Re: Through the looking glasses?
From: Victoria (
Date: Thu, 20 Jan 2000 19:31:21 -0700 (MST)
Dear Patty,

Thank you so much for the story, it helps put problems into a wider
perspective.  Not that we have any where I live of course!

Vicky Leary
Trillium Hollow
----- Original Message -----
From: <PattyMara [at]>
To: Multiple recipients of list <cohousing-l [at]>
Sent: Thursday, January 20, 2000 4:18 PM
Subject: Fwd: Through the looking glasses?

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> Date: Thu, 20 Jan 2000 13:07:43 EST
> Subject: Re: Through the looking glasses?
> To: Zen [at]
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> In a message dated 1/20/00 12:26:05 AM, Zen [at] writes:
> << How easily we can dive into our pain - the need for a tenant in one of
>  the newly finished houses has divided the community.  There are all
>  sorts of assumptions flying about - it's like a snowball fight.  After
>  having caught a couple in the back of the head I've started ducking.
>  Good people doing dumb things.  How does this happen?
>   >>
> OK, Zen, spill.  The rest of the post was the good feeling stuff (kids and
> carols) which is entertaining and warm and fuzzy.  But.  One of the
> aspirations of my original "Through the Looking Glass" posts was to
> not only on the warmfuzzies, but to reveal the "warts and all" of
> life.
> I suspect that you minimized your comments about the tenant "snowball
> because the issue is too intense at the moment.  So I'll contribute a
> from Tierra Nueva that involves a renter which happened over six months
> At the time it occurred, emotions were running so hot that I felt uneasy
> discussing it on the list.
> Tierra Nueva, on the central CA coast, has 27 homes.  25 are owned and
> occupied by members.  The remaining 2 are rented out to tenants.  One of
> owners is local and involved actively in community life: business
> meals, work days etc.  The other owner lives out of town and has not
> integrated into community life, but plans to once she retires and moves
> in the next 5 years.   After six months of her unit remaining empty
> her real estate agent had trouble finding renters, she finally found  a
> tenant, a middle aged woman from out of town who integrated slowly into
> community.  After a couple of months this first tenant  found a second
> to live the downstairs portion, a single man in his thirties, from out of
> state, new to the area.
> Within a few weeks, this new person, Pete (not his real name), was the
> of rife speculation among the mothers of young children in the community.
> Pete spent a great deal of time hanging out with the kids in the village
> playground, throwing the frisbee around, playing soccer.  He didn't seem
> be employed and had lots of free time.  He did not attend meetings or
> even when invited and encouraged.  When engaged conversationally by
> folks and asked about where he moved from, he would answer that he was
> released from a prison...then laugh about it, jokingly.  Pete had a knack
> trying to joke about inappropriate things, including sexual innuendoes to
> members and guests in the common house.  At the same time he was not
> along with his house tenant.
> After a few weeks of this nebulous interaction with adults and
> ardent playtime with the kids (mostly the 3-6 year olds) the mothers of
> Tierra Nueva were in a lather.  Kids were not allowed to be with him
> supervision was amped up, and talk soon spread to doing a backround check
> Pete.   Some were uneasy confronting him but others took it upon
> to have a sit down with him and try to diffuse the tension.  This went on
> a few more weeks until it reached a fevered pitch.  At this time most of
> community members had been living on site less than 3 or 4 months, and
> were still not moved in.  It was a time of fatigue and over-extension.  We
> saw the need for a community meeting...and decided to use the Open Space
> process (Harrison Owen) to see what would percolate up from the group as
> needing to be discussed.  Sure nuf, it did get put up on the topics board
> "Owner-Renter Relations" along with other topics like ping pong vs. pool
> table, community meal menus and who gets to use the workshop.  It was
> attended, lasted over 2 hours and was intense but honest.  Pete hung in
> for the whole time as parents explained to him how inappropriate his
> *appeared* when he spent time with the young children without establishing
> trust level first with the adults.  There was a flurry of support for Pete
> some of the men who suggested that accusations were gender related,
> he is a single *man" and therefore stereotyped as dangerous by the women
> mothers.
> Hoo baby.  It was good stuff...difficult work and of course, just the
> beginning.  After the meeting one of the moms made this comment privately
> me:  "Well,  Pete's not a pervert, he's just a dufus".  Tensions were
> diffused in the short run.  Personally I made a promise to him to speak to
> him directly when I witnessed behaviors that were questionable or comments
> that were in poor taste.     I have had to do this on a couple of
> when Pete's "jokes" were inappropriate.  He seems to be getting it slowly.
> Finally I suggested that he simply not make jokes with the women here.  He
> stopped hanging with the kids, seems to be getting to know a few of the
> parents and attends meetings and meals occasionally.
> It has been a most interesting experience.  I was surprised by the
> of the distrust, the capacity for gossip to run rampant and the subtle
> expectations placed on renters to "fit in".  Well, not everyone who comes
> community does fit in, and it remains to be seen if Pete will stay.  But
> not just renters.  Some of the buyers have also had some difficulty
> in as well.
> We're working on a set of behaviors which we found in a Community magazine
> article called "Respects and Responsibilities" and some conflict
> agreements.  But it has taken us months of discussion.  There is a
> to codify behavior.  One of the best agreements we did consense was the
> children's version of R and R's   So progress has been made.   I'm going
> bring up the R and R's for us "dults" at tonight's meeting, since I'm
> thinking about it.
> So that's my renter story, only able to tell it after six months of
> off.
> Anymore stories from the naked city?  Warts and all.
> Coheartedly,
> Patty Mara Gourley
> Tierra Nueva, cen CA coast,  where after months of clear skies it is
> raining and we may miss the full eclipse tonight.  But we do need the
> I'm holding out for both seeing the eclipse AND getting more rain.
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