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Temescal Creek Cohousing Community

August 4, 2010

I’ve been thinking (and writing) about creeks lately, so I thought I’d share this gorgeous gate marking the entrance to the Temescal Creek Cohousing Community…

temescal creek cohousing community, metal sculpture gate

I love the little squirrels!

temescal creek community gate

For those who don’t know, a co-housing community “is a type of collaborative housing in which residents actively participate in the design and operation of their own neighborhoods.” Typically consisting of single family residences clustered around a courtyard or pedestrian area, they often can include a common house as well, utilized for shared meals, childcare, etc. The concept originated in Denmark and was promoted in the United States in the 1980′s by architects Kathryn McCamant and Charles Durrett. (Cohousing.org)

The interesting thing about the Temescal Creek Cohousing Community is that I used to live in one of their houses, before the “conversion”.

It was my first apartment in Oakland, many years ago, and I love love loved it. It was a flat on 49th street in a large two-story 1920′s Craftsman with beautiful built-ins, a funky old stove, a spacious breakfast nook off the kitchen, a laundry room, a backyard, AND a garage!  I used to do furniture refinishing projects in the garage and was so excited to have a place to store my tools, other than crammed into my closet.

The house was a duplex, my friend Susie & I lived in the downstairs (a two bedroom), and a couple lived upstairs.  At the back of the property was another duplex split left and right rather than up and down – a brother and sister occupied each of those.  We all knew each other and were friendly and shared the back yard space for gardening and general hanging.  It was swell.

Sadly, in 1999 we were forced to move when the landlord decided to sell.  Apparently the lot behind ours contained another duplex, also for sale, and a group of creative and enterprising individuals decided to buy the whole tract and create a 6 unit co-housing community.

We were mad and referred to them as “the hippies.” But the truth is, we were just mad because we couldn’t afford to do it ourselves.  We had to give them credit – it was a great idea.

By that time I was so in love with Oakland and the Temescal area (keep in mind this was before Bakesale Betty, Doña Tomás, and the like) that I moved just down 49th Street.  It was interesting to keep an eye on what the folks were doing with our home… they tore down the fence at the back of the property, which I thought was cool, and painted our mustard colored house lavender – not so cool in my opinion.

In any case, many months later I noticed they had planted a community garden.  I’m an avid gardener myself and had worked a deal with my new landlord to get a discount on rent by tending the yard.  I had just pulled up some overgrown iris bulbs (dividing them) and had far to many to put back into the tiny yard.  I walked the few blocks down 49th street to my old home and introduced myself, offering the flower bulbs as a housewarming gift.

I haven’t been back there in a long time, but I wonder if those iris bulbs still flower each year.  They would have matched the house perfectly. They were purple and lavender.

There’s a great write-up on the origins and later developments of the Temescal Creek Cohousing Community in Retrofit cohousing: A different kind of fixer-upper by Karen Hester.

2 Comments
  1. August 4, 2010 8:57 pm

    Temescal Creek Cohousing is indeed a beautiful place, both in what it started as and what it has become, and perhaps what lies ahead for it. It is the best local example of the “retrofit” (aka organic) model of cohousing neighborhood community organizing – growing gradually over time, with more neighbors choosing to participate (or not), without all the upfront costs associated with new-build development.

    Thank you so much for sharing your story with your personal history there. In so many cases, when a community comes in, we don’t have any connection with those that were there before, and the details are lost to the mists of time.

    I help run East Bay Cohousing, which helps people create new communities in the region and connect to existing ones like Temescal Creek. There’s a bus tour coming up August 21, and a lot of workshops and meetings and trainings that help equip people with the skills and connections that help them live in sustainable community. Membership is free – join the over 1100 seekers of community at our website: http://www.ebcoho.org/

    Raines Cohen, Cohousing Coach
    at Berkeley Cohousing

  2. August 6, 2010 11:34 am

    As one of the “hippies” that started Temecsal Creeek, I’m glad you took the time to write about your experience and include photos of our gate. Yes, a lot has changed in 11 years in the Temescal but we hope we’ve improved the neighborhood and worked with our neighbors and the local business community to do it. Of course Broadway is another matter. :)

    You’ll be glad to know that the irises still bloom and trust that your kindness is remembered fondly! Please come by for a tour anytime and I can show you what we’ve done. We now have 10 families living the good cohousing life.

    I also lead bike tours of the 6 East Bay communities if anyone would like to get on my mailing list.

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