Families coming together | TheUnion.com

Families coming together

Kerana TodorovAlessandra Ross and her family live in a five-room condo in a cohousing complex in Sacramento. She calls it "an extraordinary place for the kids." A 34-unit cohousing project is planned for Nevada City.
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Jacqueline Keeler and her husband, Joe, want a child-friendly environment close to Nevada City for their daughter, Shanna Bahe, 2, and their unborn child due later this year.

“I would like to be able to walk to work,” said Jacqueline Keeler, the 32-year-old executive director of the California Indian Basketweavers Association, a nonprofit based in Nevada City. She and her husband, a software engineer in Grass Valley, commute from Cascade Shores.

The Keelers are among a dozen families exploring the possibility of moving into a 34-unit cohousing project planned on 11 acres off West Broad Street in Nevada City.

Chuck Durrett and Katie McCamant of CoHousing Co. in Berkeley would design the project.

Cohousing communities – an idea Durrett and McCamant imported from Denmark in the early 1980s – are condominium complexes with many common areas. They are designed to foster the sense of an old-fashioned neighborhood – where residents know their neighbors by name, children can play safely away from cars, and

pedestrians rule.

Some 150 cohousing complexes have been built throughout the United States. The Nevada City project would be the county’s first.

Traditionally, cohousing residents share meals two to four times a week at a common house and meet monthly to discuss yard cleanup, landscaping, maintenance and other duties.

Residents design the complex to meet their needs at a series of workshops.

“They’re co-developers,” Durrett said.

Durrett and McCamant – who regularly vacation near Downieville, where Durrett spent some of his formative years – live in a cohousing complex in Emeryville with their teenage daughter. They hope to move into Nevada City’s first cohousing community during summer 2004, they said.

Each unit could cost $200,000 to $450,000, said Durrett, who hopes construction will start in August 2003. Seven to 10 “small” houses could be built around the cohousing complex, he added.

Durrett and McCamant have completed 36 cohousing projects in the United States, including a 25-unit complex in Sacramento’s Southside Park neighborhood.

Alessandra Ross and her husband, Glenn Backes, recently moved into a five-room condominium at the Sacramento complex with their daughters, Shea, 5, and Eaven, 3.

“We totally love it,” said Ross, who first heard of cohousing years ago. “It’s an extraordinary place for the kids.”

Neighbor Joanne Crandall-Bear said she and her family moved in when the complex was completed in 1993.

Cohousing recreates neighborhoods where people are there for each other, she said near the 2,500-square-foot common house. “This is kind of re-creating what we grew up with,” said the 47-year-old teacher.

Teens may need time to adjust, she added. Her oldest son was 13 when they moved in, she said, and it took a while for him to get adjusted. “He was suddenly in this fishbowl,” she said, but is fine now.

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