Video: workshop on tiny house cohousing communities

View this video from our September workshop, hosted with LATCH Collective!

Participants put questions up on the wall, and then we had a discussion about the information available.  Tiny house communities are not yet a thing, but we are going to change that!  The interest is there, and people are excited.  The barriers and considerations are the zoning (needs to be multi-family or multiple properties) and the time and effort needed to create something that doesn’t yet exist.  The next steps are building our communication and decision-making skills as a community, so that the group is strong and grounded in a shared vision!

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New guide available: brief on intentional communities, cohousing, and cooperative housing in Los Angeles

I’ve just published “Guide to intentional communities, cohousing, and cooperative housing in Los Angeles.”  This brief is intended to provide an overview of what is happening with these housing types in LA, what is important to know, and how to get involved.

PDF Available for download:

Guide to intentional communities, cohousing, and cooperative housing in Los Angeles

 

Carla Truax, At Home Housing

https://athomehousing.org

September 2018

 

Does community housing exist in LA?

Yes!  There are many communities across LA.  LA Eco-village is one of the only cohousing communities as well as having a cooperative as the legal structure.  Other communities are co-living houses.  See below for links to communities and definitions of terms.

 

Where can I put a tiny home?  Are there tiny house communities?

Backyard units are now easier to obtain permits to build, thanks to new California legislation.  This would be a smaller unit behind a main house.  See “ADU” definition below.  There are not yet any tiny house communities, but a current planning project with At Home is research on creating tiny house communities.  These would be zoned as multi-family or manufactured housing lots.  Also see LATCH Collective information below on everything related to tiny homes, permits, codes, parking, and zoning considerations.

 

How do I create or join in the planning of a new community?

  • Form or join a group of interested people and get to know one another. Do social activities and create lasting relationships.  This “community glue” needs to be strong in order to do the work of planning a community.
  • Create a vision, purpose, goals, and values together as a group. Learning about other examples and other communities, then deciding what is important to you, can take a significant time commitment to having frequent meetings over many months.
  • The property, legal structure, and details are secondary – they stem directly from the vision and good communication in the group. Experts such as real estate agents, lawyers, nonprofit groups, and coop groups are often called in to help with the process.
  • Books and lists of steps to guide planning groups are available, such as https://www.ic.org/wiki/starting-a-community/

Isn’t land expensive in LA?

  • Yes, and that is why many people would like to pool their resources in order to purchase property, share common spaces, and work together in order to create our own affordable place to live. There are unique opportunities to purchase odd-shaped lots, housing in need of renovation, or land with specific uses such as transit-adjacent or affordable housing.  We believe that continuing to live in LA County is possible.  See “Activated Villages” for realtors who specialize in this area, and additional resource organizations below.

 

Can we make a community on a single lot, or buy an apartment building?

  • A lot that is zoned for single family use may not be suitable for multiple separate units. Properties that are zoned for multi-family use can be more expensive, since very large buildings would be allowed, and a bid may compete with a developer.  Planning groups can work with a real estate agent to identify properties and develop a budget.  Buying an apartment building is not always feasible, since laws prevent the eviction of existing tenants.

 

How does a group of people own land together?

  • The group can form a cooperative (in which each member owns a share and participates in the operation of the group), a Home Owners Association, a corporation, a nonprofit, or other business entity that legally owns the land.

 

More about creating community goals, values, and purpose in a vision statement

  • A vision statement is an outline of the ideals, aspirations, expectations, and goals that the members are trying to achieve in forming a community. Example group exercise: everyone get several index cards and write your answers:  What values do you think we share in common?  What is one thing that you think everyone in the community needs to believe?  What are three values that are important to you?
  • Group decisions and communication process: Who are members?  How are decisions made?  How will meetings be run?  How will conflicts be handled/resolved?

Key resources

Browse these resources to become familiar with how many groups have created their planning process and structured their organization.

 

  • Visit for a tour of Los Angeles Eco-village, http://laecovillage.org/,  a main resource center for cooperative communities.  They also hold workshops and trainings in group communication.  Examples include group decision-making and governance, non-violent communication (NVC), and conflict resolution.
  • Watch the videos by Activated Villages, a real estate company that focuses on intentional communities: www.activatedvillages.com
    Helping communities find and purchase their property and live their vision.
  • Join the mailing list of the Fellowship for Intentional Community. This site also has the directory of existing and forming communities.  http://www.ic.org/

 

Communities to visit and events to attend

 

Los Angeles Eco-village, http://laecovillage.org/

Synchronicity  http://synchronicityla.com/  Join a community dinner by reservation.

Emerald Village, Vista, CA  http://theemeraldvillage.com/   Tours by reservation, and watch for public events.

Regenerative Housing Co-operative of Pomona (Regen), Pomona, CA, http://www.regen.org/
Public events such as the Annual Sustainability Seminar in the spring.

Latch Collective  http://latchcollective.com/
A network of tiny house enthusiasts supporting each other in designing and building tiny, transportable homes. We organize opportunities for sharing and receiving skills, knowledge, experience, tools and support. We also advocate for increased housing options in Los Angeles, specifically for spaces that are affordable, sustainable, well-designed and safely built.

A list of websites and notes about communities At Home members have visited:   https://www.diigo.com/user/carlacommunity/?query=%23Communities

 

“Required reading” books and articles

My Advice to Others Planning to Start an Ecovillage.  Author: Lois Arkin.  Published in Communities Magazine Issue #156.  https://www.ic.org/my-advice-to-others-planning-to-start-an-ecovillage/

This list is updated often with new articles:
https://www.diigo.com/user/carlacommunity?query=%23community

Creating a Life Together: Practical Tools to Grow Ecovillages and Intentional Communities. By Diana Leafe Christian http://www.dianaleafechristian.org/creating_a_life_together_practical_tools_to_grow_ecovillages_and_intentional_communities.html

Finding Community: How to Join an Ecovillage or Intentional Community. By Diana Leafe Christian http://www.dianaleafechristian.org/finding_community_how_to_join_an_ecovillage_or_intentional_community.html

Creating Cohousing: Building Sustainable Communities by Kathryn McCamant & Charles Durrett  http://www.cohousingco.com/products/creating-cohousing-building-sustainable-communities


Glossary of terms

Definitions of frequently used terms.  These terms are not separate categories, and in many cases they overlap or describe different aspects of communities.  

Collaborative Housing – an umbrella term that encompasses the large variation of collectively self-organized and self-managed housing forms, including co-housing, housing co-operatives, and community land trusts (CLTs), amongst others.  (https://co-lab-research.net/aboutus)

Intentional Communities – the broadest term that encompasses a wide range of groups who intend to live together as a community.  There are many ways people describe their intentional communities: cohousing groups, ecovillages, community networks, support organizations, as well as people seeking a home in community.  A planned residential community designed from the start to have a high degree of social cohesion and teamwork. (http://www.ic.org/)

 

Cohousing – a community planned with private homes and common use buildings.  Often includes smaller size homes, environmentally friendly design, and pedestrian friendly layouts. Often has shared areas like yards, gardens, community kitchen, workshops, and more. (cohousing.org)

 

Co-living – Multi-bedroom houses leased by groups of people. Residents share the desire to live cooperatively, and share spaces including kitchens, living areas, garages, and yards.  Also called “co-householding.” (www.coliving.org)

 

ADU – Accessory Dwelling Unit.  Term to refer to secondary houses in backyards, granny flats, converted garages, and structures like tiny homes.  ADUs are regulated by the state and cities.

 

Ecovillages – intentional communities whose goal is to become more socially, economically and ecologically sustainable. (http://gen.ecovillage.org/)

 

Co-operative “co-op” – Housing cooperatives are businesses owned and run by and for their resident members.  Members own the property together as shareholders in the co-op.  (https://www.cccd.coop/co-op-info/co-op-types/housing-co-ops)

Community Land Trust – a nonprofit organization that owns land and oversees its use for a specific purpose.  For example, the Beverly Vermont Community Land Trust for affordable housing (http://www.bvclt.org)

Tiny House Village Design

The design charrette for a tiny house village was a great exercise! I found that I had so many similarities to what others had in their designs. A main feature was central community gathering space where residents can eat, play, have a concert, sit around a fire, and other wonderful ideas.  There were so many new people, as well.  This movement is growing, and we can create this.

This was part of the Tiny House Design Expo organized by LATCH Collective, an amazing group of tiny house enthusiasts.  Thanks to LATCH advocacy, the City of Los Angeles is taking our ideas into account as they design new planning laws for backyard homes.  This village idea could also be presented to planners as an example of where we want to live.

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Angelenos’ Utopia

What is your favorite childhood memory of building a shelter?  Was it a fort, up in a tree, out in nature?  That is where we started with a workshop to talk about housing and intentional community on July 27th.  The participants bypassed the usual small talk to share their memories and parts of themselves.   Urban planner and activist James Rojas led the workshop, organized by At Home, LATCH Collective, and L.A. Eco-Village to invite members to talk about alternative types of housing. James is an urban planner, community activist, and artist.  He developed this method to make planning visual, tactile and meaningful. Through this method, he has engaged thousands of people by facilitating hundreds of workshops and building over fifty interactive models around the world.   (Read more about James and the awesome Place It workshops)

The workshop was titled “Place It: community visioning workshop,” and was held on a newly-purchased property next to LA Eco-village in Koreatown, Los Angeles, in a former auto shop building.  Participants took seats in the tall-ceilinged space, amid the auto lifts and tables strewn with colorful objects.  James invited participants to re-envision their neighborhoods through storytelling, objects, art-making and play.  By using these methods, people could investigate attachments to place and shelter by thinking beyond words by building models to express ideas about home.  

Visions of Utopia

The ideal communities created with the objects in the workshop had trees, nature, bridges, ponds, waterfalls, rivers, lakes, shared gardens, kitchens, outdoor places to play, and workshops.  Places full of paths, elevation changes, children playing, green space.   We could picture the sounds of people in conversation, water splashing, birds in the trees, animals roaming around.  

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I was struck by how beautiful these models and visions of an LA could be.  But also I thought of the contrast to our current build environment, full of cement, cars, and isolation.  How much work we will have to do to create these places. 

Upon visiting many intentional communities in Southern California, they all say “start with a vision.”  I believe we took steps toward creating these visions.  In this way, we will be able to start projects on the right track with a strong sense of purpose.

Members of CRSP at L.A. Eco-Village, the LATCH Collective, and At Home organized this workshop to connect interested members and move the planning process forward with hands-on workshops.  

CRSP is the resource center for small ecological cooperative communities based at L.A. Eco-village, the landmark intentional community in Los Angeles from which many aspiring community-minded people learn important lessons about communication, structure, and all things community.  

LATCH Collective is a member driven organization focused on co-building tiny homes in Los Angeles.

At Home is an organization dedicated to creating housing opportunities for intentional communities, through organizing, training, and outreach.  

Participants were invited based on their interest in cohousing, intentional community, and tiny homes and villages.  Hundreds of people in Los Angeles are interested in a different way of living.  In this workshop, people were able to think about what that would look like.  

This will be part of a series to further develop the visions and plans for kicking off projects in 2017.  

February meeting and outreach

While spending Valentine’s day searching for any new organizations I can contact about community housing,  I realized I need help getting the word out!   Compared to places in the Bay Area, Davis, and San Diego, I’m still surprised at how few communities I can find in Los Angeles.   I believe that many people would be interested if they found out more.  

Please send around the information to anyone who may be interested. 

Interested in housing co-op buildings, cohousing, or intentional communities?

Join “At Home,” an interest group for planning a housing community

Next meeting:  February 20, 2016, at 1-2:30pm

2901 Ocean Park Blvd, Santa Monica – outdoor patio

We are reaching out to people who are interested in this concept of a neighborhood that is community-centered housing.  We envision a community that would allow us to be healthy, garden, do activities together, and have an affordable and secure place to live.

Outdoor patio at 2901 Ocean Park Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90405 plaza. There is food available from Starbucks, Yogurtland, Crimson Grill, and more.  Family members, children, and pets welcome.
Transit: Big Blue Bus route 8.  Free parking in lot behind the plaza, and underground level.

January 30 outreach meeting

Help spread the word!  This meeting will be a place for new members to get to know the group, and to continue the discussion about planning an intentional community.  

Interested in housing co-op buildings, cohousing, or intentional communities?

Join “At Home,” an interest group for planning a housing community

Next meeting:  January 30, 2016, at 12-2pm

2901 Ocean Park Blvd, Santa Monica – outdoor patio

We are reaching out to people who are interested in this concept of a neighborhood that is community-centered housing.  We envision a community that would allow us to be healthy, garden, do activities together, and have an affordable and secure place to live.

Outdoor patio at 2901 Ocean Park Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90405 plaza. There is food available from Starbucks, Yogurtland, Crimson Grill, and more.  Family members, children, and pets welcome.

Transit: Big Blue Bus route 8.  Free parking in lot behind the plaza, and underground level.

"The Three Aspects of a Healthy, Thriving Community" presentation by Diana Leafe Christian

Diana Leafe Christian gave a presentation hosted by Environmental Change-Makers, on “The Three Aspects of a Healthy, Thriving Community.”   We hoped it would be attended by people who are interested in intentional communities, and those who want to know more about “sociocracy” and the “N St. Consensus Method” for group communication. I learned so much from the presentation and the experiences she shared.


Here is the description from the event:


How do you create “community glue,” to generate feelings of gratitude and trust?
What are good process and communication skills?
How do you set up effective project management?

Diana Leafe Christian has been part of intentional communities, group living, and ecovillages for more than two decades. Recently, she has been working with a community governance and decision-making method called Sociocracy. It means “governance by peers and colleagues,” and it uses feedback loops to help an organization continuously improve.
Come meet Diana Leafe Christian and discover …
If you are curious about intentional communities, and wonder what they are like and whether they might work for you — you can bring those questions too!

Diana Leafe Christian is the author of Finding Community: How to Join an Ecovillage or Intentional Community and Creating a Life Together: Practical Tools to Grow Ecovillages and Intentional Communities.

News update

The development of this project continues to be fascinating in all the directions it has taken us. Through meeting people that are interested in building community, I’ve been introduced to many other projects that show that our neighbors can be the ones to help us achieve our goals, whether it is living sustainably, supporting each other when we are in need, growing and eating healthy food, or turning art into action. So many articles to read now!  It felt like a watershed; once I discovered one group that had this focus (Our Time Bank), everyone shared their experiences and soon I learned about so many local and national organizations. A few of those are the Transition groups, the Learning Garden, nonprofits that group members have started, and the You Are Here project.

I am so happy to partner with the project “You Are Here: Intentional Community Los Angeles” to host events throughout the next year. Please find us on www.meetup.comand join the events: http://www.meetup.com/You-Are-Here-Intentional-Community-Los-Angeles/
“You are Here” is a group that holds discussions about building community and skill-builders like group communication.  This is a larger group of people than the cohousing discussion group, and most events are open to the public. It has a broader scope of topics, of which cohousing is one, and it is a good complement to our discussions and search for resources.  There is much more to this group and its history than I can add here. We are learning so much about facilitating group conversations, and it has been overwhelming how much people have responded to the style of dialogue that the facilitator has guided us through using principles from the book “The Art of Convening.”  In a short time, I feel like I have gotten to know many of the participants and their stories.  What it means to have a sense of community or neighborhood is different in Los Angeles!  We talk about the challenges of getting to meetings and making the time, which are real barriers. I have been so impressed that many people deal with busy schedules and brave the traffic because they are so committed to this issue. The group is very open to ideas and suggestions for topics, field trips, and organizations to partner with. Please post your thoughts in the discussion board of the Meetup page. I’m looking forward to future conversations.

What are these terms?

There are many terms in use when I search for information about cohousing or intentional communities. It got a bit confusing. After some reading, it seemed that a community could be all of these, or none of these. The terms are not mutually exclusive categories, and often overlap. At times, the terms are not apples-to-apples comparisons, but rather are terms being used for similar things but for different audiences.

In my job at a university, I try and make scientific or policy information understandable to everyone. So I am sensitive to the words we choose to use when describing our projects. Words mean different things to different people, and one word doesn’t always bring the same things to mind for everyone.  Some words are hard to understand because they are terms or jargon, or have meaning that changes depending on the setting, or because they are used differently in our cultural backgrounds.  An awareness of how words are perceived will help us understand what we are describing, and also help us when we try and reach out to more people to see if they want to join the discussion about intentional communities.


Glossary of terms


Intentional Communities – the broadest term that encompasses a wide range of communities.  A planned residential community designed from the start to have a high degree of social cohesion and teamwork.  There are a wide range of intentional communities: cohousing groups, ecovillages, community networks, support organizations, and people seeking a home in community. (http://www.ic.org/)


CoHousing – residents buy modest-sized, separate homes in planned communities, with separate common use buildings.  Often includes environmentally friendly design, some shared meals, pedestrian-friendly layouts. (cohousing.org)


Co-living – Multi-bedroom houses leased by groups of people. Residents share spaces including kitchens, living areas, garages, and yards.  Also called “co-householding.” (coliving.org)
Collaborative housing – architecture/design concept for multi-unit buildings that aim for such things as:  walkable, social, creative, diverse, and minimize the need for cars. Buildings with small private units emphasize shared spaces that foster connections between residents; they are marketed to makers, artists, designers, and musicians. (collaborativehousing.com)


Ecovillages – intentional communities whose goal is to become more socially, economically and ecologically sustainable. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ecovillage)


Co-operative “co-op” – a type of ownership structure.   A co-operative is an association of persons united to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations, through a jointly owned and democratically-controlled enterprise. Co-operatives are businesses owned and run by and for their members. Whether the members are the customers, employees or residents they have an equal say in what the business does and a share in the profits.  For housing, this means members own the property together, through owning shares in the co-op.