Home > About Me, It takes a village, Life Choices, Workplace > More detail on the community/business I’m brainstorming

More detail on the community/business I’m brainstorming


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:

  1. Am I thinking of joining an existing community, or starting my own, or joining a group that is in the process of forming?
  2. 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!
<end cut/paste from email>
As always, your comments are welcome!
Ta Ta for now!
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