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Check In, Check Out: The Good Hotel, San Francisco

good-hotel-nyt

THE BASICS The Good Hotel, which opened last November, claims to be the first “hotel with a conscience.” Anthropomorphizing aside, the hotel does have many admirable qualities: low prices (rooms start at $89), eco-friendly touches and a philanthropic streak. The whimsical lobby brings the hotel’s do-gooder approach to life: a bench made of recycled felt blankets, a vending machine branded by ReadyMade magazine that dispenses wallets fashioned out of FedEx envelopes ($15) and other goodies; wall art by developmentally disabled artists; and an orange phone that connects to a “philanthropy concierge” who arranges volunteer stints through One Brick, a local nonprofit.

THE LOCATION Formerly a Best Western motel and an adjacent hotel, the Good Hotel is at the corner of Mission and Seventh Streets — a gritty but slowly revitalizing corner of SoMa, the area south of Market Street. In the immediate vicinity are scuzzy single-room-occupancy housing, the futuristic-looking San Francisco Federal Building and a sleek plaza lined with cafes. Mass transit, including bus, light rail, cable car and subway, is all within walking distance.

THE ROOMS There are 38 motel-style rooms that open onto a courtyard parking lot, and 79 in a five-story brick building. Inside, it’s Ikea gone eco. Platform beds made of reclaimed pine are draped with fleece blankets made of recycled soda bottles. The pillows are made from old bedspreads salvaged from the previous hotel. A chandelier, made of empty Voss water bottles, is a D.I.Y. project taken directly from the ReadyMade book, “How to Make (Almost) Everything.” There’s also a recycling bin, a nifty fold-down metal desk just big enough for a laptop and, overhead, a secret message from the hotel that glows in the dark.

THE BATHROOM Definitely the low point. The former hotel’s bathrooms appear to have been largely left intact and unrenovated. My bathroom, in Room 303, had mildewed grout and cracked brown tiles that made me wish I’d packed flip-flops. One eco-cool update was the Japanese-style toilet-top sink: the gray water from the sink is collected in the toilet tank, saving water.

AMENITIES Somewhat sparse. The rooms offer free Wi-Fi, an iPod docking station and 26-inch flat-screen televisions. There is a spacious fitness center and outdoor heated pool — but you have to cross the street, to the recently renovated Best Western Americania, to use them. There’s also a photo booth in the lobby ($3 for two prints); visitors are encouraged to add to the photo mosaic of smiling guests.

ROOM SERVICE In lieu of room service, the on-site restaurant, Good Pizza, offers free delivery from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. The pies were unexpectedly good: a 12-inch pizza — topped with organic apples, fromage blanc from Cowgirl Creamery and toasted walnuts ($16) — arrived 15 minutes after ordering. Still, I had to eat my dinner out of a cardboard box while perched on the edge of the bed (there’s a table in the room, but, inexplicably, no regular chairs).

BOTTOM LINE A budget hotel that offers more than just cheap rooms: a sense of place and purpose. At checkout, guests can donate $1.50 to One Brick, offset their carbon footprint through Carbonfund.org, or give a $200 computer through One Laptop per Child. Rooms range from $89 to $149.

The Good Hotel, 112 Seventh Street, San Francisco; 415-621-7001; www.jdvhotels.com/hotels/good.