Re: Spiritual Center... [clean copy of San Jose News article]
From: Fred H. Olson (
Date: Sun, 26 Sep 1999 10:12:30 -0600 (MDT)
On Sun, 26 Sep 1999, Sanda Everette wrote:

> I thought there might be interest in seeing this article published today
> in the SJ Mercury News:
> 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.

As has been pointed out the format of the copy of the article that Sanda
included was weird.  I decided to post a clean copy (below).  Fred

   Published Saturday, September 25, 1999, in the San Jose Mercury News 
   Bay Area has become spiritual center for the co-housing movement

   BY [83]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
   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
   More information about co-housing and links to other sites can be
   found at McCamant's site ([84]www.cohousingco .com). Contact Norwood
   for one of his tours at the Shared Living Resource Center at (510)
      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 [85]
   Contact S.L. Wykes at [86]swykes [at] or (650) 688-7599. Fax
   (650) 688-7555.

Fred H. Olson  fholson [at]    Minneapolis,MN   55411  
(612)588-9532  Amateur radio: WB0YQM          List manager of:
Cohousing-L  See and Nbhd-tc --  Twin 
Cities Neighborhood issues list.  See
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