Public Good? The Final Word (?)
From: Cohomag (
Date: Mon, 27 Oct 1997 17:24:24 -0600
The thread I started a couple weeks ago about the city planning profession's
perspective on cohousing ("elite lifetyle vs. public good") finally seems to
have subsided.  I thought I'd post this response from the principal city
planner who worked with us on getting approvals for our community here in
Don Lindemann
cohomag [at]

Subj:    "CoHousing:Elitist or Public Good?"
Date:   97-10-27 12:56:53 EST
From:   STB1 [at] (Stephen Barton)
Sender: Postmaster [at]
Reply-to:       STB1 [at]
To:     cohomag [at]

Hi Don,
Thanks for the copy of your article and questions on the future
of CoHousing and congratulations on the fine profile in the S.F.
Chronicle. I am stunned by Roger Montgomery's comments -- they
apply to gated communities, not to CoHousing, and I find it hard
to take them seriously. It is true that if CoHousing is to become
racially diverse, the CoHousing movement may need to incorporate
more affirmative action, just because it comes out of a
particular historical group of people of predominantly European
descent who desire a more collective and social lifestyle and
thus tend to bring in others from the same social networks who
are basically similar to themselves. This certainly is not the
result of exclusionary intentions as he seems to suggest.

I have a more pessimistic view of your other question, however. 
I think both that CoHousing will remain a niche market for a
limited number of people, and that at the same time you will have
to work very hard to make it grow to its potential and can not
simply rely on the market and private developers to deliver the
goods. Anyway, it would be detrimental to the CoHousing ideal to
be so passive about developing CoHousing! 

The great publicity and all the phone calls from the media are
not the result of an enormous untapped public demand for
CoHousing. It results from the fact that you are different, and
thus newsworthy, but friendly-different rather than
scary-different. You are a positive alternative, and hundreds of
people will feel that they like something about the ideas you
embody for every one that is willing to actually live in
CoHousing. People who sustain communal ideals perform a valuable
role in society even if they are only a small fraction of the
whole. Bits and pieces of what you learn will be adopted by
others, but rarely the whole, just as happened with the Garden
City ideal. You will get to both contribute to a better society
and live your ideals -- not as good as actually saving the world
of course, but a damn good life nonetheless.

Feel free to share my response with anyone else.

Best regards,

Stephen Barton
Senior Planner
Planning & Development Department
City of Berkeley
stb1 [at]
  • (no other messages in thread)

Results generated by Tiger Technologies Web hosting using MHonArc.