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Silicon Valley’s First CoHousing Project Wins Approval

Original post made by Katherine Forrest, Old Mountain View, on Sep 29, 2011

The Mountain View Cohousing Community received approval on September 27 for what will be the first cohousing development to be built from the ground up in Silicon Valley. Following a public hearing, the Mountain View City Council unanimously supported City staff's recommendations regarding the proposal submitted by 445 Calderon LLC, development partner of the Mountain View Cohousing Community.

Council members commented that they had received a large number of favorable public comments from Mountain View residents, encouraging approval of the project.
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Founding members of the Mountain View Cohousing Community David and Susan Burwen, their project management consultant, Ken Alsman, and architect Chuck Durrett have been working with the city's Planning Department staff for over a year to design a 19-unit condominium project that will meet the needs and desires of its future residents while also enabling preservation of a historic 19th century farmhouse located on the Calderon Avenue property.

Mountain View Cohousing Community members look forward to sharing the picturesque historic structure with the public. It will be moved close to the front of the lot. The inside will be designed to house guests and a small library that may be used for non-proft community group meetings. Looking toward the possibility of aging in place, the members plan eventually to use part of the building as a resident caregiver suite.

The City Council directed staff to study ways in which some financial relief might be provided to the applicants in recognition of the value of the historic resources they are preserving for Mountain View.

"Since the City Council has endorsed the favorable staff report, we anticipate beginning construction by April 2012," said Susan Burwen. "Homes should be ready for occupancy by the fall of 2013."

There has already been considerable interest by potential residents. Thirteen of the 19 Mountain View Cohousing Community homes are already spoken for, with only six more still available.

Cohousing is a growing trend; there are over 120 completed US cohousing communities. Over 100 more are in various stages of development, according to the Cohousing Association of America.

Cohousing is often described as being like "an old-fashioned neighborhood," which combines the benefits and features of private homes while also fostering social contact and community activities. Cohousing residents typically access extensive shared facilities such as open space, courtyards and gardens, and a large common house with spaces for entertainment, crafts, exercise, frequent optional shared meals, and guest quarters.

Cohousing communities are typically designed with an eye toward sustainability and low environmental impact. The Mountain View Cohousing Community project incorporates a number of "green" features, including passive solar design, solar panels, bamboo and Marmoleum flooring, and copious insulation and soundproofing. The plans also specify an organic garden and a small orchard.

Within easy walking distance of public transportation (CalTrain, light rail, and bus), 445 Calderon Avenue is well-suited to the current urban planning trend in Silicon Valley, emphasizing development along transportation corridors.

In endorsing the cohousing project, Marla Wilson of the Greenbelt Alliance told the City Council, "We … would like to convey support particularly due to the development's excellent infill location, its unique housing product type, and its reduced underground parking."

Further details of MVCC's location and design can be found online at Web Link.

People can learn more about cohousing in general and about the Mountain View project in particular at periodic introductory MVCC social events, such as one on Sunday, October 9.

One week later, on October 16, Katie McCamant (Web Link), a nationally recognized expert on cohousing, will offer a presentation at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Palo Alto about the benefits cohousing offers as a downsizing option. Members of Wolf Creek Lodge (in Grass Valley) and Mountain View Cohousing Community (in Mountain View) will describe features of their communities.

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