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October 2008

Guests browse the units at the open house for La Querencia cohousing development Sunday
in Fresno.

Developing community in north Fresno
Cohousing project designed to bring neighbors together.
By Vanessa Colón / The Fresno Bee

Residents of the new and much-                  The homes differ from a typical
talked about cohousing                          subdivision in that two rows of
development in north Fresno                     houses with spacious front
opened their doors Sunday so the                porches face each other, with no
public could see what the                       street between them. Parking is
community-oriented housing                      at one edge of the property. The
development was like.                           neighborhood is designed to
                                                promote community and cut down on
Several dozen people -- most                    consumption by sharing.
residents of the development --
turned out to celebrate the                     The mostly yellow and terra
project's opening and tour some                 cotta-colored housing features
of the units.                                   nontoxic painted walls, maple
                                                kitchen cabinets and durable
The development on Alluvial                     floors made from a mixture of
Avenue near Chestnut Avenue                     sand and linseed oil.
called La Querencia, which
translates loosely to "it feels                 But the biggest draw is
like home," has 10 of 28 homes                  community-oriented nature of the
left to sell, said Lynette                      development. The cohousing
Bassman, one of the residents and               community encourages social
an organizer promoting the                      contact with one another.
"We wanted to downsize, but we
didn't want to go into a gated      Comments
community with everyone being
over 60," said Bev Horsley, 71, / The Fresno Bee
of Fresno, who moved in about a
week ago. "The concept of this      Great article. It captured the
place is caring for each other."    essence of yesterday's grand
                                    opening for La Querencia, being
"It's how people used to live.      about not just the 'green' in the
It's going back to that type of     walls but the community spirit. I
life," she said.                    saw the kids organizing a
                                    'train', pulling each other in
The houses range from two- to       linked community wagons, having a
five-bedroom townhomes priced       blast.
from the mid-$300,000s to as high
as $400,000. Perks include a        I was there for the
community lounge, a children's      groundbreaking 15 months ago, and
library and a gym.                  worked with the group members
                                    when they came up to the Green
The development also has a          Festival in San Francisco to
community kitchen, a guest room     recruit members. I gotta say I'm
for overnight visitors, a pool      very impressed both with the way
and spa. Everything is considered   they came together and realized
environmentally friendly,           their vision and the
including the insulation, which     transformation from empty site to
is made from recycled newspapers.   built community. When I spoke
Architect Charles Durrett           with someone who had only been in
incorporated suggestions from       the group for three months, she
future residents into the design.   clearly totally "got it" about
                                    the values and priorities of the
Fresno's complex is the 115th       community, in alignment with the
cohousing development in the        folks who had been working on it
United States, said Betsy Norris,   for several years.
a research director of Cohousing
Association of the United States.   I've visited more than 80
                                    cohousing neighborhoods across
At the grand opening, mayoral       the U.S. (and lived in two), and
candidate Henry T. Perea, who       I've seen none that incorporate
supported the project, called it    this particular mix of green and
"the model neighborhood for the     community design, amenities like
21st century." Perea toured the     pool and spa, workshop and teen
development and left impressed by   room.
the construction.
                                    I recall a cohousing-development
Perea's opponent, Ashley            professional who used to live
Swearengin, couldn't make it        near Fresno being quite shocked a
because of family commitments.      few years ago that the town would
But her campaign manager, David     welcome and support this kind of
Schecter, stood in for her and      green, community development. I
promised she would get a tour of    think it's a sign of progress,
the development.                    both in the Valley and in the
                                    cohousing movement, that people
The reporter can be reached at      are looking around and seeking or (559)       out alternatives to more
441-6313.                           isolating suburban sprawl, ways
to live more simply, and that the   really look at the "total cost of
movement is professionalizing and   ownership" and factor in
mainstreaming and figuring out      operating costs - they may well
how to communicate and deliver      find that a few more bucks
that value. I tip my hat to the     upfront will pay for itself over
developer, Cohousing Partners,      time, in terms of the quality of
for realizing the vision and        the structure needing less
extending the range of new          maintenance as well as lower
options for living in community.    energy costs.

In my visit yesterday, I noted      Since you mention the community
some unique design elements like    kitchen, it is worth noting that
windows from the laundry room to    the units, like in all cohousing
the enormous kids' playroom in      neighborhoods, are self-
the Common House, so members can    sufficient, with their own
keep an eye on toddlers while       kitchens. You don't HAVE to use
loading machines, or even have a    the common house or dine with
quiet spot for a phone call while   your neighbors... it just adds a
supervising. And little             new choice. And for successful
"portholes" from the well-          communities, makes it more fun.
furnished common kitchen that
look out over the nextdoor city     One small typo of note: the
pond... I felt like I was at sea.   Coho/US Research Director is
                                    Betsy Morris with an M. I should
As a Certified Green Building       know, I'm married to her. ;-)
Professional, I appreciate the
design work done to keep the        Raines Cohen
spaces comfy year-round without     Northern California Cohousing
using much energy... that will      Regional Organizer
definitely come in handy down the   at Berkeley Cohousing
road, keeping costs down. Anyone    Raines Cohen, Cohousing Coach |
comparing the prices of these and   Homepage | 10.06.08 - 6:47 am |
other places around town should

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