NOVATO (KPIX) — A group of people living in Novato tired of not really knowing their neighbors is creating a new type of housing development that encourages friendliness and interaction.

As they push open the gate, Judy Slater and Elina Coulter are taking their first steps onto the property they hope to call home. The vacant lot on C Street in Novato — a former military site and gas station — is set to become “C Street Village,” a new neighborhood with the emphasis on “neighbor.”

“When you look for a house, you might be looking for a house that you love. But what people forget is to look for neighbors that they get along with,” said Coulter.

C Street Village co-founder Slater says most homes these days are designed for privacy.

“People drive into their driveway, pull their car into the garage, close the door and they don’t know their neighbors,” explained Slater.

That won’t happen at the C Street project, because parking will be on the outside edge of the development. Residents will pass through a community clubhouse and travel down common walkways to get to their privately-owned, single-family homes.

But there will also be a shared laundry room, children’s play area and barbecue patio. In the clubhouse, community meals will be available most evenings.

“We call it ‘committed neighborliness,'” said Slater. “It’s a community that shares values and wants to bring back the neighborhood.”

The C Street Village will be patterned after a Danish building concept called “co-housing.” It’s already catching on in Bay Area towns like Cotati, Pleasant Hill, Emeryville and Berkeley.

C Street’s project manager John Caye says every aspect of the development will be designed to encourage daily interaction between homeowners.

“This hectic, crazy lifestyle we have,” Caye said. “It’s just so hard to fit in time for relationships. And so, if you can design your community to facilitate interaction, that’s the win-win.”

About 14 households have committed to the village. That’s about half of what they need, so they are looking for others to join the project, especially like-minded home seekers with children.

“We’re looking for families that want to raise their children and don’t mind having other people interfere or participate in the raising of their children,” Slater said. “We want to have a lot of aunties and uncles and grandparents.”

Co-housing might not be for everyone, but organizers say that’s OK, because the people who commit to living at C Street Village will do so by choice.  And they will be creating the kind of neighborhood they want from the ground up.

The land has been approved for construction and the project should take about two years to build. Interested parties can get more information on the C Street Village website.


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