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November 23, 2002

Getting to know your neighbor

From: The Argus, CA
Nov. 23, 2002

Fremont resident wants to spread the message
FREMONT -- Michael Joss is hoping to find other families who crave a sense of old-fashioned community.

"Everybody drives up to a house and disappears into a garage. Their yards are enclosed by an 8-foot-high fence. There are very few chances to meet your neighbors," Joss said, describing the Mission San Jose neighborhood he moved into six months ago.

Before moving to Fremont, Joss and his family owned a house near Seattle in a co-housing development. Residents were private homeowners but shared civic responsibilities, resources and fun, he said.

Joss shared his experiences at last weekend's Fremont community building summit. He hopes more individuals and families curious about building a co-housing community will attend an introductory meeting and brainstorming session Sun- day evening.

In Seattle, Joss and his neigh- bors bought into the idea of what he calls an "intentional neighborhood."

Neighbors shared cars, lawn mowers or child-care duties. Everyone gathered for a meal several times a week. They helped each other build porches. And decisions regarding the development were made by consensus, not strictly enforced by a homeowners' association contract.

"You knew everyone in the neighborhood. Kids ran around in packs," he said. "Sometimes there were eight kids in the house playing and other times it was quiet."

Co-housing also allowed for the type of interaction Joss said can become scarce in family suburban life.

"I had time to spend with other adults," Joss said. "It was a very nurturing and satisfying type of environment."

Also unique to the development is the mode of management. There is no stringent set of rules to which residents must adhere.

Instead, residents manage themselves, largely by coming to some degree of consensus on decisions affecting the community.

Joss said it is like a neighborhood association with "a community-oriented agenda, more so than making sure mailboxes are painted."

Co-housing is not new to the Bay Area. Several such developments already exist in Oakland, Berkeley and Pleasant Hill.

Although Joss said it was "a bit of shock" adjusting to the commuter lifestyle in Fremont, his idea is not to shut out the sense of community that already exists, but to build upon it.

The family moved here so Joss' son could attend the California School for the Deaf. And Joss said he appreciates the local farmers' market.

"Fremont has a lot of hidden features that are not obvious at first glance -- like the people and the parks," Joss said.

We are not unhappy, but we would like to find people who are interested in ... building something."

The co-housing meeting will be 5 p.m. Sunday at Mission Coffee Roasting Co., 151 Washington Blvd., Fremont. More information on co-housing can be found by e-mailing .

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