On May 12th, Fremont Planning Commission voted unanimously to approve plans for Mission Peak Village, a 32-unit owner-driven development of private condominiums opening onto 10,000 square-feet of outdoor common open space area with a play area, community garden, picnic tables, and landscaped central courtyard. Also in the approved plan is approximately 5,000 square feet of indoor community space with a great room, living room, exercise studio, work hub, offices, multipurpose spaces, and a roof deck. Located on High Street in the Irvington district of Fremont, Mission Peak Village will be the first cohousing community in Southern Alameda County.
Commissioner Benjamin Yee mentioned that he had prepared for the decision by seeking out residents at longstanding cohousing communities in Sacramento and Colorado to see how well the concept holds up two or three decades later. “It’s a great way to be one big family,” he concluded. “There’s no downside; it’s all upside.”
Commission Chair Charles Haiyun Liu noted that the community will create an environment in which people can help each other and have a sense of community. “This is a wonderful project,” he said. “I love it!”
Commissioner Shobana Ramamurthi was particularly interested in the three condominiums in the project that will be made available for sale to families with incomes at or below 50% of Area Median Income. Upon assurance that the units would be no different from other units in the development, she said, “This is what we want to see in our city. It is an honor to be voting for it.”
Her colleague, Yonggang Zhang agreed. He said he appreciated this perspective of housing and thought it could serve as a model for others.
A housing model first popularized in Denmark, cohousing communities already exist in an estimated 200 locations across the United States, with more than 20 established or forming communities in the Bay Area.
“The distinctive aspect of cohousing,” founding Mission Peak member Jane Mueller told commissioners, “is that these developments are funded and driven by the people who will live in them. That means that we, the future owners of these homes, are putting up the money for pre-development and playing an active role in design. We simply couldn’t find anything being built today that makes it so easy for neighbors to become friends.”
In its report to the commission, Fremont planning staff pointed out that the proposal conplies with key residential development standards:
Development of an infill site that is in close proximity to schools, the Irvington Farmers Market, commercial services, and transit.
Proximity to existing public facilities including streets, sewer and water. As an infill project with compatible surrounding uses, there would be minimal impact on public services, adjacent properties and the natural environment.
Placement of a new multi-family residential development in close proximity to goods, services, and both existing and planned transit, thereby promoting walking and a reduction of personal vehicle trips.
“We intend to choose one of the three-bedroom, two-bath flats,” says Evelyn LaTorre, who joined Mission Peak Village early in its formation. “We love the idea of living in a new single-level home with reduced maintenance demands while staying in the Bay Area near our friends. I like that we can step just outside the door and meet up with someone for a stroll to get groceries or a brisk walk around Lake Elizabeth.”
“My wife and I look forward to living in a place where we will already know the neighbors on day one,” points out Dick Pantages. “It removes some of the uncertainty for an introvert like me. We will continue working together on our plans till move-in day, and our new neighbors will already be friends.”
About Mission Peak Village, LLC
Initially formed in 2014, Mission Peak Village is a group of people interested in buying homes in the development upon its completion. They organized specifically to purchase a site on which create a cohousing community in the City of Fremont. Many of the group members have lived in Fremont for decades and have been employed by and volunteered in local organizations. Members include a diverse group of individuals who range in age from elementary school students to active retirees. Several are former Peace Corps volunteers. Most have had leadership roles in non-profits such as Abode Services, League of Women Voters, AAUW, Rotary Club, and Tri-City Ecology Center.
There are at least 22 established or forming cohousing communities in the Bay Area. Environmental sustainability is a core value in these neighborhoods with smaller homes, green building attributes and renewable energy systems made possible by combined efforts and shared resources. On-site activities and companionship enable residents to socialize close to home. Mission Peak Village will be located within an existing neighborhood near public transportation and the future Irvington BART station, helping to decrease dependence on the car.
Mission Peak Village has allied itself with people who have extensive experience in housing and in cohousing development:
Kathryn McCamant, Mission Peak Village’s cohousing advisor, was half of the partnership that introduced the cohousing concept to North America from Denmark 30+ years ago. Her firm, CoHousing Solutions, is essential in transforming the project from aspiration to reality.
Gunkel Architecture created a design that reflects the standards of the future buyers. Brad Gunkel, heading the team, has years of experience not only in designing cohousing but living in it.
Urban Development + Partners is an experienced cohousing developer and Mission Peak Village’s partner through each aspect of the development process, including finance, construction, and project management.
The group actively seeks and welcomes diversity in its membership, including all ages. Additional memberships are still available. More information is available at the Mission Peak Village website: missionpeakcohousing.org