Re: Cohousing and local activism
From: Jeffrey O. Hobson (dcn00109wheel.ucdavis.edu)
Date: Mon, 22 Aug 94 23:22 CDT
Responding to David G Adams, then Rob Sandelin, about existing communities
and local activism:

David suggested a tension between two relationships of cohousing to
activism: facilitating local activism or ignoring it in favor of involvement
only in the cohousing community.  I have sensed both of those, alternately,
in my time at N Street.  Overall, however, I would say that the former
(cohousing facilitating activism) has been stronger than the latter  - but
maybe that's just because its Saturday ;-)

Common dinners can allow me more time in the evenings to get other things
done (although they can equally well induce me to spend hours hanging out).

Having a ready-made group of sources, opinions, and in some cases, work, is
perhaps the most important facet.  Examples abound, but here's one:  I've
been working with the homeless shelter in town; we found a possible
permanent site and applied for a conditional use permit.  The owner and a
few parents from a nearby nursery school raised some concerns.  It turned
out one woman in N St. works at the school, and another couple has a child
there.  Talking with the staff member helped me (and thus those of us
working on the shelter) understand the school's concerns better and helped
us (the shelter) communicate our responses to the staff (would that we could
have been so lucky with the owner).  The staff wrote a letter expressing
some concerns but supporting our existence.  The parent spoke in our favor
at the permit hearing, and I think the whole communication helped smooth
what could have been a rocky political situation.  Our permit was appealed
by a neighbor last year; not this year.  Of course, many other factors were
at play, but I am confident that knowing Cheryl and David well through N St.
helped me help the shelter better.  

To my knowledge, the community as a whole has not taken on any
non-cohousing-related agendas; in fact, there has been pressure against it
taking such action at times.  Our official policy seems to be that we, as a
community, are apolitical on everything but cohousing.  However, there have
been many instances of significant percentages of the community members
working together on some non-cohousing agenda.  

As to taking action on cohousing-related things, I don't know of us having
taken any group actions, but I have only lived here for a year and a half
(Kevin, Stuart, others, do you know of any?).  Again, _individuals_ are
active in a few situations, trying to get cohousing zoning in the General
Plan update, etc.

Rob is certainly right that:
>The very same skills of communication, 
>cooperation and meeting process which make us successful 
>in cohousing tend to make us cohousers, leaders in other movements.  

I've seen that in myself in working on Davis' General Plan Update (which,
incidentally, I probably would not have become involved in were it not for
the prodding of another community member - Mr. Wolf, you know who you are).
Our meetings are supposed to run by consensus, and only a few of us have any
experience in doing that.

I have to say (up on my retrofit soapbox), I think a major reason I feel
that cohousing in facilitating, not hindering, my local activism, is that
_this_ cohousing (N St.) is an easy-in model.  I didn't have to attend a
couple years of meetings to get the place going; I didn't have to wonder
about where to put the garage, or whether to have one, or whether to use the
FMHA or CDBG or PQZ affordability criteria.  I'm renting a room, and we're
slowly working on things like having enough chairs.  I can be 24, single,
burning about a dozen issues, not be sure where I'll be in two years, and
still benefit from and contribute to this community and have time for a few
of my dozen burning issues.

On to David's closing comments: 
I'm not sure _how_ this list could be used directly (i.e., letter-writing)
for political purposes that are closely related to cohousing. I can't think
who to write a letter to supporting cohousing.  If you can, count me in (if
you're keeping track - :-) ).

Indirectly, communicating our respective efforts to get cohousing integrated
into local governments' zoning maps, etc., is clearly a positive political
goal that this list is already trying to do.

at the end of my tome,

Jeffrey Hobson                                    N Street Cohousing 
dcn00109 [at] wheel.ucdavis.edu         Davis Energy Group

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