Spiritual Center for the Cohousing Movement
From: Sanda Everette (severettesmcoe.k12.ca.us)
Date: Sun, 26 Sep 1999 01:11:28 -0600 (MDT)
I thought there might be interest in seeing this article published today
in the SJ Mercury News:
http://www.mercurycenter.com/premium/realestate/docs/coop25.htm
The reporter left a message on my machine but we never connected. 
Despite not being mentioned in the article, I have received one email
message already.



                                                               Published
Saturday, September 25, 1999, in the San Jose Mercury News 

                                                               Bay Area
has become spiritual
                                                               center
for the co-housing
                                                               movement

                                                               BY S.L.
WYKES
                                                               Mercury
News Staff Writer 

                                                               STEVEN
Mentor is living in a dream world that happens to be real.

                                                               He has a
custom-built house just a few blocks from a university campus
                                                               in that
famously funky beach town, Santa Cruz. He can gaze out his
                                                               windows
onto a beautiful green. His 4-year-old son has a true cadre of
                                                               playmates
within shouting distance. And if Mentor's wife is working
                                                               late and
he feels like company, there are bound to be some friends
                                                               gathered
within a minute's stroll.

                                                               What
Mentor and his family have is co-housing, a combination of
                                                               private
and shared space that's been fashionable in northern Europe for
                                                               decades
and is now rapidly gaining ground in the United States.

                                                               Although
most co-housing developments have taken easier root in parts
                                                               of the
country where land is less expensive, the Bay Area has become a
                                                               spiritual
center for the movement, and is home to some of the earliest
                                                               examples
of this housing form.

                                                              
Ultimately, what co-housing offers is ``old-fashioned ideas about
                                                              
neighborhood adapted for this crazy 21st-century lifestyle we live,''
                                                               said
Kathryn McCamant, who co-wrote what's considered one of the
                                                               bibles of
the movement, ``Co-housing: A Contemporary Approach to
                                                               Housing
Ourselves.''

                                                               That idea
-- building on the strength of a coherent community within
                                                               the
framework of individual living space -- is what keeps the Peninsula
                                                               Region
Co-housing (PERCH) group alive, said one of its founders,
                                                               Stanford
University network engineer Sunia Yang.

                                                               ``Land
and time are really scarce. Co-housing gives you the opportunity
                                                               to have
aspects of that by sharing,'' Yang said. ``Instead of everyone in
                                                               a
townhouse complex with their yard that's 8-by-8, it's so much better
                                                               to pool
that all together. It's the perfect compromise.''

                                                               In
general, a core group forms to look for land, or an architect or a
                                                              
developer. Although some developers may see pre-sold clients as a
                                                               boon,
other aspects may be less so, McCamant said. In co-housing,
                                                               residents
play a role in the design and the development of a project, just
                                                               as Mentor
and his friends did.

                                                               They came
together somewhat haphazardly -- one friend introducing
                                                               another
until there were eight people who ``bemoaned that even if you
                                                               moved
into a nice neighborhood or got your place in the country, it
                                                               didn't
really meet the need of having a sense that you knew other people
                                                               around
you well enough to trust them raising your kids and creating an
                                                              
environment of community,'' Mentor said.

                                                               They held
together through a series of professional and personal moves
                                                               and
``knew that the sooner we did it, the better,'' he said. ``Everybody
                                                               really
had to take a risk, wondering if it would work out. . . . It was a
                                                               big
deal.''

                                                               Finding a
developer was a key step, Mentor said. ``We were looking for
                                                               someone
who'd completed projects in Santa Cruz and who seemed to be
                                                              
interested in (this kind) of project.'' They found Rich Kelley of
                                                               Woodside.
He and the project manger they hired had to learn to work
                                                               with a
group used to consensus decision-making. This group grew from
                                                               eight to
30, Mentor said. ``But right away they saw we were practical
                                                               and had a
ton of experience and skills.''

                                                               The group
ended up with a three-acre lot with two buildable acres that
                                                               now
includes 10 single-family homes, six duplexes and a common
                                                               house.
Parking is kept outside the houses and the common green. About
                                                               three
dozen adults and two dozen children share the project. The private
                                                               living
spaces range in size from 1,200 to 2,600 square feet.

                                                               Yes,
there was a process for residents who were added to the original
                                                               group,
Mentor said, ``but it wasn't a process of deciding whether you
                                                               could be
on our kickball team.'' 

                                                               Other Bay
Area co-housing projects have been around long enough to
                                                               mature
beyond their first group of residents. Ken Norwood has lived at
                                                               the
Parker Street Cooperative in Berkeley for more than a decade, and
                                                               now, as a
dedicated planner, gives regular van tours to show off the
                                                               different
types of co-housing that can be found in a day's journey.

                                                               The
Parker Street project is an example of housing converted to the
                                                               cause. In
this case, it was apartment buildings modified to include
                                                               garden
strips, roof decks and a common room. There is a waiting list,
                                                               Norwood
said, but ``it keeps collapsing because nobody moves,'' he
                                                               said.
That's a bit of an exaggeration, he admits -- about half a dozen
                                                               people
have come and gone in the 24 units in 10 years.

                                                               The
touring process is what gave the planners of another new project,
                                                               in Contra
Costa County's Pleasant Hill, their perspective on what kind
                                                               of
development they wanted, said one of its founders, Ted Lynch. 

                                                               He and
his wife, both Silicon Valley technology professionals, are
                                                               headed
toward retirement and wanted to scale back. After looking at
                                                              
co-housing projects in Seattle, Portland, Davis and Chico, they decided
                                                               to stick
it out for a site near home.

                                                               After
several years of searching, their group found a 2.2-acre site. It's a
                                                               perfect
setting: along one edge of the property is a bike path to a BART
                                                               station.
Fifteen households are planning 32 homes and a
                                                              
4,000-square-foot common house that is one of the significant
                                                              
necessities in any co-housing project.

                                                              
Initially, they will end up paying a bit more for their townhouse-style
                                                               home in
the new project, Lynch said, ``but the exciting part is we get to
                                                               design
what we're going to live in -- and this will serve as a model.''

                                                               The group
looked at 20 locations before they found one they liked.
                                                               They're
putting final details on their planning application now.

                                                              
Colorado-based developer Jim Leach and his company, Wonderland Hill
                                                              
Development Co., will be a part of the project. With several similar
                                                               projects
to his credit, he's now convinced that this is a kind of housing
                                                               that is
not going away.

                                                               ``There's
no question that it's more challenging,'' he said. ``You're
                                                               working
with your customers from the time the project starts, but it has
                                                              
significant advantages because you're introducing the seed of a
                                                              
community.''


                                                               IF YOU'RE
INTERESTED 
                                                               More
information about co-housing and links to other sites can be found at
                                                              
McCamant's site (www.cohousingco .com). Contact Norwood for one of his
tours
                                                               at the
Shared Living Resource Center at (510) 548-6608.

                                                                   
 PERCH will have a newcomers meeting (with child care available)
Thursday from
                                                               7-8:30
p.m. in the community room of the Mountain View library, 585 Franklin
St.
                                                               Contact
PERCH at www.perch.org


                                                               Contact
S.L. Wykes at swykes [at] sjmercury.com or (650) 688-7599.
                                                               Fax (650)
688-7555.


-- 

Sanda and Brian Everette
http://www.wordrunner.com/sanda

San Mateo Cooperative Community
http://www.wordrunner.com/sanda/smcc.htm
Toward a sustainable lifestyle: 
grow some of your own food and/or know the gardener who is growing it.

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