House location selection
From: Hungerford, David (
Date: Tue, 14 Jun 94 14:59 CDT
Nancy Wight asked:
>Okay all of you veterans of the process... how did you go about
>deciding who lives where on the site?

At Muir Commons, we remember the house/lot choice process
because it worked so damn well.  In fact, we have talked about reviving it if 
we decide to assign parking spaces.  It went quickly, easily, and without 
anyone feeling they got stuck with a less than ideal choice.  At the time no 
particular model (of 3) was set for any particular spot, with the condition 
that no two story wall could be on the end of a cluster (our houses are in 
clusters of 2,3, and 4; all houses have a one-story half; we did try to keep 
the small single story units on the cluster ends for massing purposes)

the process:
1) everyone does homework--talks extensively with non-attending significants; 
discusses advantages/disadvantages of areas of the site (i.e. secluded means 
far from parking and common house) and comes to the meeting with at least 3 
ranked choices

1 1/2) tension reducing exercise--don't skip this!!!!  If I remember 
correctly we all "sponged," but we have a yoga instructor in the group to 
help--at least do some relaxation breathing--you could also serve alcohol, I 

2) at meeting, people put post-its with their names and rank choice 
(i.e. Hungerford-1) on 3 choices on a large site plan.

3) everyone looks at results (we were surprised that people had very 
different criteria for choosing and that people were spread all over the 
site--glad we didn't try to analyze choice criteria beforehand) and pays 
attention to neighbors--too far from someone?  Quiet, single person next to 
the people with 3 kids and 2 dogs? 

4) 2nd iteration, people move their choice 
post-its around (this spreads things out a little) 
4 1/2) iterate as necessary 

5) problem choices--the one house with 5 1st choices,  what's the appeal?  
Could some of these people go with a second choice, or the house next door?  
Does your site have a really cool amenity (or dis-amenity) that only one 
house can 'have'(like a 200 year old oak with great shade (or a dumpster)--if 
so, your site plan may need adjustment) 

6) horse-trading--this is where people who were the only 1st choice on a 
particular house may bump to their second choice in order that someone else 
can have that house as their third choice--this is where people have to 
evaluate how strongly they are attached to #1 vs #2 or #3.  Actually some 
people in our group ended up with their 4th or 5th choice, but that choice 
was in the same cluster as their first--so was okay.

7) go home to partners to see if what you traded was okay--also serves as 
self-evaluation period.  Did you trade off something that was really 
important to be nice?  Does this make you feel like you were taken advantage 
of?  Or could you really be happy with one of your other choices, even though 
you pushed hard to get the one you thought you wanted more?  Was there 
someone else who wanted it but ended up sort of getting the short end of the 

8) meet again in a week or so, make minor adjustments and voila'

It worked for us.  The one conflict that arose was when no one wanted to live 
right next door to us (we have the 3 kids and 2 dogs.)  But someone with kids 
traded with a single and it all worked out--probably because even though 
fewer than half got their first choice, everyone felt that the process was 
fair and equitable.  Interestingly, the people who joined the group after 
this decision, or were on the waiting list so took over already sited units 
when people dropped out at the pony-up-the-bucks stage, seem to complain more 
about location disadvantages than anyone else.  Goes to show that it's not 
the outcome that matters nearly so's the process.

I probably left out something important. Eric, is my recollection accurate 

David Hungerford
Muir Commons
Davis, CA  dghungerford [at] 

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