Yesterday I included some ideas I’ve been thinking about regarding the community I’d like to create. Today I started to compose an email replying to a couple of questions that a family member asked in response to yesterday’s post. But it morphed into quite a bit MORE detail. And while I did actually email it to my relative, I also realized that the rest of you might like to see it! So here it is, copied/pasted from my sent email.
What I was asked specifically is:
- Am I thinking of joining an existing community, or starting my own, or joining a group that is in the process of forming?
- Are you thinking of CoHousing?
OK. He asked me other things, but the other stuff isn’t really germane to how I want to live – family stuff – so I didn’t include that part! So without further delay:
<begin cut/paste from email>
Regarding Tiny House community questions.I’m open to joining one, but I don’t know of any that are open. On Tuesday, I’m meeting with a local Tiny House guru outside of Sebastopol. Rumor has it that he is planning a community near there. If it’s going to be near there, then I doubt I’ll be interested in joining in (I envision a closer to urban location), but you never know! For a number of reasons – some of which are detailed below – I’m hoping to find an abandoned, non-toxic, light commercial or industrial site within 1/3 to 1/2 a mile of International Blvd/Mission Blvd in Oakland/San Leandro between the Fruitvale and Bayfair BART stations. Why? Both Oakland and San Leandro have a lot of properties that fit the description (except perhaps the “non-toxic” criteria). both cities are eager for “infill” development, and AC Transit is building a Bus Rapid Transit line from downtown Oakland to Bayfair BART. The line will run on International Blvd/Mission Blvd in lanes dedicated to the bus, at high frequency. This would allow me to remain in the area which I’ve always loved AND satisfy the “good access to transit” criteria I outline below.I’ve been involved with a couple of cohousing groups – at the encouragement of my mother! When she decided that San Benito Road was more house than she cared to be responsible for, she looked at a number of different lifestyle options, and she really liked the idea of cohousing. I attended a couple of meetings of groups that were in their infancy with her, then 5-8 more without her. She opted out because she didn’t like the people. It took me longer to opt out, and for a completely different reason: frustration! Classic cohousing generally operates on a consensus seeking model, with escape clauses (usually votes in the 75-85% range) in case consensus fails. And until building is done, new members (and there WILL be fairly high turnover) have to agree with all decisions (except perhaps, the rules governing the legal form the group has chosen to take) made prior to their arrival. This prolongs the pre-build process to a degree that I simply don’t want to endure.So I’m currently just at the beginning of brainstorming an intentional community that shares many elements with cohousing. The key difference will be that, initially, I’ll be in control! In form – at least to the local authorities – it will be an RV park. As to ownership, I can see it eventually transitioning to a co-op, or a TIC community, or possibly remaining as a type B (benefit) corporation – which is the most likely form of the entity that I hope to establish to develop it (although some form of partnership might also be appropriate), and to manage it until a threshold occupancy is reached.Where? I’ve got no real restrictions on what area of the country it will be in, but I do favor either the East Bay or somewhere in the Willamette Valley. One FIRM criteria is VERY easy access to frequent public transit – a must if I want to build a community of people who choose to go (mostly) car free. It will also need either fairly easy access to a car share service of some type, as there are times – hopefully infrequently – where even the car free person (or family) needs access to a car. An alternative might be for the community to own a car or two which residents have access to by reservation.Since my vision of an intentional community includes lots of shared meals, those vehicles would be available for shopping on the day (or the day before) you are scheduled to cook, as shopping for (hopefully) 15-50 people results in a need to carry more groceries home than either bicycling or transit use allows – although you COULD do it with a bicycle and a decent cargo trailer! And there might be another reason that the community might have access to a light truck – and that relates to the business that I’m also brainstorming that will be co-located with the community: a “build your tiny house here” warehouse!In the reading I’ve been doing about building tiny houses, a problem that many (most) people bring up is that their intended location for living in their tiny house is not suited to building it! At least 1/2 of the homes I’ve read about weren’t built on site, but were built elsewhere and trailered to their site. But trailering has it’s own problems. Unless you have a commercial driver’s license and a suitable tow vehicle, you can’t build a tiny home larger than 126 square feet – external dimensions! This is based on the largest trailer you can legally tow with just a class C license – and then only if you have a suitable tow vehicle. As most people going into tiny houses have no desire for a vehicle heavy enough and powerful enough to tow even this “Class C Max” trailer, they have to somehow arrange for a tow vehicle. And they may well have vehicle problems during construction as follows: How do they get materials TO their building site? Even the smallest houses require 4×8 sheet goods (plywood and/or analogs and rigid insulation) and 8 foot or longer lumber.So here’s my business idea: a fairly cheap, non conditioned, quick erect (steel framed, aluminum sided) warehouse on a slab. Sized to be able to have 3-5 tiny houses in various stages of building inside, plus a small office, tool lockup and showers. Building space would be leased, and the lease would include use of all tools, with a restriction on electric/pneumatic tools that the lessee must be “checked out” on each tool before they use it, with safety “refresher” classes offered every 2-3 weeks with a requirement that the lessee (and any designated assistants) attend at least one “refresher” every 6-8 weeks. Another thing that would be included? The warehouse would be STAFFED 15-20 hours/week both to provide an extra set of hands when needed and to accept delivery of building materials. The business would buy an old, full sized pickup truck that lessees could rent for a reasonable hourly fee for material runs, and the truck would ALSO be available as the community shopping vehicle. There MIGHT be a second vehicle – one that is rated to tow up to the largest trailered tiny house that isn’t considered an “oversize” load – and it would be available – with driver – for residents when they A) pick up the trailer which will become the foundation of their house, B) need to move it to/from a welder for customization and C) when they are ready to move their built house to their long term location for occupancy.Are there details to work out? You betcha! Just off the top of my head:
- How much space is needed per house under construction? Is it a multiple of the footprint of the trailer? Or a fixed amount? Or some combination?
- Do I “flex” the space with easily removable markings designating each builder’s exclusive use space? (allowing more to be built simultaneously if they’re on the smaller side) How do I account (read charge) for houses of varying size if I don’t provide a fixed set of exclusive space delineations.
- And what about liability? I’m pondering allowing lessees to use tools – many of which will be inherently dangerous? I intend to track down an industrial tool rental proprietor to pick their brains on this, as well as talk to the Berkeley Tool Lending Library – and a lawyer.
- Speaking of lawyers – how do I even FIND a lawyer that’s reasonably conversant in the laws/regulations that pertain to this business? And would this lawyer be able to help with the organizational side of the business?
- As to the organization, I don’t want it to be a sole proprietorship! While it’s likely that I’ll personally be both in charge of – and responsible for – this business initially, I want to build a mechanism into the business to gradually transfer ownership and management into the hands of the employees, or a corporate structure like a type B corporation – perhaps owned and operated by the community!Phew! That was just 5 minutes of asking myself questions – I could spend at least another hour on the questions that need answering about the business. And I haven’t even TOUCHED questions about the community!!I hope you don’t mind how much detail I’ve included. Frankly, were I trying to answer only your questions, I’d have been far more brief. But my Tuesday meeting is intended to be a brainstorming session with the Tiny House guru, and I needed to get these thoughts down so that I could provide him with a starting point. Your questions just – oh so conveniently – provided me with a good vehicle to organize my thoughts!
It’s 7:20 AM. I’ve got coffee by my hand, and a light breakfast (1/2 a grapefruit) in my belly. The sun has officially risen, but as I’m shadowed by the East Bay Hills to the East – and closer in, another building in my complex, I have yet to see it, but that will change soon. I’ll let you know when I first see the sun.
First (of many) tangents: It’s now been almost 10 months since I stopped working, yet I still can’t sleep in! I thought that, after arising at 0445 for many years to be at work at 0600 (or for weekend political shows at 0500), I would slowly adjust my personal waking hours to coincide with what is ‘normal’ for most of the rest of the world. Yet despite no need to get up for work, and my weekend political start shifting to 0700 (see this post), I’m still usually – not always – wide awake at 0530. Perhaps that will slowly shift later and later. Perhaps not. I no longer care. I am what I am.
Back on track. Why am I writing now? A number of reasons. I’m long overdue for a post on this blog – and emailing it to my Peregrination email list, and the guilt of not updating my friends has finally risen to the point of action. Also, a number of things in my life have coalesced into some new directions, and I want to get them on the record. Finally, I have a short term question I’m asking myself that I would like feedback from my friends, blog readers, and family – and an action I’m asking in support of the likely answer.
Sunrise update – 0733 hrs – The sun has hit the tips of the trees outside my window. My sunrise won’t be long now.
Where to start?
I blogged on my arrival home from my Peregrination. It was brief. It said, essentially, that having absented myself from my home for almost 5 months, I was filled with self-disgust over the clutter I found in my home when I returned. And that all other Peregrination thoughts …
Sunrise update – 0735 hrs – I see the sun!
… would wait until I did a serious decluttering of my home. Much of September was spent doing that. And it’s continued to this day, and still continues. But I’ve now got the the point where I’ve had my sister’s family over both for a dinner party and for brunch on Christmas Day! I’ve had a number of ongoing plumbing problems fixed (brought to a head by my 17 year old hot water heater deciding it no longer wanted to give me enough hot water for a shower!).
I’ve given away almost all remnants of my 1990′s hobby of model railroading – mostly tools, PC board fabrication equipment (I designed a few boards to automate my club layout), model detailing parts, and most of the engines and rolling stock I’d accumulated, but not used in a decade. The remnants of my HO scale modeling are a couple of engines that are dear to me, and they are displayed in a nice case in the living room. I still have some N scale stuff in the garage that I have to deal with: A switching layout, a couple of cases of rolling stock – including a beautiful 15 car passenger set + 3 engines for the UP streamliner, and a couple of other things. I want to give my N scale modelling buddy first refusal on these (you know who you are – call!).
Once my modeling stuff was cleared, that enabled me to move my office into my bedroom, which in turn allows me to work on turning my 2nd bedroom (nee office) into a guest bedroom. However, since the beginning of July, my cousin has been living in that room, and he prefers to occupy it in more of a camping mode – sleeping bag on the floor with a thin air matters – than as a standard bedroom, so as long as he is there, finishing that particular project isn’t a priority. But I also freed up a 7 ft long folding table (that was previously my modeling work table in my bedroom). It’s moved – temporarily – to the living room where it give me invaluable space to start to declutter that part of the house. So far, I’ve used it to lay out many of my books – to agonize over which ones to divest. That in turn gave me space on my living room bookshelves to store much of the small appliances and speciality pots and pans I find myself using more and more as my love of cooking continues to grow. THEN I realized that I didn’t like the organization (or lack thereof) of my pantry. Again, the table allowed the space to implement a new plan: swap my appliance/pan storage with my pantry! So far, by dint of the available organizing space, I’ve been able to:
- Empty my bookshelves of the pots/pans/serving dishes/small appliances – to the table
- CLEAN THE BOOKSHELVES
- Rearrange the bookshelves with books (except cookbooks) occupying the left 2 bookcases, with the 3 bookcases on the right destined for cookbooks (originally 2 shelves, now just one) and pantry.
- Move the pantry to the bookshelves. My cousin will testify that I was surprised more than a few times by things I discovered in the pantry that I didn’t remember I had – and had recently purchased NEW for various recipes (capers, tahini and apple cider vinegar – just off the top of my head)
- Clean the shelves in the pantry (all but 2 done – and they still lie empty)
- Move the stuff on the table (see above) into the pantry.
I’ve still got stuff to do here. Clean the final two shelves. Finish another project I started (strip and re-season my cast iron. All pieces – 4 of them – currently stripped but not yet re-seasoned).
I’ve probably – OK, almost certainly – included far more details of decluttering that ANY of you really needed. Hey! It’s my nature to both ramble and to report too much details. But I recognize that (sometimes), so I’ll spare you a lot of OTHER details since I want to move on in this post to other things! Here’s the summary: I’m slowly, but fairly ruthlessly ridding myself of stuff I don’t use, and organizing the stuff I DO use so that it’s easy and convenient to actually use it!
So what’s next in my report? How I want to live. It’s actually fairly central to a number of OTHER realizations I’ve come to have about myself and my life.
- I own outright the condo that I currently call home. It’s a 2BR, 2BA, 1,200 sqft 2nd floor flat that I’ve come to realize is FAR more than I need. I’m also 1/2 owner of a 1,400 sqft 2BR, 2BA condo that was my mother’s. It’s located about 1/2 a mile from an on ramp to I-80 West just before the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge that is arguably the best place to be if you’re a commuter to San Francisco (or points south) who insists on driving, but doesn’t want to live in the city.
- In addition to the above real property, I also have savings (both taxable and non-taxable), about 1/2 of it inherited, that a year ago I thought would allow me to both take my Peregrination, then live on for 3-5 years (if necessary) while I decided what else to do with my life.
- I’ve wanted to “find” a calling. Something – likely political – that would ignite my interest enough to be central to my life and (hopefully) to provide enough income to let me live modestly – no longer relying on my savings. But I’ve found no single calling. There’s just too much wrong in the world to focus on one thing while ignoring (OK, not ignoring, but not investing much – if any time – in ) other equally important issues.
- I want to live in an intentional community. One where I have my own personal space, but where community activity – particularly meals – are a part of life.
- I started out with the idea that I wanted to move into a situation where it would be easy to choose to be car free. That has now evolved to a firmer statement: I want to live car free. I am going to live car free.
- I want to live my values. What does that mean? Lots of things. The most important ones are:
- I want to severely reduce my carbon footprint. Living car free will be a big part of this, but not the only part. I also want to live “small”.
- I want the time to participate in politics.
- I want to be part of a community of like minded people.
- I want to work in an endeavour that supports my – and a few other people’s – desire for work that supports my values and provides a living wage.
- I want this work to be with/for an entity that reflects my newly crystallized belief that the solutions to our economic problems must be local, easy to spread, and most importantly NOT centered around profit for the investors.
Many of you may recall my prior post: Musings on how I want to live. I’ve now realized that 400-600 sqft is too much! I really don’t need even that much personal space. With the exception of the fairly large kitchen where I derive great enjoyment in cooking for myself and others – and the dining room table where I entertain, my living space has already evolved down to my 315 sqft bedroom/office/bath/closet. And all of these elements are themselves far larger than they need to be! With aggressive scanning of paperwork, moving of DVD’s to a media server, and reduction of my wardrobe (which is FAR larger than I really need), I can see myself reducing my needs to below 200sqft – exclusive of laundry/kitchen/dining facilities. Especially if I don’t have a car! Not painlessly – it’s HARD to say “I really don’t need this.” It’s even harder, once you’ve managed to say that, to get RID of it!
Yes, I could do a number of runs to the dumpster, but I prefer to take the time to find a way for those things that might be useful for others have a chance at reuse. Towards that end, unwanted books are going to a local free book exchange, clothes to a local rescue mission (and before you say “Wait! Aren’t you supporting a religion?” – yes, I am, slightly, but the local rescue mission makes sure ALL donations goes to those who need it – administration is funded through a completely separate fundraising stream – and there is no secular charity nearby that will redistribute the things I want reused), and anything else goes to my local – secular! – re-use enterprise: Urban Ore. To date, completely off the top of my head, I’ve rid my home of over 2 TONS of “stuff”, of which less than 200 lbs has gone to the landfill!
So how do I end up both living small, yet still enjoying my love of cooking? Answer: A Tiny House Community! One that I design myself. Because of zoning laws that are still stuck in the “American Dream” mode, it’s likely to be – on paper – an RV park. Yes, an RV park! But it won’t be the RV parks you see on the road, where people in huge RV’s stay while they travel around the country in gas spewing behemoths. Nor will it be what probably comes to your mind when I say “Trailer Park” – although it will likely consist of tiny homes built on trailers. It will have a hot tub with community showering facilities – which let’s people get clean without having to deal with a cramped shower or sit-bath in their individual homes – and the hot tub can be a focus of casual interaction with your neighbors. It will have laundry facilities, probably coin operated, definitely with LOTS of line drying space. It will have a common building with a well equipped kitchen, dining/lounging facilities. Perhaps – almost definitively – a shop. Common outdoor space with enough grass for the play we as Americans are accustomed to, but also with community food gardens. Most tiny houses built on trailers have the main (and almost always only) entry on the “back” of the trailer. These will be parked, backed in to a common COVERED walkway that connects a group of “spaces” to the common areas.
Ach. Again, I could go on with many details, but I’m still at the brainstorming stage. But there is one more thing I want to mention: Bike Parking.
Bike parking? Where did that come from? Well, that’s the final change in MY life that I want to tell you about.
As many of you know, one of my Peregrination goals was to get in shape. And as many of you know, that didn’t happen on the Peregrination. But it is happening now! Since the end of September, I’ve biked 123 out of the last 125 days – the only 2 non-biking days were due to illness. I’ve gone from gasping for breath after a fairly slow 3 mile ride to routinely riding over 10 miles. I’ve equipped my bike with cargo storage that allows me to do most of my shopping by bike. Since the Peregrination ended I’ve put over 1,050 miles on my bike – and only 1,200 miles on my car! At a guess, at least 400 of those automobile miles occurred before I started pedaling, and the remaining 800 include 1 trip to Sacramento (~200 miles round trip, including local travel in Sacramento) and quite a few far shorter trips with the car filled with books for the exchange or other stuff for Urban Ore or the Rescue Mission. I’m only using the car to shop when I’m buying something that’s outside my normal biking range (about once/week), or going to a daytime event that isn’t well served by transit, or an event that starts or ends in the dark (as I’m not yet comfortable riding at night.) Also, I have yet to bike on a shopping trip where I’ll need to carry eggs. There’s enough potholes and poor pavement conditions between home and the places that I shop that I quite worried that eggs won’t survive the trip – no matter how well I might try to package them. I’m probably being paranoid here, but egg shopping hasn’t added to my car use as I integrate it with other car trips.
And I am getting into shape. In fact, I’m rushing to finish this post so I can try to do a 30 mile ride today! My current “best” is 25 miles, but I’ve got to start pushing it farther. Why? Glad you asked!
I’ve blogged every ride I’ve done since the end of September on my OTHER blog: Me and My Bike Sunday. Early on, I announced a goal: By the time the 2014 Eat Real Fest in Oakland rolls around, I’ll travel to and from it (13 miles each way) by bike. Well, that isn’t until the end of September, and I already have no doubt that (barring catastrophe) I’ll meet that goal easily. Thus it’s time for something more ambitious. And I’m very close to deciding what that goal will be: Take the 2014 California Climate Ride as part of the team from Transform - a non-profit centered around sustainability through transit and land use that I wholeheartedly support (and would LOVE to work for!). My ride today will be part of training for this 250 mile ride over 4 days in late May.
But I want your help – and your encouragement! I’ve promised that I will go for it if — nah, I have faith in my family and friends — WHEN I’ve received $300 in pledges to donate to Transform. So far, with only one tweet, I’ve got $50 pledged. I don’t want your money now! Nor to I want you to EVER send me money. What I want is your promise to support a good cause (Transform) as a way of encouraging me to keep getting healthier by adopting the goal of my participating in this ride,
So please, Pledge! How? Any way you want! Here are a few good ways:
- Post a comment on this blog post with the amount you pledge
- Email me (if you have my email) with the amount you pledge
- On Twitter, publicly pledge an amount in a tweet directed at me: @sjdorst. Or if you want to be private AND I follow you, make it a DM.
- Send me a LinkedIn message
I’m hoping to do another blog post over the weekend with more hoped for details of my RV park. I HAVE to do some brainstorming as I have a Tuesday meeting with a Tiny House advocate to educate myself as to the challenges I’ll face. But for now, I have to get on the bike!
Thanks – and remember to pledge!
Take a look near the top of this page. Do you see the “Foodie Laws” tab? Don’t click it yet until,I explain!
Right now it has only 1 law, the Expanding Cabbage Law. And I just thought of it as I finished making a batch of slaw a few minutes ago.
I’ll be adding more as they are revealed to me.
OK. NOW you can click the “Foodie Laws” tab!
Just a real quickie: I just created (and made the first post to) a new blog that will be centered around my bike, Sunday. To see it:
Please feel free to comment. I will periodically forward comments to MSNBC.
Greetings to all!
Yesterday, August 28, 2013 at about 1:00 PM I returned home. For the past 142 days, I’ve been living out of my car, seeing much of the lower 48 (I only missed 6 states: NV, UT, CO, ND, TN and ME), meeting, for the first time face-to-face, many old friends from Twitter, and a few other people from other aspects of my life.
The attempt to get myself in shape, I’m sad to say, failed. It’s a long story, perhaps one for another blog post.
Other aspects of the Peregrination were resounding successes.
In the greater scheme of things, the following were trivial, but they were important to me – and now they are done!
- Childhood resolution to sleep in all 50 states: Done
- Childhood resolution to pass through every California County: Done
- I did, indeed, cross off all but 1 of the “most caffeinated cities in the US” during my journey. What remains? Denver. There are Twitter friends in the Denver area I still want to meet. And I’ve always wanted to cross the Colorado Rockies by train in winter. So I’m already planning (OK, more like intending) to take a week sometime in Winter – probably late February or early March, to take the train to Denver, meet my Tweeps, and drink coffee!
And I learned a lot about myself. But I’m not going to take the time here to tell you! Why not? It centers around ONE of the things about the rest of my life that I decided: I will never again let my home be overwhelmed by clutter!
For those of you who don’t already know, I haven’t shared my home with anyone for at least 10 years. Why? Because I allowed it to become so cluttered that even basic cleaning seemed an insurmountable task. And I was ashamed of that. I’m still ashamed, but I must thank my sister, Mary, for doing enough decluttering in my absence, along with arranging for professional cleaning, that taking the time to declutter no longer seems pointless.
The first rule of recovering from clutter is never, NEVER add to it! And there is my conundrum: With the exception of clothes, there isn’t much I can remove from my car that has a definite place it belongs! If I unpack the car completely, then the clutter will increase, violating rule # 1!
So instead of spending a lot of my first week home writing – and brainstorming – I have already started, and will continue, decluttering. I’ll start doing other things once I declutter enough to unload the car, but even then, I’m going to spend roughly half my time decluttering and cleaning until it’s done. Until I have a home I can proudly open to friends and family.
So other big thoughts are going to wait.
Write you later!
Those of you who have been following my blog – or my Twitter timeline – especially my musings on what I’m going to do with the rest of my life – know that I’ve been searching for something (likely political) that ignites my passion, with a secondary goal of supporting myself. Supporting myself isn’t essential as I’ll put up with just about any job that gives me time to pursue my passion. If my passion can become my vocation, it is just icing on the cake.
Well, I may well have found my passion! Read on for details: