When we moved in three years ago, Mariposa Grove members danced with joy: "Take down your fence! Become part of our community!"
"Great!" we said. "What does being a member of the community mean?"
"We don't know, but it's part of our mission, to be a community center. We'll figure it out later!"
Cut to today. It's SO much later. I haven't blogged in three months as I drive all over the state getting trained on my new job, and it's been a about a year since the "Bridge Committee" got tasked with figuring out the thorny issues facing opening the existing HOA into a larger collective.
Today we retreated.
I was on the Bridge Committee, but I shirked my responsibilities. What I notice now, is that I was unable to successfully represent myself in committee. The mission felt to be: "Let's find a way to charge for the common house." I identified some assumptions and called philosophies of power/ownership/equity into question, but I allowed myself to get steamrollered to an extent.
Today, the remaining committee members presented the work we'd done. We still don't have a methodology for distributing costs. But other voices in the community listened to the proposals, acknowledged the immense effort that went in to getting us even this far, and frequently noticed assumptions and questioned those.
One of our community works in a co-op as well as living here in our cooperative. "At Rainbow Grocery, it's clear: we are either members or on the membership track. That's not an option here."
Another noted: "Renters will not have the same opportunity of ownership, so will we ask them to be paying the same amount as an owner?"
A direction appeared to coalesce from the work of today, so that's huge and good. We also did a very good job being with each other. There was only one segment that got ugly as some talked over and above others. A few minutes later we acknowledged that wasn't how we wanted to behave, and we were respectful and engaged the rest of the time.
Sure there were some near meltdowns and soem tension, but we are handling a really difficult task: how to convert a a closed system into an extensible one. We are dealing with money, with property, with liability, with privacy and with beliefs around generosity and community.
It's cutting edge stuff; other cohousing communities are closed, or new developments. Ours is one of the few retrofits, and perhaps the only one that combines affordable housing with market rate housing.
I give us a big "A+" for today.
Now I'm going out dancing.