Re: Design review
From: Ann Zabaldo (
Date: Sun, 9 Jun 2013 09:57:07 -0700 (PDT)
Hello all -- 

O dear.  I find myself in the rare position of disagreeing w/ my neighbor, 

Takoma Village does, indeed, have an Architectural Review process that is, in 
fact, based on the architectural decisions we made in our design phase.  
Modifications to the exterior of the condo must go through AR.  And in some 
instances if an owner makes interior changes it must also go through AR.    I, 
myself, have been through Architectural Review here at TVC when I had the 
interior of my house remodeled to make it more accessible.  Altho' I was not 
changing any of the exterior elements I was moving a wall and thought I might 
need to make changes to the electrical system which is owned by the condo.  
Plus the renovation crew was going to be in and out of our community for up to 
15 weeks and I definitely felt the community should be aware of this and have 
some say so in what to expect from workers coming and out of our CH (My home is 
in the CH.)  Plus ... my very sweet community allowed me to use the CH office 
to work out of while the work was being done.  And for two weeks I cooked in 
the CH kitchen because my kitchen was pretty much gutted.  These last two 
things were proposed by the AR team and the community at large.  What a gift!!

One way to view the AR team is to be a HELP to the homeowner -- not only to 
maintain the standards of the community but  to assist in choosing the most 
appropriate materials possible, to maintain the green and sustainable features 
of the home and the community and to reduce the number of conflicts that could 
arise from decisions that counter the vision of the community.    The people 
best suited to help are those who were involved in the design process in the 
first place.

We do have an AR team.  They do review submissions.  Of course, people do 
forget that they are supposed to run even small things through AR if it means a 
change to community owned and maintained property:  the exterior of the home, 
and, the gas, water, electrical and HVAC systems interior to the home.  It 
takes reminding.  

Our natural flow as human beings is towards entropy.  We all have busy lives 
and we forget stuff.  So, one day you're in HOme Depot and you see a really 
great door bell or light to mount on your exterior door.  And it's on sale!   
And it's exactly what you've been looking for!    ... and so you buy it and 
install it totally forgetting AR.  It's not a character defect.  It's just 
entropy.  Or, aging...

At today's membership meeting we're having a review of the "outdoor living in 
the summer" guidelines we adopted a while ago.  Who can remember what we said 
about children playing in the piazza even last year?

The biggest problem I bet you're facing is that the most knowledgeable people 
in the community are the ones who were/are on the Design Team and they are 
likely the ones who are completely burned out by the time you move in.  It's a 
good thing to get these AR guidelines agreed upon just after your Design phase 
is completed.  Then the whole things is still fresh in your memory and you're 
not quite burned out yet.  If these are to be part of the By-laws then they 
have to be completed way early in the whole development process.  Which is the 
reason why standard developers use boiler plate by-laws.

PS -- I'm w/ you, Sharon.  I DO think good design and maintenance makes for a 
much healthier community.  It's a very basic principal of architecture.  TVC is 
pretty "tidy" compared to some cohousing communities I've visited ... except 
for all that "stuff" stored on people's porches outside their homes.  Now, that 
IS an example of a completely failed part of our community to enforce keeping 
the exterior walkways and porches clear.  One day the Fire Marshall is going to 
visit ...

Best --

Ann Zabaldo
Takoma Village Cohousing
Washington, DC
Principal, Cohousing Collaborative, LLC
Falls Church VA

On Jun 9, 2013, at 10:18 AM, Sharon Villines wrote:

> On Jun 9, 2013, at 9:25 AM, T William Smith <twswdwrkr [at]> wrote:
>> Although we have not yet completed construction,
>> folks are already planning changes, improvements or additions to their
>> houses.  Clearly, we need a Design Review process, and sooner than later!
>> Do any of you have reccomendations of how to proceed?
> We don't have a good one and what we have is not enforced. As time goes by, 
> there is less and less attention paid to even the idea of over all design 
> standards. Those who moved in after 3-4 years have no connection to any of 
> the initial discussions about design that consciously or unconsciously guide 
> the actions of the original members.
> So all I have is advice. Get some standards fast. Start with all the 
> principles you used to make the initial decisions. We didn't write ours down 
> so they no longer exist.
> Have a feature that triggers review automatically because no one will want to 
> be the policeman themselves.
> Don't say that only "permanent" changes need review. Nothing  is permanent. 
> I happened to care a lot about design and to believe that clean design 
> contributes to a more peaceful and orderly community. 80% of the people in 
> the world, even in cohousing have not a clue that such a belief even exists, 
> much less shares it. Or agrees on what clean design is.
> Sharon
> ----
> Sharon Villines, Washington DC
> "The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don't 
> have any..." Alice Walker
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