Changing the way we live and altering our daily lives is a big step. Many of us look with awe and intimidation at the established eco-villages with gardens bursting with produce and cohousing communities expertly designed with architects. If we could transport ourselves right in place in our new home, we would. But whether we are joining a community or creating one, the steps to making that life a reality take work.
I went through a process of learning on my way to readiness. A very wonderful process of reading books, meeting people, and seeing places which changed my assumptions about what I really needed and what was most important. Over time, I realized what mattered to me most was not a private house, but the chance to be outside more of my day. And that I didn’t need to choose my neighbors based on having all the same interests as I do, but instead on their desire to be in a community.
At the beginning, there were so many questions. With all the barriers, is this possible? How does the group planning process work? Am I being realistic about what I want? How do we agree on a plan, or even have enough meetings to talk about a vision!
Visiting and being welcomed by other communities answered the question that this is possible. The people living and building communities in Southern California are inspiring! Also learned that the process is different for every community, and it’s more about the bonds and communication within the group than any external factor.
I didn’t know that it would take me 2 years to decide I was REALLY ready. It took many nights of writing in journals and asking myself the questions in Diana Leafe Christian’s books. Many conversations in groups where we could think out loud and see how our ideas sounded. And many events hosted by like-minded organizations, where I could see the connections and strength of these many groups with values that support community.
After lunar new year celebrations with friends, I joked that since it is now the Year of the Rooster, it means it will be the year I will realize that idea of the community with the chickens in the yard. Another friend promptly gave me a poster of a rooster from her home, so I hope that means I am on my way. I feel so grateful that I have been able to meet my coworkers, neighbors, organizers, leaders, and artists that have been part of this journey. I can’t imagine living any other way but in community, so I will keep learning and pushing forward.
Here is what we have been discussing for next workshops:
Community-centered housing 101 course
We are putting together a short course for people interested in cohousing, cooperatives, and communities, but are new to the issue. This course will cover the basic terms, examples of communities, activities to determine what you are looking for, and discussion. Contribute your knowledge and questions to this effort!
What have you been wanting to see, but haven’t gotten there? Are there places where we could learn more about design, community, culture, or our other topics? Send any places you’d like to visit together, those are great for the Meetup group. Also let us know if you have a related event where you’d like to invite the group. Examples include events at Environmental Changemakers, LA Ecovillage, Transition, Learning Garden, or any public event in your neighborhood.
Participate by emailing the group, or posting on the Meetup page:
The meetup group is great for the social gatherings, events that are open to the larger group, and things that are building community more generally than housing. Use the discussion board, or the “suggest a meetup” feature.
This seemed like a good time for a recap of what this group has done over the last year and half. We started in early 2015 as a few people interested in a way to live more cooperatively. We had many questions: what are cooperatives and cohousing? Is this possible to do here in Los Angeles? What have other groups done? How do we learn about types of decision-making and planning processes?
We visited several other communities, which we learned about through the knowledge and initiative of group members. These were LA Eco-village, Regen Co-op in Pomona, and Emerald Village in Vista. I felt very fortunate to hear from members of these communities about their goals and how they operated. We also benefited from hearing group members share their experiences living in community at cohousing and other types of communities previously or in other parts of the country. Through discussions and activities, we listened to each other describe our goals and visions for a community. Through a great collaboration with the Meetup group “You Are Here: Los Angeles: Intentional Community,” we explored fascinating types of design, ways of holding thoughtful discussions, and collaborating with other amazing groups around the area. Also, through wonderful expert speakers and members contributing articles, we started to put together a list of resources available to the group as well as anyone interested in the topic.
Group members discovered we had many shared goals, as well as a lot of enthusiasm for a different way of living. However, several barriers to planning are apparent, including the time that people have available to meet, different expectations for what the group was doing, leadership capacity, and a lack of formal structures such as an organization. I have learned a lot about myself through these experiences; I found that my ideas of what community housing could be were greatly expanded after seeing other examples. I learned that my strengths and interests include reaching out to others, connecting this with different issues, and finding tools to research and document the individual, group, and policy changes that may come.
It is time to take the next steps and shape what the next year will look like. Members, it’s time to weigh in!
Stay tuned for the next post: where we are headed.
With You Are Here intentional community Los Angeles, we visited the shops at Adams Gateway, a series of stores made out of shipping containers set alongside the delicious JNJ’s barbecue in West Adams. Great designs and examples of materials reuse, indoor outdoor spaces, and a wonderful community spot.
Hoping that everyone has some vacation time coming up, here’s some suggested reading!
We had the opportunity to meet members of inHabitLA, a los angeles group planning cohousing.
Thank you for inviting us to brunch last week and making us feel so welcome! It has been great to hear about the planning process that has been ongoing. InHabitLA hosts meetings at Mercado la Paloma, and also social events that are open to anyone who wants to find out about their group. They have a clear vision and hope to start the project near a transit friendly location in Los Angeles in the next few years, with many of the steps happening now. We look forward to more discussions and ways for people interested in intentional communities to connect.
What do you wish you had? An art space? Solar panels? Someone to watch your child for a few hours? Or a greater sense of community? Why not share your goals with others. Right now, I have a cramped apartment in Santa Monica that I pay too much for. If I combined my funds and skills with others, I imagine we could get a lot more value. Being a renter prevents me from going after many of my sustainability and lifestyle goals. I am more motivated when I do things with other people, when it is a group project, and I feel more secure in figuring out difficult issues such as financing and building maintenance with the group.
Announcing an interest group on types of housing where members create a community together. Examples include intentional communities, co-ops, cohousing projects, pocket neighborhoods, and more. Cohousing gives us a chance to be invested in where we live. Currently, people have no interest in taking care of their spaces, because they view it as temporary, and don’t know the neighbors.
I would like to find others who are interested in cohousing or a cooperative style of housing. It would be individual homes/apartments, plus some shared spaces such as a yard, work space, community building. The space would take into account people’s needs for shared space and private space, and peoples’ sense of how much or how little they want to do together.
It could take any of several forms, such as sharing a building, or just neighbors who share some space. The long term idea is to form a nonprofit corporation that buys a plot of land or a building, and people own shares in the corporation. This would allow people to help each other out and make our lives easier.