How to Find Intentional Communities in San Francisco, California

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Here is a guide about how to apply and find listings for urban co-op living

To get a sense of what to expect living in an intentional community, read our article Life in a 30-person San Francisco Intentional Community.

The Bay Area (Berkeley, Oakland, San Francisco, Palo Alto, and more) has a strong culture of co-operatives. Its co-operative living movement started decades ago and dates back to the 60s counterculture of the 1960s. In the past 15 years, urban community living options in the Bay Area have increased dramatically.

An article from NPR and another from SFGate seem to paint this movement as purely young techies. From my experience, the socio-economic and occupational background in SF is more diverse.

I have friends in the haight street co-op network who work as a barista, nanny, massage therapist, musician, personal trainer, school teacher, and swim instructor. You do not need to be a young rich professional to live in a San Francisco intentional community. For the lowest rent and cost of living, look for communities that offer shared rooms and shared food plans.

If you are serious about finding community living in San Francisco, the network of communities around Haight Street have formed a non-profit called Haight Street Commons. On their website, you can find a contact list for ten communities in the heart of San Francisco. This includes Agape, The Center, Chateau Ubuntu, Chaortica, The Convent, The Embassy, Manzanita, The Red Vic, and RGB House.

Each community website is linked above and has contact information about how to find housing. The list is diverse. Each experience is different. It’s hard to judge a community online. In order to get a good feel of the place, reach out to the house and tell them how excited you are at the prospect of living in their community. Hopefully, they invite you over for a tour or interview. If you know someone who lives there personally, it helps build credibility and trust.

 

The best ways to make personal connections with the Haight Street Commons community

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What to Ask When Looking for Communal Living

 

How does the community share food?

Each community handles food in different ways. Most communities will have family dinner and the frequency varies. A collective shared food budget is a sustainable model in co-operative living. In Chateau Ubuntu, for example, each member paid $200 a month for food. Some call this the sharing economy. Good thing is, it is usually more affordable and bonds you with your housemates. The community divides labor to shop for all kinds of foods at wholesale prices. You can make day trips to organic farmer’s markets. A lot of food can be delivered in the city, including personal fruit delivery from Fruit Roll Up, a local small business. The group purchasing power of a community allows you to spend less money on groceries and enjoy healthy food.

 

How often are family meetings?

You are about to sign up to become a part of an urban tribe. Make sure you can attend your community’s family meetings. Consistent attendance and participation make the co-living experience better for everyone. If you don’t show up, you are out of the loop. The gatherings can be a fun time, too.

 

Do I have to do chores? How many hours of labor/work are required?

The answer to this question is variable. Some co-ops hire cleaning services and offer convenience. Other communities clean themselves and save money in the process. One novel method to clean exists at Chateau Ubuntu, who have a monthly Sunday morning cleaning party. Regardless of how it’s done, every community has to be cleaned.

 

How long does the average member stay here?

It’s important to know the roommate turnover rate in the community. If you plan to stay in a community for years, look for a place with low turnover. A community with high turnover is not necessarily a bad thing, it just means that you will have to say goodbye to some of your friends along the journey.

 

Has anyone had to leave the co-op involuntarily? How was that handled?

Conflict resolution and group decision-making is huge. The Haight Street Commons community has guidelines in place for conflict resolution, including the option to include an independent mediator.

 

Are there designated silent areas (library, study) or quiet hours?

Everyone needs peace and quiet. It’s nice to have a place to work on your laptop or read a book. Hopefully your co-op has some form of a library or study. A meditation room is nice too! Quiet areas are especially important if you fear that the co-op is too loud or has too many people.

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Anything to add to this guide? Please leave a comment below with any feedback. May your search for community be fruitful.

Written By: Beignet Storey