The N Street Cohousing community began as standard subdivision units that were built in the mid-1950’s, consisting mostly of 3 bedroom-2 bathroom houses separated by fences in Davis, California. In 1986, the first two houses were joined when Kevin Wolf bought the co-op house he was living in that is now the common house and his wife, Linda Cloud, purchased the house next door.
An event in the late 1980s that was critically important to the future of the community was the development of its consensus based decision making process with a “fall-back voting” procedure where a super-majority of members could over ride blockers of a decision. Donna Spreitzer’s master’s thesis comparing Muir Commons Cohousing to N Street Cohousing provides some documentation on the origination of the process.
In 1999 the community was recognized as a planned development (PD) by the city council. As a PD, sideyard setback easements were slightly more relaxed while the backyard setback was extend from ten feet to 30 feet. Construction of larger second unit apartments were allowed.
In 2005, after many years of planning, the original common house building was torn down and a new common house was built. The current common house consists of a four bedroom-two bathroom apartment upstairs and the downstairs includes the community’s dining room (sitting 50 for dinner and 70-80 for concerts), a large kitchen, a TV/meeting room, a bathroom and a shared laundry room. In addition, a two room-1 bathroom wheelchair accessible suite was added to the front of the common house with a nice big porch. A new patio and eating area were constructed in the back.
Since 1986, the community has grown to 19 houses by a process of adding one house at a time as they become available, taking down the fences between them and integrating the backyard landscaping. We have also added three houses from across the street. Currently, approximately 60 adults and 5-10 kids (depending on the year) reside here. The ownership structure of the houses is diverse – some of the units are owned by community residents, some by local and absentee landlords, and others as partnerships of former/current tenants in the community.
Because of the way it grew, our community is termed “retrofit cohousing” and is a leading example how to create community in existing neighborhoods. N Street Cohousing is unusual because it has arisen by gradual evolution in the midst of existing suburban development.
Even though it arose in a much different manner than other communities, N Street Cohousing has all the attributes of a classic cohousing community. We live together as an intentional community, sharing much of the joys and pains of our lives with each other. We support each other in difficulty and celebrate in success. We sometimes vacation together. We have even been known to fall in love and marry each other. However, we live in our own homes and have our own yards (though without any fences). Each of us can be private when we want to be and each household sets its own culture for visiting, borrowing, and participating.