Re: Eugene Cohousing (Lynn Dixon)
From: Doug Huston (
Date: Tue, 7 Aug 2018 18:33:19 -0700 (PDT)
I’ve been meaning to chime in but haven’t taken the time until now. I want to 
‘pile on,’ as the other writer may perceive it. We built our cohousing on what 
was formerly an open lot. I’m gonna guess that most people don’t like losing 
their open lot. It afforded a great unimpeded view for those who lived 
adjacent, it was a place where dogs could play and poop, and kids could play 
there too. There were some large old cottonwoods there too, though some of them 
posed a bit of a danger due to the specifics of those trees. We had what seemed 
like the typical concerns that would have to do with any new development in 
which there was a request for increased density. (And by the way, we live in a 
community where ‘that just isn’t done.’) There were concerns about parking 
problems, increased traffic, and the “gigantic” buildings that would be built 
in the form of townhouses configured in twos (and one with three units). We 
worked with the planning department initially, and one duplex was left out on 
the street away from the rest of the community, to preserve the streetscape. 
This is definitely not a benefit to our cohousing community. I don’t actually 
remember if they required it, but we agreed to do it. The neighbors were 
divided about whether they supported our cohousing community or not. But many 
many neighbors stepped up to the podium at the planning commission hearing to 
register their opposition to our request for increased density. Their 
opposition came in many forms, some more well-reasoned than others. One 
recurrent theme seem to be the concern that it would negatively impact their 
house prices. This was slightly ironic, as the surrounding area had been built 
as a somewhat affordable neighborhood. Everybody’s house is worth a lot of 
money in our town. We met with the neighbors before the planning commission 
hearing, and after the planning commission hearing. They wanted us to not have 
increased density; they wanted our community to be smaller. As it was, we were 
building a 13 unit cohousing community, and any less seemed to not really be 
cohousing (per experienced experts in the field). I will say that the 
opposition was generally not misinformed. They didn’t say or write letters 
about the weird commune or all the vacant vehicles that would be left on the 
property or anything wacky like that. They seemed to have informed themselves 
fairly well about what cohousing was and  was not. Although it seems like we 
made some small compromises, we were not able to accommodate their bigger 
concerns, and still be able to build our cohousing community on that property. 
They did not oppose cohousing per se; those who opposed it did not want it in 
their backyard – as it were.
We lost 5 to 2 at the planning commission hearing. We lost most group members 
as a result, and had to re-gather ourselves to consider what to do next.

We read the comprehensive plan for the city more carefully. We hired a lawyer. 
We highlighted the ways that our plans were  compatible with the city’s plan 
and their values. We pointed out the many benefits of how our community would 
be built, as opposed to a more conventional one. We tried to make them walk 
their talk. We won fairly easily in  our appeal to the city council. 

The local paper did a follow up article about a year after we moved in. They 
talked to two of the more vocal opposers. They acknowledged that their  
concerns about traffic and parking were generally not realized. They said that 
the residents were nice and seemed to ride their bikes a lot. They hated that 
they lost their view. For my money, that’s probably about as good as it gets. 
People come and go, and many of the neighbors who were there 11 years ago 
aren’t even there anymore. I am not aware of any palpable lingering resentment 
from the neighbors. Many members have maintained some concern that the fears 
that the neighbors expressed wouldn’t transpire – those members are careful and 
thoughtful about parking on the street, and traffic. (I am not especially one 
of those.) 

I want to echo the first-hand experience that many of the people living in 
cohousing have shared - that many fears are unfounded, people often are more 
likely to actively oppose some kind of different local development than they 
are likely to actively support it, that there are some aspects of cohousing 
communities that which simply cannot be compromised, and that neighborhood 
opposition subsides overtime. To me, we were able to compromise on some things, 
and others we were not. The system is set up so that there is a winner and 
there is a loser in a hearing like we had. Fortunately, we won. The amount of 
time and money that the delay cost myself and the community did not increase my 
empathy for the neighbors and their concerns. But it didn’t prevent me from 
having any. We have gone out of our way through the years to try and 
incorporate neighbors into events, and make it clear that we want to be part of 
the larger community. I can find a small part of me that is still resentful 
about what I had to go through in the process. I imagine that is true for some 
neighbors as well.

One byproduct of my experience is that I became in active letter writer in the 
local newspaper. The letters I am referring to were written by me against 
neighbors who opposed worthwhile housing projects in their local neighborhoods. 
One of them was in a nearby town, and another letter writer wrote back that 
“Mr. Huston in Ashland should mind his own business.” The proposed development 
was an easy target for neighbor opposition. They were going to pair up former 
substance abusers (with a minimum of two years of abstinence) with seniors who 
were going to act as mentors to them. The housing would have been subsidized. 
It didn’t get built. 

The writer below cited reasons why there are not streets running through 
cohousing communities. Those weren’t any of the reasons I’m aware of for why 
cohousing communities are configured the way they are. 

- Doug Huston (Ashland [Oregon] Cohousing Community)

Sent from my iPhone

> On Aug 7, 2018, at 12:50 PM, T G <triciamill9 [at]> wrote:
> Wow!!! This whole thread is quite astounding. Not a single person has been
> able to have any empathy for the concerns of the existing community.
> Cohousing communities choose to have parking on their perimeter because
> they want a car free community where their children can cross the street to
> a neighbors safely, not have the noise of cars pasing by their front porch,
> etc. YET you are all unable to understand that the existing neighbors are
> concerned about the additional traffic that will come with 28 new homes at
> the end of their street??
> I have read numerous public comments from this group and none of them
> voiced any concern that this was a cohousing community. The exact opposite,
> in fact. Many stated their initial excitement at this happening.
> I thought I was interested in cohousing, but the total lack of any empathy
> towards others has turned me away.
> I will seek other more accepting forms of community. In addition. People
> may want to look up the origin of the word NIMBY before throwing it around
> as an insult.
> Just Wow!
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