February 4th, 2020

Welcome to the Puyallup Cohousing interest list! 

This (long) email is going out (as Bcc) to 42 of you who I have spoken with or expressed interest in Puyallup Cohousing as of February 2020.  I’m planning on an informational email twice a month, likely before and after each of my monthly trips to Puyallup from California.  In the interest of privacy, I will refrain from naming most names and just refer to positions or organizations in the text.  For those of you who I spoke with in the last two weeks, please accept my apologies in advance if I’ve misrepresented anything in the text below and let me know how to improve.

If you know any friends that you think might be interested in Puyallup cohousing, just direct them to the website at puyallupcohousing.org to fill out the contact form. This is my first shot at a big distribution list and I don’t mean to spam your email box; If you ever want me to take you off the cc list, just let me know.

Right now, I’m planning on using these emails as the basis for a FAQ/blog section on the website as it evolves. 

FAQ 1: What’s happened so far leading up to the January trip to Puyallup?
Nov 3-4, 2019: Mike and Chuck Visit Puyallup/Pierce County
Dec 31: Chuck Durrett’s feasibility study delivered
Jan 11, 2020: puyallupcohousing.org Website goes live
Jan 15: Business cards and printed ‘leave-behind’ flyers arrive from the printers
Jan 18: Attended Nevada City premier of John de Graaf’s cohousing film The Best of Both Worlds at the Wild and Scenic Film Festival
Jan 19: Leave California for Puyallup Visit #1

Random Commentary: Why is a “voyage of discovery” similar to gardening?

My goal is clear enough: My vision is for one or more cohousing communities to serve as long term stewards for the farmland.  I’m planning on my activities this year being focused on causing at least one core group to spring into existence that is willing to support this. 

I’m thinking that a core group of locals having potlucks to dream about “what could be” while they go around town to educate/recruit the local community is an essential part of the community building that needs to take place over the next year. 

The “how” to achieve the formation of a core group is substantially less obvious to me. I’m feel that I’m on a voyage of discovery, not knowing how best to influence the creation a such a core group.  My sense is that voyages of discovery, whether undertaken by luminaries such as Charles Darwin, Lewis and Clark, or hackers such as myself share at least one similar characteristic: namely, the path foreword is unclear…  That, of course, doesn’t stop virtually everyone that I know from offering THEIR advice on how to proceed!!

In the end, I’ve likened this first “voyage” to my springtime vegetable garden activities, i.e. bumbling around the Puyallup area planting the seeds of Cohousing wherever I can find people patient enough to listen to my (somewhat awkward but getting better) elevator speech.  AND listening to their suggestions as to where to go and what to do next.  And then waiting for the harvest!

FAQ 2: What happened during the first Puyallup trip?
Jan 20: Arrive in Puyallup 
Jan 20 - Feb 1: Exploration
Feb 2: Return to California

FAQ 3: OK, so what happened during the ‘exploration’?
I was interested in exploring several different areas during this first visit:

  1. What’s going on regarding development in the area around the farm?
    Chuck Durrett’s feasibility study suggested that there might be issues regarding road access to the property and sewer/septic questions.  I contacted City of Puyallup Engineering, the local water utility, as well as builders and property owners on adjacent properties.  (Chuck and I had previously contacted the Pierce County Engineering group back in November )  Nobody is willing to commit anything in writing without a formal application of course, but the sense I got is that development of cohousing on the site is doable.

  2. What sorts of physical spaces are available for meetings/SG1/talks/movie showings?
    Quite a few actually.  Some free, some paid, some big, some small, some provide publicity, some don’t, some allow commercial activity, some don’t, some are only open weekdays, etc.   I met with representatives from the Puyallup Library, Puyallup Senior Activity Center, other nearby Senior Centers, the Tacoma Unitarian Universalist Church, and the Germaine Korum Center/Step by Step.  My sense is that using John de Graaf’s movie ‘The Best of Both Worlds’ as an educational tool and introduction for those in the community who are unfamiliar with cohousing is the way to go, just as a similar film galvanized the Danish cohousing movement many years ago.  I’ve contacted the movie’s distributor, BullfrogFilms, to license an official copy that I could use to show to interested groups.  The film is so new that they’re not quite ready to license for another 10 days or so, but indicated that there would be no problems.

  3. What resources are already in place for Seniors in the Puyallup area?
    This was a MOST PLEASANT SURPRISE!  In 2016, Puyallup became the first city in the state of Washington to receive an AARP/World Health Organization “Age-Friendly City” designation! (MORE INFO)! Puyallup has an excellent Senior Activity Center and the Supervisor was both very interested in the possibility of a senior cohousing community and a wonderful resource.  In particular, he directed me to attend a meeting of the Puyallup City Council where a draft presentation of Puyallup’s plan in support of the “Age-Friendly City” designation was on the agenda.  There was unanimous support from the council! A further reference was to the Puyallup Area Aging in Community Committee which is sponsoring ‘Aging EXPO 2020’ at a local community college on May 2nd.

  4. What sorts of networking opportunities exist?
    Lots.  Chuck started things by a mailing to his contact list.  Quimper Village was kind enough to include a short paragraph about Puyallup Cohousing in their newsletter.  The Puyallup/Sumner Chamber of Commerce has a weekly breakfast social where I was able to give a short intro to the cohousing project to ~35 people.  That meeting led to both; 1) an impromptu showing of the movie that afternoon, and 2) a meeting with a Tiny Home advocate who was VERY knowledgeable about housing and land use rules in Puyallup.  Those meetings led to information about another much larger networking group called ‘Ignite U’.  Time conflicts prevented me from attending Ignite U this trip, but I will plan on going next time.

  5. Site tours of the farm.
    I gave two small tours of the farm and surrounding area both Saturdays that I was in town.  My plan will be to offer at least one tour every weekend that I’m in town each month.  For those of you who know the location, please don’t tour the site without prior permission from me as the existing farmhouse is rented and the fields are currently being worked by a farmer.  Please respect their interests.  Neither the tenant or the farmer would appreciate random folks showing up unescorted.

FAQ 4:  Generically: “What is your vision for Puyallup cohousing?”
This came in many forms from people that used the contact form on the website: Do you want a commune?  Tiny Homes? How much will it cost? Do you want to use alternative methods of construction? How ‘bout straw bale? Earthbags? How big will the units be?  etc.  My answer is simple: “It’s too soon to know…”.

My vision is for one or more cohousing communities to serve as long term stewards for the farmland.  I’m planning on my activities this year being focused on causing at least one core group to spring into existence that is willing to support this.  That’s it.

Beyond that, I will be walking the fine line of being very active in influencing the creation of the core group, and hoping that I can then back off and NOT make this a version of a developer led  “Mike’s project”.  Time will tell.  I’m hoping that in the next several months at least one core group will form, grow, and develop the necessary skills to take the lead in the determination of what the details of the community should be, working with whatever advisors and resources the core group deems to be appropriate.

March plans:

  1. Plan the second trip for early March - firm up dates by mid-Feb
  2. Obtain a licensed copy of “The Best of Both Worlds” from the distributor BullfrogFilms.org
  3. Arrange in advance for showings while I’m in the area
  4. Contact other existing NW cohousing communities to see if they have any email lists 
  5. Site tours for interested parties
  6. Follow up on the various leads and suggestions from the first trip
  7. Be a sponsor to a Balkan Dance festival in Seattle Mar 7th (I’m a longtime Balkan dancer)
  8. Attend Ignite U networking meetings
  9. Investigate participating in ‘Aging EXPO 2020’
  10. and probably more….

Mike Slama