Citizens and government workers in San Francisco, Santa Cruz and Palo Alto , Calif., can now rent office space from those city governments through LiquidSpace, a website and app that enables booking of workspace through a searchable database of available venues.

Up until now, the company’s service, founded in 2010, has been dominated by private-sector usage. Workers and businesses have used LiquidSpace and its competitors to support teleworking, flexible schedules and “hoteling.”

But that might be changing. The three California cities individually have partnered with Palo-Alto-based LiquidSpace, so people can book unused space in public libraries and other government buildings.

According to LiquidSpace CEO and co-founder Mark Gilbreath, San Francisco, Santa Cruz and Palo Alto are the first government entities to pilot the platform for public facilities.

“What’s exciting about these three municipalities and others that are following their lead is that these municipalities are observing that they — like most real estate owners and operators — have underutilized spaces in their libraries and city halls,” he said.

When individuals book public workspace from the cities through LiquidSpace, the user isn’t charged a transactional fee, Gilbreath said. Some of these city’s bookings are free of charge, while others charge an hourly or daily rate. For example, the Santa Cruz Public Library is offering free booking through LiquidSpace of open seating there, but charges $25 an hour for a Wi-Fi-enabled meeting room.

San Francisco deployed the technology as a means of reducing the city’s carbon footprint.  The city’s Department of Environment has made its Eco-Center available for rent on LiquidSpace.

“Commercial real estate accounts for 55 percent of our carbon footprint, and when mobile workers can leverage spaces nearby, we can optimize that building use and shorten commutes,” said Melanie Nutter, the director of the San Francisco Environment Department, in a statement.

Nutter also said she is encouraging her colleagues to use the Web platform to make other public spaces in San Francisco available.

Santa Cruz city officials are deploying the technology to rent workspace in 10 city public library locations so that citizens can avoid long commutes. Former Mayor Ryan Coonerty, who still sits on the City Council, co-founded a company called NextSpace, a site similar to LiquidSpace, that caters to California. The two companies then partnered, making Santa Cruz’s offerings available on both sites.

Coonerty said the partnership will give more exposure to the city’s libraries as well as the community center. Because more than 30 percent of Santa Cruz’s workforce commutes to Silicon Valley daily, Santa Cruz officials felt that mobile, flexible work environments was crucial for the city’s economy.

“Santa Cruz has always had a tradition of trying out new and different technologies and different approaches and different public policies, so we were happy to give it a shot,” Coonerty said.

Gilbreath said he’d like the LiquidSpace platform to expand beyond the city governments in California’s Bay Area.

“We’ve not engaged directly with any other municipalities beyond the Bay Area, but certainly anticipate that happening in time,” Gilbreath said.

Sarah Rich, Staff Writer Sarah Rich  |  Staff Writer

In 2008, Sarah Rich graduated from California State University, Chico, where she majored in news-editorial journalism and minored in sociology. Since 2010, Sarah has written for Government Technology magazine and covers a spectrum of public-sector IT topics, including cloud computing, transparency, broadband, and other innovative projects and trends. She currently lives in Sacramento, Calif.