Intro to Stuart Staniford-Chen (N St Cohousing).
From: Stuart Staniford-Chen (
Date: Sun, 1 May 94 17:03 CDT

I thought I would introduce myself to the list as well.  I've just subscribed 
and I'm really excited to discover the existence of this forum.  I'm Stuart 
Staniford-Chen and I live in N St. Cohousing in Davis, CA.  I'm not sure how 
familiar this group is with N St so I'll give a brief synopsis.  

Basically we are a cohousing community that has arisen by gradual evolution in 
the midst of 1950s tract houses in East Davis (the poorer student/rental end of 
town).  We have now grown to 12 houses by a process of adding one house at a 
time as they happen to become available.  The ownership structure is very 
diverse - some houses are owned by community residents, some by absentee 
landlords, and one by a collective of community residents.  We have taken down 
the fences between the houses, and some of the yard space is communally 
controlled.  We have half a common house - the largest house of the community 
has our community dining room, kitchen, and meeting room, but we rent the front 
of the house to tenants (who are also part of the community of course).  We 
have some other community facilities such as laundry rooms, a woodshop, a 
sauna, and a small hot-tub.  These are disbursed throughout the other houses in 
the community.  We have a communally managed chicken yard.  We eat community 
meals together two or three nights a week in the common house.

Our decision making procedure is by consensus.  We do have a provision for 
going though a sequence of meetings culminating in a decision by two-thirds 
majority; this is supposed to break a hopeless deadlock.  In practice we have 
been able to reach consensus on everything eventually.  Our decision making 
style is to hash things out in group meetings until we either agree in 
principle or run into deadlock.  We then appoint an ad-hoc committee.  In the 
first case they work out the details of the decision and report back.  In the 
second case the committee consists of the most vigorous dissenters who meet to 
resolve their differences before bringing a proposal to the group.  Sometimes 
decisions can be made solely in group meetings.  We have two monthly meetings: 
one for long-term major decisions and vision issues (how big should we grow, 
how should we define membership in the community), the other for smaller 
operational decisions (where should the new community pans be stored, who 
should pay for chicken food).

In general, comparing us to a virgin-site community such as Muir Commons, we 
are more scruffy, have poorer amenities, and have less satisfactory design 
(since so much is set by where the pre-existing houses are).  We also have less 
stress, pay a lot less money and need to make less time commitment to keep the 
place going.  Whether we are happier or not depends on who you ask.  

We are showing signs of gradual gentrification.  A few years back there was a 
high annual turnover, with a lot of renters and students and co-operative 
houses.  Now more of the houses are being bought by residents, and there is a 
gradual tendency towards lower densities and one nuclear family occupying each 
house.  Correspondingly, more emphasis is being placed on landscaping and 
aesthetics.  The income level in the community is gradually rising, and we are 
becoming more attractive to outsiders.  It used to be difficult to find people 
to move in when a house or a room came free, but now there is always a list of 
candidates who would like to join.

As to myself: I'm a graduate student in Computer Science.  I'm originally from 
England but have been in the U.S for the last six years.  I've lived in 
N-Street for 3 1/2 years.  I run the community woodshop (which is in the garage 
of our house) and have various other responsibilities from time to time.  I 
live with my wife Lynnette and a housemate - Jeff Hobson - who is one of the 
community's two co-treasurers.  Lynnette and I initially moved in largely by 
chance - we were substantially ignorant of cohousing at the time, but found we 
liked it greatly after we joined.

We live directly opposite from Kevin Wolf who has also just subscribed to this 
list (and who told me about it).  He and I disagree about most everything ;-), 
but respect each other nonetheless (wouldn't you say Kevin?).  Kevin and his 
wife Linda Cloud were the most instrumental people in beginning N-Street, and 
they own three of the houses (including the common house - they rent the 
community part of it to us).  Nonetheless, they do not have any special 
leadership status within the community.

I have a couple of neophyte questions about this group.  About how long has the 
list been going, and how many subscribers are there?  Are there any other 
cohousing resources on the internet (eg an anonymous ftp site) besides this 
list and the associated gopher site?

Thanks for your time,

Stuart Staniford-Chen.
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