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.

tinyhousevillagedesign2tinyhousevillagedesign3latch

Communities in Southern California

Here is a list of some of the communities we have visited around Southern California.  Check out their pages for ways you can request tours or visits.

List of Southern California communities

There are some great examples from which we can learn.  Keep an eye out for the Sustainability Seminar in the spring at Regen co-op, the many resources and Saturday tours at L.A. Ecovillage, and the inspiring videos of Activated Villages, which is a project of a member of Emerald Village.

p.s. I love the web bookmarking tool Diigo!

Paolo Soleri and architecture

Thanks for all who planned and attended the backyard screening of “Paolo Soleri: Beyond Form” film.  It was very energizing to see the works that were created with such inspiration, and think about how buildings could be much more incorporated with the landscape.  There is a movement to regain our sense of place, and that cities don’t all have to look the same across the country.  A person should be able to look at buildings and have a sense of the local history, climate, and people.

 We also celebrated You Are Here meetup organizer Beth Ann Morrison, who is moving to Phoenix to begin a fascinating PhD program in sustainability.

From the Meeup page:

 Soleri was the mastermind behind Arcosanti, north of Scottsdale, AZ – an impressive demonstration of a sustainable city with a focus on living in harmony with the earth, each other, and all forms of life.  Beyond Form is a cinéma vérité style documentary, that presents a fresh and intimate look at the legendary and multi talented artist, philosopher, urban theorist and architect Paolo Soleri. A man who had a dream to create an environment in harmony with man. This film focuses on how his body of work has inspired thousands of people over the years and why his technique and concepts have staying power. You’ll see why Soleri was green before “green” and “sustainable” ever entered the world lexicon. The lean approach has been a theme that was present through out Soleri’s life. Filmmaker Aimee Madsen created this documentary much in the spirit of Soleri’s style of frugality, doing more with less. Written by Roger Tomalty.

Building the World We Want: City Repair and Mark Lakeman

After hearing a talk by Mark Lakeman of City Repair, I feel completely inspired and hopeful that we can start a community and take hold of the place we live.  It’s the perfect time to get this project started. This talk helped me see that many of the obstacles are not what they seem, and realize that we do have the capacity to make these ideas happen.  The examples of what is possible broke down my assumptions what is needed to do the things I want to do.

Grab the taproot, stand your ground, and commit to place!

The examples of what has happened in Portland are much more than changing physical spaces, which I had thought.  The projects, such as tea houses and murals, are the result of neighborhoods coming together, not the other way around.  It started with small ideas, and people helping support each other.  It gained momentum and led to community potlucks, and everyone getting to know one another.  This was the key – once you have the awareness of so many different people, you have ways to advocate for projects in ways that one person would not be able to do alone.  If a whole block wants to mulch its leaves or paint an intersection, the city starts to listen and the rules start to change.  It was amazing to see the pictures of neighborhoods transforming how people, plants, water, and structures move, changing a block into a sustainable, friendly, safe place to be.

Resources:
Placemaking Guidebook
Articles about City Repair

Mark started by putting our Western cities into context: when we moved through the Americas to colonize and settle, our city plans lacked city centers, the heart of most cities and towns around the world.  Without such spaces, we live separate lives, and this really rings true in Los Angeles.  I am identified as a consumer, moving through the world through products and services I purchase, and small spaces I rent.  The spaces welcome shoppers, and people who don’t have this purpose or spaces are made to feel unwelcome.  Many of our designs are built on what we don’t want, keeping people out, rather than thinking of better solutions for our shared problems.  We need common spaces to help us feel a sense of connection to our city.

Now is the time to change our cities into what we want.

Visit to Ojai Foundation

We had the opportunity to visit the Ojai Foundation and tour the beautiful grounds and ask questions about the community.  They focus on sustainable practices, being stewards of the land, and creating a space for retreats and connecting with the land.  We all felt inspired by being out in this place in the middle of the natural setting.

The intentional community has a small group of residents over the past 25 years, and it was very interesting to see the practices that helped with communication, including Council sessions.  These are conversations held in a circle in one of the special buildings that were constructed for this purpose.  They involve a facilitator starting off the session, each person offering their part, and keeping an awareness of the group and self.
  
I loved the different types of indoor and outdoor structures, and hearing from the designers, artists, and others who helped build them gave me a sense of awe and appreciation for what they accomplished.  They are testing different materials, and I hope that these techniques can be used in other parts of the city some day.  This field trip was organized by You Are Here, a group on meetup.com focused on exploring intentional community. 
 

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.

Planning process

At this point in the process, we’ve identified some interesting questions about planning a community:
Urban vs rural, how much people want to share meals and other parts of their day, and whether the space also serves the broader community.  The group wrote a survey to note the thoughts on these issues. It includes a good question that a group member wrote:  “What’s a deal-breaker?”

It is important to learn what everyone’s visions are, for what they picture doing in the community.  Some people are most interested in having a bit more open land for gardening, and some wouldn’t mind having a smaller private living space if there are nice common areas.

I have all kinds of questions about how the beginning of this process goes.  Do we get ideas of property values so that we know what we’re in for?  Do we all start learning group communication skills so that we stick together for the long run?  If we go too long with the research process, will we lose people who are looking to move in a faster time frame?

What I’ve learned so far is that our group wants a community that supports each of us in our individual goals, rather than trying to make us all fit into one mold in terms of philosophy or daily routine.

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.