by Katherine Forrest
Local residents are in the process of planning for a new “old-fashioned neighborhood” on a piece of property at Calderon and Velarde. This is a “first” for Mountain View, and it represents part of a growing interest in cohousing nationwide.
Cohousing communities, now numbering over 230 in 36 states, are designed to bring together the amenities of private homes with the benefits of more sustainable living. That means common facilities and good connections with neighbors.
The Mountain View Cohousing Community (MVCC), being developed and designed by its members, will have 19 condominium units, ranging in size from approximately 1370 to 2050 square feet. Members will share a 4500-s.f. common house with facilities for recreation, exercise, group dining, crafts, tool shop, bike storage, etc.
David and Susan Burwen, long-time Mountain View residents, were one of the couples who first conceived of the idea of a local cohousing project. Susan said, “Now that our sons are adults, we wanted to downsize. We love Mountain View and want to stay here, but are seeking to live in a stable neighborhood of people who care about each others’ welfare like close friends.” Of the nine member households already committed to the project, three are long-time Mountain View residents, and the others are from nearby cities: Los Altos, Palo Alto, and Portola Valley, with one from Half Moon Bay. Among them are physicians, teachers, engineers and other professionals, working and retired.
Award-winning architect Charles (Chuck) Durrett, who is the primary architect for the MVCC project, has designed some 50 cohousing projects across the country. He spoke about cohousing to a standing-room-only crowd last fall at Books, Inc., on Castro Street.
Durrett has led five design workshops with the MVCC members, during which the members have provided input on the site layout, exterior appearance, the common house, and design of the individual condominium units. Durrett said, “We’re planning an upscale, sophisticated design, one that will reinforce the classic feeling of the Old Mountain View neighborhood.” MVCC members have been consulting with the City of Mountain View and will be meeting with neighbors in the near future.
Cohousing communities tend to be very environmentally conscious and MVCC is no exception. The buildings will be energy efficient and landscaping will be designed to present a “green” face to the neighborhood. Plans include organic gardens, fruit trees and a small greenhouse, and preservation of a number of the healthiest existing large trees on the property.
Parking (two places per unit) will be underground, with stations for charging electric vehicles. As David Burwen explained, “Our location makes it attractive for us to use public transportation. We want to emphasize walking and bicycling as much as possible for local trips. It’s good for our health and for the neighborhood.”
In planning for the new community, MVCC is dealing with some unique issues related to the history of the property, which had been a black walnut orchard, apparently started more than 100 years ago. Barrie D. Coate & Associates, arborists and horticultural consultants, have advised MVCC that most of the old walnut trees are at the end of their lives and are not viable. MVCC offered to give the existing old farmhouse on the property to the Mountain View Historical Society earlier this year, for transfer to the Cuesta Annex historic park, but the MVHS rejected the offer. At MVCC’s request, historic consultants Carey & Co. have just completed a historic resources evaluation report regarding the house. MVCC will be meeting with representatives of the city to determine the next steps. If anyone else is interested in taking the old house, MVCC is eager to hear from you.
MVCC is actively seeking additional members. See www.mountainviewcohousing.org for more information.
Kate Forrest is a member of the planned Cohousing Community and has been involved in the design process and community-building activities since October, 2009. She is currently a resident of Ladera (Portola Valley).