RE: how public is my commonhouse?
From: Eileen McCourt (
Date: Sun, 2 Jan 2005 16:54:53 -0800 (PST)
How big is Takoma Village?  

We had 75 people on Dec 23rd for Christmas dinner, and to me (as one of
the cooks) it still seemed very manageable.  The only guests were
relatives and close friends.  Our regular meals have 50-60 people. We
have 36 households.  We have approx 50 adults and about 15 kids at this

Eileen McCourt
Oak Creek Commons Cohousing
Paso Robles, CA

-----Original Message-----
From: Sharon Villines [mailto:sharon [at]] 
Sent: Thursday, December 30, 2004 2:59 PM
To: Developing cohousing - collaborative housing communities
Subject: Re: [C-L]_ how public is my commonhouse?

On Dec 24, 2004, at 11:07 AM, Luk Jonckheere wrote:

> Will the common spaces with all the friends and guests of our
> neighbours-cohousers offer a sufficient sense of privacy?
> Or will we have to be more severe than we intend on excluding 
> strangers from
> (parts of) our commonhouse?
> Who are strangers? who are guests? invités? friends of members? 
> friends of
> the community? ...

No one is supposed to be in our commonhouse who is not a guest of a 
member. Many of us want an even more formal agreement that says 
residents who do not join as associate members (like renters) cannot 
use the commonhouse including the hot tub and exercise room. If people 
are using these spaces, they should also be cleaning them -- a 
commitment of membership.

We do not  host any publicly announced activities and any activity that 
is open to the public has to have full community approval. We have been 
the  home of the local neighborhood house tour and hosted neighborhood 
meetings on crime prevention, but events that are announced in the 
newspaper or on  list serves as open the public are discouraged -- 
mostly because of security and people not wanting to invite unknown 
people onto the grounds. We have had problems with theft of anything 
left unlocked.

Other than that people have guests all the time and our guest rooms are 
in use at least 50% of the time. We have two. Guests are welcome at 
meals on various bases -- primarily notification to the cook and 
payment of a $4 fee for the food. We have had to rule that if you host 
someone in the guest rooms you must be in residence yourself (not out 
of town) so you can supervise them. Otherwise someone else has to. 
There are always questions and problems -- like being in the wrong room 
or not being able to find the key. "The guest rooms are for people who 
are your personal guests."

We do have traveling cohousers and actors for performances at the 
theater next door staying here but they have to have a designated host 
-- just as if they were staying in your home.

People often have parties in the common house. They let everyone know 
if they are "open" or closed. "Please join us" or "please stop by" or 
"this is closed sit-down dinner". And once, "This is a private group 
and some of the members will not want to be recognized. If you see 
anyone you know, please do not speak to them or acknowledge their 
presence unless they speak to you." Children's parties are announced 
and parents told whether they are open or invitation -- we have an age 
range sometimes the much younger or much older kids are not welcome.

Personally, I found that sometimes we had too many guests -- a 
Christmas Day dinner where there were more guests than residents. Some 
were guests of guests of guests and had no idea who had invited them. 
That was not pleasant. It felt like a soup kitchen and not a personal 
space. But that has not happened since the first two years when people 
were still trying things out. Now the guests are usually people we all 
know who visit regularly -- relatives or close friends of residents. 
Some are "almost members" and chip in with chores when they are here. 
This is not  only more personal but makes for smaller meals which I 
find desirable. More than 30 people at a meal is too many for me.

People also reserve the commonhouse to bring home their office mates 
for retreats.

My favorite use of the commonhouse is when parents of young children 
gather there for the kids to play. They play on the piazza outside but 
when it gets dark early or is cold or hot, the commonhouse is a godsend 
for active toddlers and tired parents.

Right now we are having movie madness -- each night between Christmas 
Day and New Year's Eve we show a film. Some for kids, some not.

I don't know if that answers your question but that's how we use the 

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC
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