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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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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Vision and Art

Oct 11, 2017 event INHABIT with Molly Larkey, LATCH, & At Home

Artist Molly Larkey, LATCH Collective, and At Home Housing joined together to organize an event for tiny house and community living enthusiasts.  At the event, participants wrote down their vision for a community, and what questions they had about getting there.  We did all this in the midst of the INHABIT exhibit by Molly Larkey, at the Ochi Projects space in mid-city Los Angeles.  The exhibit had engaging, interactive, and inspiring pieces.  The space was the perfect setting for great conversations about what we want to build in our lives. 

Visions that people wrote down included tiny house villages, artist residences, affordable and cooperative housing, space for gardening and sharing meals.  Additionally, participants could see a place where everyone was valued, where they could work toward their goals, and co-create. 

There were many common questions: where can we do this?  How can we finance it? Who is involved?  LATCH Collective, Reworking Hope, and At Home provided information and cited many resources we can continue to develop in future workshops.  Discussion groups talked about the questions raised, in themes of social values and governance, economics, and design. 

Topics the group wanted to pursue further included group decision-making styles and types, a design charrette, and a library of examples and possibilities. 

 

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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!

Values in planning

I was very intrigued by these words from urban planner James Rojas:  
“Collective community values should be the foundations of all planning decisions, projects, plans but planners rarely dive deep enough to engage the public’s imagination to establish values. 
Planning today lacks the creation of values: How do we value ourselves, each other, and the landscape? Instead planners ask people what they want or need which is similar to asking a child what they want for Christmas.  
The planner creates the list that might include more parking, less congestion, more bike lanes, a subway, a bigger house, etc. Then they prioritize the list by popularity, or financial constraints rather than by values to make sure we are growing, developing in the right direction. 
Individuals have values that dictate their everyday decisions. For example a person might value raising a child, establishing a career, leading a healthy life, etc. Everyday most people make decisions based on their values, which will help them achieve or sustain theses goals.  
The communities have values, like individuals that should dictate the planning decisions. People need to imagine, collaborate and negotiate to create and establish these collective values. Everyday planning decisions and practices should uphold these values. Time and time again communities need to come together be reminded of them time or update them.”

– James Rojas
What do you think about this?  Should we change our planning approach to focus more on values, and less of a list?   
James has a fabulous method of getting people of all ages into planning, and it’s an exercise we can try out.   
Participants use found objects to create their design

Scene for “what’s your favorite childhood memory?”
More of James’ work is on http://www.placeit.org/ and here is his recent presentation at the New Partners for Smart Growth

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. 
 

"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.

Regen co-op

We had another opportunity to visit the Regen Co-op in Pomona and talk to some members. They made space for some great conversations about group dinners, diversity in members, house meetings, communication styles, what makes someone well suited for living in a community, and getting involved in the neighborhood in a way that really creates positive change that goes beyond the homes themselves. 


It also made me think of the need for mentorship of forming communities by the more experienced residents. An idea is simmering for a summit of LA communities to get together, find out the status and ideas of all the forming groups, as well as hear from existing community leaders. 


Being able to see their co-op and all the home projects they have worked on through years, it always makes me believe that creating a community is possible. Thanks again to the residents who spent their Saturday afternoon with us sharing their experiences.  


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.