Re: catch 22 - finding right site or identifying group values? (Grace Kim)
From: R.N. Johnson (
Date: Wed, 13 Jan 2010 09:41:43 -0800 (PST)
My advice would also be to prioritize values first- figuring out the 
"must-haves" and the "would really likes". You can spin your wheels for years 
looking at sites if you don't have a clear sense of the priorities. I would 
also strongly encourage the group to stay flexible- not to adhere too rigidly 
to a list of priorities, but to use it to figure out if a particular site fits 
enough of the criteria.  With a group of 8 it is likely that any site you find 
will not work for a few.  Unless the whole group has very similar needs and a 
lot of flexibility, it is nearly impossible to please everybody.  
New Brighton Cohousing is a small cohousing with moderately high density- 11 
homes and a common house on .9 acres.  We bought an existing apartment site 
that had a cohousing feel to it, with a single family house and three 3 or 4 
unit buildings around a common courtyard. When we made to decision to go ahead 
 looked at what the site did have- affordability, room for a small community 
garden and orchard, play area for kids, and the "green" advantages of  
excellent public transit, shared walls to reduce heating costs, no need for new 
materials, and a smaller footprint for nearly all of us in terms of house 
size.  It did not have room for the huge organic garden some of us envisioned, 
two of the buildings are totally unsuitable for solar, and was not located in 
Santa Cruz proper, where many of us lived at the time, and where we all wanted 
to be.   We decided the site fit enough of our criteria to go ahead.  Two 
households that really wanted to stay in Santa Cruz, and hold out for larger 
garden small decided to go their own way, and continue to pursue other 
2 years into living here, it has been my experience that having a good sized 
outside shared space more than makes up for the small private yards.Instead of 
11 postage stamp front yards, we have a beautiful open courtyard with lawn 
space for the kids, picnic space, and garden space, and a small individual 
patch of yard to plant as we see fit.  My son is far more likely to play 
outside, knowing that other kids are out there, than he was in our previous 
home. The outdoor deck of our common house has become our dining room spring, 
summer and fall, something we intended at our previous house, but rarely did.  
It is more fun to garden for a larger audience.  As a pack rate, storage has 
been a bit of an issue, but I've been meaning to lighten my load for years. 

My last 2 cents are to consider retrofit sites as well as build-from scratch 
sites.  With the economy still struggling, there may be some great multi-unit
 sites out there at a very reasonable price.

Randa Johnson
New Brighton Cohousing 

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