A 21st century small town vibe in the big city

Written by Sven Eberlein

A couple of months ago I visited three cohousing communities in the East Bay for an assignment I was doing for Yes! Magazine. The article just appeared in their 2012 summer issue which can be read here:

Life Is Easier With Friends Next Door
Feeling a need for community? Cohousing can provide affordable space and neighbors to share it with.

As usual, I had a lot more info and transcript notes as well as a bunch of photos that didn’t make it into the article. So here are a few pics I took at Swan’s Market, Doyle Street and Temescal Creek along with some extra quotes by the wonderful residents that didn’t make it into the piece. For more info on cohousing I also recommend the cohousing website as well as the upcoming cohousing conference which will take place in Oakland.

Swan’s Market, Oakland

The idea of people living by themselves or even couples with kids always felt wrong to me, long before I knew anything about these communities, so when I moved in it just felt like the way it was supposed to be all along.

– Joani Blank, Swan’s Market resident & Founder of Good Vibrations

Living in co-housing definitely teaches you how to work together, run meetings, make decisions. You get these opportunities that you don’t really have living in a single family home, or even a traditional condo association. It feels like a unique opportunity to be able to do things together, to cook with somebody else, to eat with other people. It’s like the thread of all of our lives gets connected day in and day out. We just get to know each other well.

– Neil Planchon, Swan’s Market resident & Cohousing Advocate

Doyle Street, Emeryville

As as far as social models I have seen for an intentional community, co-housing is probably the most useful. And in the U.S, it’s the most viable, because it addresses a lot of the concerns of most Americans that you’re not sharing an income and you have your own house. You own your own house, you have your own kitchen, you have that level of privacy, but at the same time you have a community. I’m surprised for how many people that’s still not enough privacy and independence.

– Brad Gunkel, Doyle Street resident & Architect

Temescal Creek, Oakland

I think one of the huge benefits of co-housing is the emotional support. There’s just something about sitting together and being able to say, “I’d like to do something.” For example, one of our neighbors was thinking about renting a space in an art collective, and she sent out an email asking if anyone was available to brainstorm about this. So here she’s got an idea, and if you’re not living in community, you don’t have a quick and easy way to do that. Or the other night somebody’s kid wanted to play a game. A parent sent out an email and suddenly we had 8 people playing a game instead of the parent having to spend 6 hours playing the game with the kid or disappointing the kid.

– Jennifer Ryan, Temescal Creek resident

There’s a big difference between doing a task or chore on your own property by yourself or working as a team in this community. It’s the old barn building, let’s have a barn raising. That kind of work doesn’t just build a barn, it also brings the whole community together. You get to know people a lot better when you get a chance to work with them.

Andy Karlson, Temescal Creek resident

Having housing that’s more affordable allows some of us to work in fields that are very politically active, when we might not otherwise be able to afford to live here and still do that.

– Sarah Karlson, Temescal Creek resident

Last fall one of the kids said at dinner, “hey, who wants to have a fire tonight?” I thought it was great that the kid knew that if you feel comfortable enough to say something in a community, probably other people will do it with you. So then there was a fire that night.

– Karen Hester, Temescal Creek resident and co-founder

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Sven Eberlein

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