Re: Cohousing and suburban sprawl
From: Joel Woodhull (
Date: Fri, 20 Oct 1995 09:36:24 -0500
On Oct 18, 1995, David Mandel expressed his doubts that the
typical cohousing model would have a significant effect on
suburban sprawl.  Rob Sandelin responded by defending cohousing
developments on large acreages, as being better than the typical
development that would have occurred there anyway.
I think an essential point made by David, that Rob failed to
address, was that even if all development followed that cohousing
model, we would still be as car dependent, and still despoiling
open spaces of significant size in our metropolitan areas.
We came to Sebastopol because a cohousing group seemed to be
about to settle on a site in the town.  We bought a 9 acre place
in an agricultural area just outside town, hoping to link an
organic farm to the in-town cohousing, much like Stephanie
Fassnacht suggests.  We think the 9 acres is a viable size, but
only time will tell.  Just as important though, is that the farm
is where it belongs, and it is close enough to town that
cohousing could be associated with the farm and still be where it
belongs, in town, rather than destroying more agricultural land
in Sonoma County.
Unfortunately, by the time our deal closed, the cohousing deal
evaporated and the group began looking at a site in another town. 
That possibility also seems to have eluded the group, and there
is not yet a site in view.
It seems to me that Sebastopol officially supports cohousing more
than any town I know.  Its general plan mentions cohousing,
explains what it is, and encourages it as a good way to provide
housing.  It offers favorable conditions for mixed use
development and live-work options.  But it is a small town and
intends to stay that way, so there are very few large parcels
left.  The typical coho model seems to have little chance of
working here.  It appears that if Sebastopol is to have cohousing
it must come about through parcel assembly and/or infill.
I think David's argument underscores the need for more of us to
consider an incremental form of cohousing development.  Its
problems don't seem so much greater than the problems we've
experienced so far in the big development approach.
Joel Woodhull
Sebastopol, CA

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