Boulder Co-living – Who’s behind the curtain?

wonderland logo

The Boulder Co-Living community project people behind the curtain are three cohousing neighbors who have been active in the  cohousing, housing and affordable housing worlds.

Wonderland Hill Development Corporation (WHDC) – Jim Leach is a professional engineer with more than 40 years of experience in the design, construction, and development of sustainable housing, cohousing, planned neighborhoods, and urban infill development. Throughout his career, Jim has led the industry in creating green building strategies and community-based housing that combine high-quality design with maximum value.

He lives in Silver Sage Village cohousing.

WHDC is the pioneer in cohousing development having completed 22 projects since 1993. Projects include the La Querencia in Fresno California and the Nevada City project in Nevada City, California. In Boulder, WHDC developed Silver Sage Village, Wild Sage Cohousing, Nyland Cohousing, Nomad Cohousing, and Washington Village.

Jim has been a spokesperson for the solar energy movement since the early 1980s and was active in the writing and review of the Boulder Energy Code. In 1997, Jim was inducted into the “Built Green Hall of Fame” by the Home Builders Association of Metropolitan Denver.

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Jim Leach

His award-winning neighborhoods have been recognized by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, National Association of Home Builders, National Council of the Housing Industry, Urban Land Institute, and The Congress of New Urbanism.

Jim holds a bachelor’s degree in architectural engineering and a bachelor’s degree in business management from the University of Colorado and a master’s degree in construction engineering from Stanford University.

caddis logo verticalCaddis Collaborative – Bryan Bowen: has been a practicing architect since 1995, dedicated to the design of neighborhoods and eco-buildings, all with the vision of making baby steps toward a sustainable permaculture planet. He also lives in Wild Sage Cohousing.

The Caddis niche is cohousing. Caddis has been designing successful cohousing communities, both nationally and internationally, for almost two decades, including Silver Sage Village, and Wild Sage Cohousing – both in Boulder; Germantown Commons in Nashville; Memel Cohousing in South Africa.

Caddis Collaborative is a leader in sustainable design, zero net energy homes, and livable communities, and applies attention, sophisticated design, and creative solutions to every project. In addition to their skills in architecture, their expertise in grassroots community engagement is essential for large-scale projects, especially multifamily housing and institutional projects.

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Bryan Bowen

Caddis Collaborative, reflects their core values in their work, striving to create sustainable communities through sustainable building practices. Not only do they have the capacity to ensure a project’s success, but also have the talent and expertise to do it elegantly and artfully. If it’s worth building, it’s worth doing it well.

Caddis expertise and signature style of listening and engagement to play midwife to emerging communities. his work includes single-family homes, eco-retrofits, multifamily housing, mixed-use projects, community planning, and commercial work.

frogEnvironmental and Cultural Organization Systems (ECOS) –  Alan O’Hashi has been saving the world through his sole proprietorship since 1992.  He is no stranger to complicated multi-disciplinary projects. He has past lives that include affordable housing development, including community outreach and resident recruitment.

Alan lives in Silver Sage Village cohousing. He will be collaborating with his neighbor, Jim Leach, and Wonderland Hills Development in the community building aspect of the Boulder Co-Living community.

He was the first Executive Director for Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley based in Longmont where he worked in the community to establish collaborations to assist with housing construction. He developed a 2-acre HFH subdivision, including land acquisition, public improvement funding, processing subdivision through the city of Longmont planning department and city council.

In Wyoming, he served as the Northern Arapaho Tribe, Community and Economic Development Director and managed tribal housing rehab program. Prior to that he was staff to the Lander Housing Authority when it developed the Poposia Senior Housing Project. He was the city project administrator for the Smith Street Passive Solar Housing Project – coordinated joint effort among the state of Wyoming, Fremont County School District #1, city of Lander, private lending institutions.

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Alan O’Hashi

He coordinated outreach and selection of 20 eligible households to participate, and arranged for their USDA mortgage loan guarantees. While working for the city of Gillette, Wyoming, he coordinated the HUD CDBG citizen participation process for a Section 8 apartment building site development.

Alan is active with the Cohousing Association of the U.S. and served as a member of the city of Boulder Planning Board; city of Boulder Human Relations Commission; city of Boulder Affordable Housing Working Group.

The cohousing ‘Secret Sauce,’ affordability, inclusion and a new ‘American Way’

american-way

Superman’s “Truth, justice, and the American Way” is based on bigger is better than smaller; winning is better than losing; richer is better than poorer. What if that was refocused through a multicultural lens?

Cohousing Nation, by definition, lives a “New American Way” that balances the good of the community over that of the individual; accepts all people as different and all welcomed and valued; power and strength of a few are replaced by consensus and shared decision making among all.

As such, I’m convinced that cohousing communities – as well as other intentional communities like housing cooperatives – have the potential to bridge cultural divides that continue to plague our country today.

The average cohouser has at least some social justice blood running through their veins. I think change will have a better chance of happening by efforts by cohousers.

What if cohousers, turned out to be gatekeepers who work together and become allies with marginalized groups, rather than marginalized groups trying to break through the glass ceiling, with few allies there with a hammer.

Inclusion of diverse people will bring about more affordable housing organically as the dominant culture becomes more inclusive based on what I call, “c🕉munification” (cOMunification) that focuses on cultural and societal power and privilege dynamics and how only personal change can balance those out.

Remember the old 1950s TV show, The Adventures of Superman? The narrator told my friends and me to model Superman’s can-do behavior because, “he fights a never ending battle for truth, justice, and the American Way.”

Superman’s “American Way” is based on rugged individualism; cultural divides narrowed by assimilation; and quests for power and control.

There isn’t anything inherently wrong with the “Old American Way,” I think it needs to evolve along with society and one way that can happen is through a collaborative approach that results in truth, justice and a “New American Way.”

I continue to believe that racism, as we know it today, began in 1526 when the first people from Africa were enslaved to work at a short-lived settlement in South Carolina.

Public awareness of differences among people, particularly since 1964, enflamed simmering racist attitudes that continue to exist today.

I think people want to change and do what’s right, but based on the audiences I’ve met over the years, most people don’t know how to go about it. Personal change doesn’t happen over night and like anything else that requires better skills, it takes practice, and letting go of personal privilege isn’t exactly something people are too crazy about.

lincoln emancipation

It’s been just 154 years since Lincoln signed the emancipation proclamation.

The current political climate didn’t create racism, it makes it socially acceptable to reveal previously hidden beliefs that oppression of the weak was what, historically, made America great.

Considering America has a 339-year history enslaving people (1526 to 1865) that’s more than double the 155-year history, at least on paper, since President Abraham Lincoln’s emancipation proclamation (1865 to 2020).

There has been social change, but reinventing the American Way won’t happen over night

secret sauce

Cohousing secret sauce can undo the Old American Way.

A part of that reinvention is cohousing, which is a market-based solution. Cohousing brings individuals together to form communities.

Housing is housing, but what differentiates cohousing from other housing configurations is the “secret sauce” that mixes several ingredients. The recipe can be altered to meet differing tastes:

  • Relationships – Neighbors commit to being part of a community for mutual benefit. Cohousing cultivates a culture of sharing and caring. Design features and the neighborhood size are typically between 30 and 40 homes that promote frequent interaction and close relationships.
  • Balancing Privacy and Community – Cohousing neighborhoods are designed for privacy as well as community. Residents balance privacy and community by choosing their levels of community engagement
  • Participation – Decision-making is participatory and often based on consensus. Selft management empowers residents, builds relationships and can save money.
  • Shared Values – Cohousing communities support residents in actualizing shared values.

A certain ilk of the citizenry, mostly Baby Boomers and older, who experienced the Cold War, will try to reposition the conversation by clumping intentional communities together as “communes” and “creeping socialism.

I’m not talking about over throwing out social norms or the government, but rather reacting to how the general market is changing because it’s basically less expensive to live more collaboratively (higher density neighborhoods) and sharing resources (five households don’t each need a lawnmower).

The rugged individualist and free-market capitalists are unwilling to share their wealth and as such, the market reaction is toward c🕉unification.

Student Loans

As of June 2018, Forbes reported that total US student debt was $1.52 trillion and that 44.2 million people owed debt. The average student debt is $38,390.

My observation, Millenials and GenXers who are a generation or two removed from World War II are more accepting of individual differences and more supportive of the collective good out of a need to survive.

Being saddled with the the national debt of their parents, grandparents and great grandparents; forced into a college tuition system that will keep them under the thumb of Wall Street until they are old and gray are two reasons why young people are de-commodifying the American Way.

The tenets of a New American Way would say a home is where we live, not an investment. The only time a house should be commodified is when it’s time to move.

Rather than saying, “The yard needs more trees because it will increase our property values,”  The New American Way perspective is, “The yard needs more trees because they will improve the places where kids can play.” As a side benefit, property values may increase.

The cohousing brand of community development is also a hedge against unchecked gentrification, which is one of those jargony terms that get thrown around and used in various contexts.

I define gentrification as what happens when people or businesses look for real estate deals, purchase urban property that may or may not be distressed and update them without much collaboration with existing neighbors.

The data are these.

Cohousing communities consist of members who predominantly liberal, highly educated, high income Caucasians women with high perceived social class who, I think, are a more open to bridging cultural divides by “undoing” the Old American Way from within.

That is to say, members of the dominant culture who live in cohousing, have agreed among themselves to change their perspectives towards a New American Way.

Communification logo-1

“Om” is sanskrit that basically includes everything – past, present, future; beginning, middle end; emotionally and physically.

The end result of c🕉unification, by definition, is an attitudinal paradigm shift by members of the dominant culture who have agreed to increase cultural diversity in the wider culture, one cohousing community at a time.

This doesn’t happen by public policy but by community-based societal change:

  • There’s balance between the group and the individual;
  • smaller and less are better but all share in abundance, that isn’t always about bigger and more;
  • decisions are by consensus giving a voice to all, including minority positions;
  • there is recognition that everyone is different and all are included as themselves

While the tenets of cohousing are noble, they are easier said than done since the American Way is pounded into our heads from the moment we pop out of the womb.

melting pot boiling

The melting pot is no longer a relevant metaphor.

In the 20th century, the United States was metaphorically characterized as a “Melting Pot” in which races and ethnicities would learn English and assimilate themselves into homogenous Americans.

That was true during racial segregation when the pot contained white cheeses like swiss, edam, gouda, and feta, they blended together to make a mixed pot of white cheese.

Immigrants from Europe who all looked like each other, had the old American Way ahead of them after they learned English and otherwise assimilated.

These days, the country has become racially and ethnically multicultural as a result of immigration and can be a part of the New American Way.

Today, the blended food metaphor would be more like a “Tossed Salad” consisting of separate fixings like frijoles, cassavas, napa cabbage, and all kinds of lettuce that are unified with a common dressing.

In my mind, that common dressing is the “Cohousing C🕉unification” secret sauce, soon available at a farmer’s market near you.

Braceros, Traqueros: Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

reagan quote immigration

Ronald Reagan signed immigration reform into law in 1986 that was sponsored by former Wyoming US Senator Alan Simpson. The law gave amnesty to 3 million undocumented people.

For the past 150 years, the US government, railroads and agricultural industries welcomed immigrant workers from Mexico. How did they end up coming to the United States in the first place?

Rather than keep immigrants seeking asylum detained, why not give them all temporary visas and put them to work. That’s why they trudged hundreds, if not thousands of miles to America.

I heard there are upwards to 50,000 asylum seekers currently being held around the country awaiting court hearings.

They’re fleeing danger in their homelands, need local sponsors and something to do once they are granted asylum. Anyone who thinks they are going to take their jobs, that’s just hyperbolic race-bait ranting.

What work needs to be done? Here are a couple ideas:

  • Rebuild crumbling roads and bridges
  • Building affordable housing

For the record, I’m not in favor of cutting illegal immigrants any slack. I was an illegal alien and kicked out of Mexico in 1991 for working in Zacatecas on a tourist visa from Jalisco.

My business partner and I were stopped by the federal police, held at machine gun point in the middle of nowhere between a small town of Sombrerete and Fresnillo.

One soldier questioned me in English, my partner in Spanish hoping we would give conflicting stories.

They tossed our pick up truck, groped through my luggage, put everything back and searched again. I think they were looking for drugs. Around this time, the United States and Mexico agreed to stifle cocaine and marijuana traffic. Zacatecas is just south of Colorado.

Luckily for me, they let us go.

I was caught using a Mazatlan tourist visa, but actually working in Zacatecas. I ended up getting my paperwork together and made formal application, along with $97.00 USD and obtained the equivalent of a green card.

A year or so ago, I listened to a presentation by Lu Rocha at a workshop organized by my grad school Center on Domestic Violence at CU-Denver.

She gave a history of the Latino/a/x/ labor force in the United States that dates back to the construction of the transcontinental railroad in the 1800s and propping up the war efforts between 1942 until it’s repeal in 1964.

Immigration issues have been in the news lately. There’s talk of expanding the number of immigrant detention centers in Texas reminiscent of the three war relocation camps set up during World War II to detain and intern Japanese mostly from the West Coast.

daca sign

POTUS 45 repealed DACA put in place by President Obama in 2012 as a stop-gap measure to protect kids of undocumented residents.

The Reagan administration signed the Immigration Reform and Control Act in 1986 which heightened border security but also granted amnesty to 3 million undocumented immigrants. This was a bi-partisan effort led in the US Senate by Wyoming’s Al Simpson.

Red and Blue presidents and congresses failed to act on immigration reform until Obama in his lame duck term issued the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrives (DACA) executive order which cut some slack to kids brought to the US by their undocumented parents. It was a compassionate Band Aid.

POTUS 45 used his bully pulpit, but failed to overturn DACA. Congress continues to be at a standstill, more so now because the House flipped Democratic in 2018.

Immigration reform is a wedge issue for Republicans. They are against immigrants, generally, because of they supposed are “taking of American jobs.” Are all Republicans cleaning toilets, picking beans, or loading dishwashers over at Denny’s in fear of losing their jobs?

At the same time, American business is reliant on immigrant laborers who perform low-end work that regular Americans won’t do which is a throwback to the transcontinental railroad construction and World War II worker shortage.

traqueros

The Transcontinental Railroad was completed by laborers from Mexico.

Traqueros In 1881 Governor Luis Terrazas of Chihuahua drove a silver spike completing a rail line linking Mexico and United States which allowed immigrants transport to the United States and coincided with the West’s construction of the transcontinental railroad.

Mexicans were the dominant immigrant labor laying track in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Despite low wages compared to their native born coworkers and discrimination, immigrant Mexican laborers became permanent residents, not by law but by fact. By the time of the Great Depression, workers moved to the cities in search of other low-skill work.

Bracero Program

The US Department of Labor and the Immigration and Naturalization Service collaborated on the Bracero Program at the start of World War II. Braceros were allowed in to the US to provide help on farms during wartime.

Braceros The bracero program (Spanish for manual laborer) began in 1942 and operated as a joint program of the State Department, the Department of Labor, and the Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS), as it was known then, in the Department of Justice.

Laborers from Mexico were promised better living conditions in camps, including housing, meals and toilet facilities. They eventually were paid a minimum wage of 30 cents / hour. The pact also stated that braceros supposedly would not be subjected to discrimination and exclusion from “white-only” areas.

During World War II, the bracero program intention was to fill the labor gap, particularly in agriculture. The program lasted 22 years and offered employment contracts to 5 million braceros in 24 U.S. states—becoming the largest foreign worker program in U.S. history.

The bracero program caused problems on both sides of the border with labor shortages in the northern states in Mexico and resulted in illegal immigrants who remained in the United States. Millions of Mexican Americans attribute their roots to their fathers and grandfathers who crossed the border as braceros.

DACA MASS WALKOUTDACA Circle back to DACA kids. They are the modern day traquero/a/x and bracero/a/x. They are people who arrived in the United States under the radar as children.

Like the braceros and traqueros, while they should have returned to Mexico, those families have remained – while looking over their shoulders – without documentation and became productive members of their communities.

The DACA kids ended up with high school and college educations, contribute to society in professional jobs, have families of their own with kids in local school systems. They pay taxes and volunteer in their communities.

DACA kids aren’t Manson women who ran underground and assumed new identities.

When the Bracero Program was ended in 1964, the positive outcomes were better working conditions for farm workers thanks to advocacy by activists including Cesar Chavez and Delores Huerta. There were no immigration laws that turned traqueros back to Mexico.

DACA was a short term fix when Obama acted because Congress didn’t. The immigration issue has come full circle from 1986.

Whether Congress and POTUS 45 get their acts together on immigration reform will be a defining moment for the Republicans like it was for Republicans and Ronald Reagan.

Until then let’s figure out how to engage asylum seekers in useful ways while they awaiting their hearings.

simpson reagan signing“We have consistently supported a legalization program which is both generous to the alien and fair to the countless thousands of people throughout the world who seek legally to come to America. The legalization provisions in this act will go far to improve the lives of a class of individuals who now must hide in the shadows, without access to many of the benefits of a free and open society. Very soon many of these men and women will be able to step into the sunlight and, ultimately, if they choose, they may become Americans.” Ronald Reagan on November 6, 1986 upon signing the Immigration Control and Reform Act.