Old Oakland Cohousing in the News
From: Raines Cohen (coho-Lraines.com)
Date: Thu, 26 Aug 1999 06:57:44 -0600 (MDT)
In light of the recent discussion on community, I thought I'd share this 
cover story on Old Oakland Cohousing at Swan's Market from the recent 
(Volume 1, No. 12 (8/18-31)) issue of "Urban View", a community bi-weekly 
newspaper serving Oakland, California. The reporter looked at some issues 
covering more than just the Cohousing part of the project, mixed up a few 
things but got the sentiment largely right, however.

cover story: Housing Relief; Swan's Brings Cohousing and Mixed Use to a 
Neighborhood Near You.
cover photo: Joani Blank in front of Swans Market sign [occupies whole 

[no, they don't have it (or anything yet, really) on their website at 
www.urbanview.com ]


- Letter from Editor & Publisher:

"There are some words that can turn just about anyone into a cynic. The 
term 'community' has been tossed about to the point where it is rapidly 
approaching meaninglessness. However, to restore our faith in the 
concept, we set out to find some tangible examples of 'community' taking 
place in Oakland.
"There are two major categories of community. First, community that is 
based on deliberate structural and geographic planning. And we've got it 
right here in Old Oakland. ... the Swan's cohousing project, which will 
combine services, housing, retail and art. In other words, the elements 
that make a neighborhood cohesive and functional.
[a 2d article looks at the East Bay Pride/Stonewall 30 celebration]
"Combined, these two separate projects are helping to mend the broken 
idea of community -- and may even save it from trivialization."

The article:
Housing Relief: Coming Soon to a Neighborhood Near You
Swan's Market: A Neighborhood
by Paris Morgan

Lead: "The current development of Swan's Marketplace that began in May of 
1998 is due to finish, in parts, from November of this year into next 
"In this, it's latest incarnation, Swan's takes on the elegance of its 
name and becomes, adt once, many different things to many different 
people. A historically preserved central-city complex of restaurants, 
shops and housing, Swan's is designed to honor the city's past while 
propelling it, bravely, into the future. Specifically, Swan's will house 
the Historic Old Oakland Housewives Market and the Museum of Children's 
Art (MOChA), three new restaurants, a deli and a bakery. It will offer 
affordable housing in the form of 18 one- and two-bedroom apartments and 
four apartments for families living with AIDS.

"It will also be home to a cohousing project, consisting of 20 
fully-equipped conodminiums and a common house, in which the buyers have 
invested in the building's development in exchange for involvement in 
design and amenities. Swan's provides a case study in cohousing 
courtship, as well as a philosophical petri dish for a word that is 
circumscribed to the point of near-irrelevance: "community."

"In its first life, the buidling, located on the block of 9th, 10th, 
Washington and Clay Streets was home ot the 10th Street Market and the 
Oakland Free Market. It was originally built under the 1917 
proprietorship of Jacob Pantosky, who, at various points in his career, 
called himself a "poultry merchant, broker, speculator, junk dealer, shoe 
merchant and hotel manager."
"The concept of cohousing... has scrambled this last notion of neighbors 
into a "which came  came first, the chicken or the egg?" conundrum. The 
idea behind cohousing is not that the neighbors are defined by the 
neighborhood, but that the neighborhood is defined by --and for-- the 
"'Cohousing,' according to Joani Blank, an owner [whoops! technically a 
little bit ahead of herself; we're investors and members and have units 
reserved but won't be able to complete our unit purchases 'til December] 
of one of the Swan's condos, "is a form of collaborative housing which 
tries to maximize a sense of community between the households who live 
there, but provides plenty of privacy at the same time." Typically 
cohousing groups share several meals a week in their common space, such 
as a dining room or garden, and take turns cooking meals and caring for 
their property--and their neighbors.

"There are roughly 41 such colonies in the United States and 4 in Canada. 
They are found, in more concentrated numbers, in Raleigh-Durham, North 
Carolina, in Seattle, Washingtgton, in the Boulder-Denver area of 
Colorado, in Massachusetts, and in Northern California. In Oakland, there 
are two others: Temescal Cohousing and Temescal Creek (soon to be 

[... description of Swan's physical setup....] "in all, 3,600 square feet 
of community space.
"Roy Schweyer, Director of Housing and Community Development for the 
City, explains the focus on common space: "So that there's an expecation 
that it will be a community that will share more than just the entrance 
to the building -- but a common space, and will build a community 
effort." [it sounds like he's talking about the shared courtyard with the 
affordable housing, retail, etc., not the common house within cohousing]

[history: Joshua Simon, the project manager for the East Bay Asian Local 
Development Coalition, our nonprofit developer, studied architecture at 
Berkeley with Katherine McCamant of the Cohousing Company! I didn't know 

[skipping several interesting paragraphs of OOCOHO history and early 
group process, recruiting techniques]

"Mary Marx, Executive Director at MOChA, says, "We are very excited to 
work with the cohousing people and we've already had discussions with 
them about sharing technology resources. We have looked at something like 
creating a co-op kiln and a co-op laundry facility and other things that 
we wouldn't be able to put into our won space, so that there might be a 
space..." that is shared. [we've talked about a shared internet (DSL or 
similar) connection but the other stuff is news to me]

"It remains to be seen if this spirit will appeal to the affordable 
housing tenants and the families with AIDS. [history of mailbox problem 
omitted... we tried to have lots of design features, like co-located 
mailboxes, to increase our interaction with the affordable-housing rental 
residents, but it turned out not to be possible... high construction 
costs and the complexity of the project precluded some other options]

"The cohousing rewsidents at Swan's were drawn to downtown Oakland 
because they wanted a socio-economically and culturally diverse urban 
setting. So, while it really depents on what interaction the other 
tentants of Swan's want to have with them, they are certainly open to 
excahgne. Their [actually, Joani's] bumper sticker says they are willing 
to take a philosophical stake in more than just one city block: 
"Cohousing: Building a Better Society One Neighborhood at a Time."

Raines Cohen <coho-L [at] raines.com> <http://www.swansway.com>
Member, Old Oakland [CA] Cohousing at Swan's Market [& East Bay Coho]
Where we just got to visit our units-to-be: cement slab is poured, lead 
paint is abated, rough plumbing is in, walls are being framed out!

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