can’t they should point you in the right direction.


  9. alan says:

    NIMBY or American Steel in West Oakland

  10. FWIW, that’s an airhead BMW carcass, not a Guzzi.

  11. mike says:

    Looking for something similar in NYC. There are some artist co-ops here, but they’re expensive and out in the sticks of Brooklyn. Joe, just move back to NYC and we’ll start that co-op here.

  12. Jim K. says:

    Having been in the bay area for about a dozen years I’ve run into this same problem (actually it’s why I no longer own a ’68 mustang). What I’ve learned though is depending on the amount of cash you have available there is a ton of industrial space for lease. One of the easiest ways to locate it seems to be to go to a few of the local fabrication shops and inquire about who they’re leasing from and if they know of any space available. Oakland, Hayward, San Leandro, El Cerrito, and Albany all have a ton of spaces like this that aren’t being leased currently. The biggest hangup tends to be on insurance as most of these places will require you to carry a policy. Anyway, best of luck and remember, word of mouth is going to be your best friend.

  13. jb says:

    As some one who lives in sf, let me just say, its not fing worth it. SF is full of folks who are so far to one side, they they simply won’t let you do anything. Its as if working on a motorcycle was worse than making metal art work. Welding fumes are welding fumes. Save yourself, move the heck out of this hell hole. There are parts of the country where no one is going to take a shit on your door step or harass you for spare change. Its not economic hardship caused by bigotry, its caused by people who enable them. The nice, hippy folks who give the homeless just enough money to get them that next rock of crack or super-sized can of king cobra.

    You can get a house out in the country for 1/2 what you pay for rent right now, and you will own it, so if you need a work shop you could just buy shipping container.

    Sorry to go off like this, but this city just drives me nuts.

  14. c2builds4u says:

    Hello all,

    I have found a secret spot that is a motor/wood co-op and is in need of additional partners. The 1800 sqft garage/hanger is in San Rafael, CA. If anyone is interested you can email me.




  15. mrg says:

    bunch of great/friendly bike freaks who own a car garage.
    ask for pat or augi

  16. Ethan says:

    I have space available to share in a 2500 square foot workshop with concrete floors roll up door, great ventilation, and central soma location around 9th and Harrison. This space is perfect for welding, sculpture, metal fabrication, motorcycle repair etc… rent negotiable… email me at allartburns@hotmail.com
    thanks Ethan

  17. Toxic says:

    You might try contacting Dennis Magri at dennismagri@sbcglobal.net

    He owns Magri Motors on Pennsylvania near Army street, and rents container and shop space in a yard nearby. Not only is there space available, but he’s an bike guy (More on the Vincent and Indian side of the fence, but it wouldn’t be the first italian crankcase on the premises.)

  18. JR says:

    Been looking for a workshop for a little while too, nothing fancy, just big enough to build some furniture with. Anybody know of any way to rent a space to work in? Been all over google and yahoo, don’t know if there’s any site specifically for this sort of thing, that’d be great if anyone’s got one though…

  19. JR says:

    In OC, CA btw.

  20. dominic says:

    call dennis magri…. he has storage containers down the street that he rents out that people use for painting, welding, building bicycles, etc. hes into motorcycles so hed understand what you want to do. just email him at dennismagri@sbcglobal.net and tell him what you want to do.

  21. DJ says:


    Anything in the san mateo county or San Francisco? Looking for a spot with with power/lift, to pull body off frame and restore, box etc..


  22. Josh Martin says:

    Over 4 years later and still the same run around. It’s hard to find a workshop in the bay area you can call your weekend home. I’d be very much interested in a co-op given the right landlord and floor space. No way I can do a full off frame restoration in my “2 car” garage that is only 14ft wide.

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