Re: Old Oakland Cohousing
From: Raines Cohen (
Date: Thu, 11 Jun 1998 10:01:03 -0500
At 06:26 AM 6/9/98 -0500, Sharon Hamer <hamer [at]> wrote:
>Jerry Brown, newly elected mayor of Oakland was on NPR yesterday talking
>about how there are hundreds of acres in Oakland that he wants to develop

I was at his election-night block party, and he definitely is pretty 
inspirational/motivational, for a self-proclaimed "non-politician"!

Albert Landeck <landeck [at]> wrote on 6/9/98 7:40 PM:

>The city of Oakland owned the land and is providing it free of charge to 
>the developer, which is including CoHousing in the mix as part of its 

The developer is getting the land & building for $1, and 
permits-clearance assistance from the city (it has been praised for not 
relying on city grants or insufficiently-backed "loans", unlike many 
other projects the city has gotten involved with in the past decade 
(Raiders & downtown ice rink are a couple). I don't believe Cohousing is 
specifically mandated, just a mix of affordable housing and market-rate. 
Many early members of our group went before the council and committees a 
number of times to keep the project alive and get it to this point.

>  It has been a while since my wife and I have been active with 
>this group.  Perhaps Joni could correct any factual problems I have at 
>this point.

Joani Blank <jeblank [at]> is away at the moment, but I'm filling in as 
greeter/host, so I'll try to fill the gaps.

>The good news about Oakland city government, is that city council has been 
>educated about CoHousing.  The bad news is that I get the feeling that 
>they want to see how the Old Oakland CoHousing group gets along before 
>committing to any more.

Michael Schafer <msvh [at]>, a longtime member of the Old 
Oakland Swans Market group, supplied this correction:

>cohousing did not receive a subsidy from the city - the project did in 
>the form of free land and loans.  cohousing was not featured as a concept 
>to the council - in fact i would wager that most couldn't even tell you 
>what it is.  also, we will not have high rise development adjacent to our 
>project - there wont be high rise development anywhere in old oakland.

We did have the outgoing Mayor Harris and a couple of councilmembers at 
the groundbreaking last month, sponsored by Fannie Mae Foundation. But 
mostly they were speaking to the commercial and affordable housing 
portions (councilmember Nancy Nadel, who represents our district, did 
specifically praise "the people who will be living here"). We did meet 
someone launching another coho project in North Oakland, but details are 
sketchy so far... it sounds small, N-street style.

Jerry Brown, Mayor-elect, lives less than a mile away (2d & Harrison) in 
urban-retrofit live/work housing, and says nice things about investing in 
living opportunities in downtown, but was not universally supported by 
our members, and his "strong mayor" ballot initiative petition is even 
more strongly rejected by some.

As to the "high-rise" question: The 3-story convention center is most 
directly adjacent to us (mainly little-used hallway to small rooms facing 
us, Golden Gate Warriors basketball training (enclosed) on their roof), 
and the far end of that building includes an 18(?)-story hotel(won't 
block our sun, in fact, it should reflect some interesting sunsets into 
our space) ... but that's the nearest thing to high-rise... everything 
else maxes out at 3-5 stories. Here's a map:

                   Little Park         "City Centre" shops |
                                       Subway-15 min. to SF/Berk          
    Restaurants | ...Convention Ctr............Tall Hotel  |  C
^    ----<<<<one way<<<--------10th-St. --------------------- h
N               | COHO......CH.....COHO Rest |  Sml Htl  S |  i
     New Condos | COHO......CH.....COHO Rest |   w/rest  h |  n
       done '98 |              Kids Art Shop |  Micro    o |  a
                | Affordable   Museum   Shop |   brew    p |  t
                | Housing     courtyard Shop |Office Shops |  o
<-(frwy 3 blks)-------------9th-St.------->>>one way>>>>---|- w
   20 min. 2 SF |     Future Condos     Rest | Rest Shops  |  n
    Market      |      now-parking      Shop | Shops Rests |
(future condos?)|                    Gallery |             |
                |                            |             |
              Clay                      Washington    Broadway
         (ferry to SF 8 blks)        (Jack London Square 8 blks)
                                  (Amtrak to Sacto/San Jose/L.A.)
                                (frwy 4 blks... 40 min Silicon Vly)  

CH = Common House            NOT TO SCALE

This is a top-view, so it doesn't show the restaurant that will be under 
one of our units at 10th & Clay, or the fact that the Restaurants, shops 
and offices along 9th & Washington Streets are all in restored 
victorians, with street-level retail/restaurants and offices upstairs. It 
also doesn't represent well that the historic building we're preserving 
occupies the ENTIRE BLOCK, and that portions will become open courtyards 
(but with original roofline girders preserved), including the E-W 
corridor between our units (on the first floor, up above our parking) and 
the Common House, nor our ground-level garden to the left of the "Kids 
Art Museum" (the Museum of Children's Art, or MOCHA), and the semi-public 
(limited hours) courtyards between us and the subsidized-rent housing and 
between them and the Swans Market Hall area (not just streetfront shops 
but a common interior area with "public-market" type shops, including 
organic produce) in the lower right of our block.

Many rural coho folks must be saying at this point "how can you live in 
such a crowded, noisy place"? The answer is: by designing appropriately 
for the setting, including noise mitigation features, and by enjoying the 
cycles of the habitat, same as you do. I find I thrive on the energy 
level of the city (I don't need to look at the clock, I just listen for 
the train whistle to know the time), and really enjoy the easy access to 
resources & people ... a carless lifestyle is really quite do-able in 
this setting.

Raines (currently reading "Appetite for Change: How the counterculture 
took on the food industry, 1966-1988", Warren J. Belasco (Pantheon, 
1989), ISBN 0-394-54399-8. Interesting history on parallel evolution of 
communes, organics, and the like... some insights on attitudes toward 
food and learning from mistakes made in some '70's attempts at revolution)

Raines Cohen <coho-L [at]>
Member, Swans Market Cohousing - Old Oakland neighborhood, CA
All units reserved; ground "broken" May; Occupancy Summer '99

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