Pleasant Hill Cohousing
(Central Contra Costa County, California)

Community Life

Our Vision and Community Framework

The original core group consensed to this Vision for our community: "To create and live in a community that fosters harmony with each other, the larger community, and nature."

Over the years, we realized we needed a clearer statement of our shared values and how we want to live together, so we initiated an extensive process of discussion which culminated in 2014 with the adoption of our Vision and Community Framework.

Community Expectations

Community members are expected to do the following, to the best of their ability:

  1. Actively serve on at least one committee (attend meetings and work on committee projects).
  2. Attend community business meetings.
  3. Fulfill work commitment (work 4 hours per month). There are work parties scheduled monthly, or members can work individually from a list of tasks that need to get done, mostly landscaping, cleaning the Common House, or doing minor repairs. There is a buyout system at the rate of $20 per hour.
  4. Participate in the common meal system by cooking or cleaning once per rotation (a rotation is approximately 3 weeks).
  5. Commit to using consensus as a decision-making process (when appropriate).
  6. Commit to addressing community disputes through mediation.

Common Meals

Thanksgiving dinner

Our goal is to have common meals twice a week, using a 2 person cook team and 2 person cleanup team for each meal. The menu and day are cook's choice. Usually there is a vegetarian or vegan option, and some child-friendly food. We have enjoyed meals ranging from a Nepalese curry dinner to make-your-own burritos. We also have a potluck on Sunday evening. Additionally, we have had special common meals or potlucks to celebrate seasonal festivals such as Cinco de Mayo, Thanksgiving, Hannukah, Day of the Dead, Deepavali (Indian festival of lights), Christmas, and others.


Committes are an essential part of living in community. Work done by committees saves everyone having to get together to discuss or decide specific issues. All members are expected to actively serve on at least one committee. Committee work is also an opportunity to deepen relationships with other community members.

We have the following "standing committees." When needed, we also create ad-hoc committees to do particular tasks such as getting the second bike shed built or researching new lights for the pathways.

  • Architectural Resource Committee (ARC)
  • Bike Shed Committee
  • Cold Water Team
  • Common House Committee
  • Connection and Conflict Resolution Team (CCRT)
  • Crafts Room Committee
  • Decision Log Point Person
  • Emergency Preparedness Committee
  • Executive Committee (ExCom)*
  • Facilitation Team
  • Financial Advisory Team (FAT) & Bookkeeper
  • Food/Common Meals Committee
  • Garden Committee
  • Green Committee
  • Home Buyers and Sellers Ensemble (HomeBASE)
  • Hot Water Team
  • Kids Committee
  • Landscape Committee
  • Maintenance Committee (MC) & Designated Coordinators (DC)
  • Outreach Committee
  • Pool Committee
  • Risk Management Team (RMT)
  • Social Committee
  • Wiki Committee
  • Workshop Committee

*Executive Committee - The Executive Committee (ExCom) is elected each year and includes the legally mandated HOA officers (President, Secretary, Treasurer, etc.) plus a few additional positions.

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Business Meetings

Business Meeting
Business Meeting

We have business meetings once a month. We vary the day and time in an effort to accommodate people's work and family schedules. Currently, we alternate between Saturday morning and Sunday afternoon. The schedule and agenda are set by the Executive Committee. Meetings go for 2 hours and rarely go overtime. Each meeting has a facilitator. Other jobs during the meeting are: notetaker, card coordinator, timer, child care coordinator, and vibes watcher.

Consensus Decision-Making

Like most other cohousing communities, we decided early on that we wanted to make our decisions by consensus. Consensus is based on the belief that each person has some part of the truth and that no one has all of it. It is based on a respect for all persons involved in the decision being considered. If a proposal makes a few people, even one person, deeply unhappy, then there is a valid reason for that unhappiness, and if we ignore it, we are likely to make a mistake. Making decisions by consensus means that all members either agree to the proposal or agree not to contest moving forward with the proposal. We also have an alternative decision-making procedure that would come into play if consensus cannot be reached after a number of attempts and/or there is a crucial deadline, but we have used it only rarely. Read more about consensus: "Basics of Consensus" by Rob Sandelin.

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Use of Colored Cards

During our meetings, we use colored cards. Each member has a set of seven different-colored cards. The cards are a useful way for members to communicate their stance when we are in the process of seeking consensus. The reverse side of the card is often used during discussions, although at some meetings, at the facilitator's discretion, we sometimes don't use the cards during discussion. When we do use cards during discussion, one must first put up a colored card and wait to be called on before speaking on an issue. We've found that this system really helps keep the meeting flowing smoothly.

Card Color For consensus, it means: For discussions, it means:
Green "I agree with the decision at hand." "I have a comment or opinion."
Blue "I am neutral about the decision or at least find it acceptable." "I need clarification. I have a question."
Yellow "I am unsure or unclear; I will explain why." "I can provide clarification."
Orange "I have a serious reservation about this decision, I will explain why and I will not block consensus." "I have a process observation: (1) The group is stuck, I want to acknowledge another person's concern which has not been acknowledged and then have it posted for all to see." (2) I want to show gratitude for the good job somebody has done."
Purple NA Emotion card, which members can hold up any time to express that they are having a fairly intense emotional reaction to what's going on; then the facilitator or anyone can ask them to speak right away.
White NA Card that is held up to show you agree with what someone just said (so you don't have to repeat what they said). This will also give the group an idea of how many people have the same opinion without each one having to speak.
Red "I am definitely opposed; I block consensus." [because there would be harm to the community if the decision passed]
More about Blocking: "The Special Place of Blocking in Consensus" by Tree Bressen
"STOP I have a process observation: (1) We need a straw poll, a call for consensus, a vote. (2) We need to refocus, note that the discussion is off agenda."

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Having Fun Together

Memorial Day Camping Trip

Fun! Isn't that why we're here? Yes, we do find time to have fun together. Some activities we enjoy are: birthday parties, dances, barbeques, yoga classes, video nights, Friday night discussion forums, bridge/game nights, camping trips, soaking in the hot tub, swimming and playing in the pool (the kids are especially fond of that one), and lots of impromptu get togethers. Check out our Photo Gallery to see some examples.


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