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This website reminds sometimes of when I lived in a co-op in college.  

UC Berkeley has one of the largest student owned and student operated co op systems in the country.

There are seventeen houses and three apartment cooperatives.  I lived in both a house and an apartment cooperative.  These are 100% student run and not affiliated with the university.  It is a low cost housing alternative in a very expensive real estate market.  Houses range in size from very small to very large.  All are run by the rules of house and these rules are determined by the members.  Each member of the house is expected to contribute both financially as well as work shifts every week in the house.  Work shifts are anything from cleaning, cooking, shopping, social events etc...

I lived in one of the larger houses.  I decided on co-op living because I was poor, poor, poor and it was a cost effective alternative to an apartment.  My house allowed both Cal students and outsiders.  Here are my observations.

My co-op was like this website.  A big tent of people living together for different and common reasons.  The main reason:  It was cheap.  The secondary reason:  We all had some vague idea that we believed in "community living".

The people that lived in the house were a hodge podge of people.  There were hippies, drug dealers, students, weirdo's, nudists, young professionals etc.  We would have meetings once a month to discuss everything from house rules, upcoming parties, the grocery list and most importantly rants.  Everything was voted on and everyone got an equal say in the house.  In order to be a member of the house, you had to dedicate at least 10 hours a week to house duties.  Our monthly meeting remind me a Daily Kos.

One of the most contentious issues was the grocery list.  Feeding over 200 people is a mighty big task.  Catering to every single person's taste and preferences was a difficult task.  

We had vegetarians, meat eaters, organic only, people who won't eat x because they were protesting the company, people who didn't care, people allergic to stuff and finally people who just like to whine and bitch about everything.  

All of this operated in the limited budget that we had...the only money that we had to work with was the money that each of us paid every month to the house.  X was budged for the grocery list and we really could not spend more than that.

Every freaking meeting was a fight.  Why can't we buy (insert some expensive brand) rather than generic x?  Why are we buying meat?  Don't you understand that the animal killer industry is a front to my morals.  I'm protesting x company.  How dare you buy from them?  Sell-out!!!  Fractions would rally together (see one vote per member) to try influence the grocery list.  

There were those of us who were pragmatics...we viewed everything through a budget.  If we buy x, we can also buy a,b,c.  There were the idealist that fought long and hard for their principals.  There were those that did not give a crap and basically voted depending on how the wind was blowing.

In the end, we all got feed.  Those on the pragmatic side made sure that we always had food.  Those of the idealism side made sure that we were eating ethically (within reason).  Both sides needed each other.

There was no right or wrong answer to our problems.  We needed to work together and we needed to listen to each other.  There were flame outs, rants, people walking out of meetings but cooler heads always prevailed.  Those that were able to calmly state their opinions without hyperbole or dismissal of the other side were always welcomed and listened to.  Our louder members may have been more vocal but they weren't more efficient.  Those that were unwilling to compromise or listen to an opposing view were quickly ignored.  

That time reminds me of this site.

Originally posted to sideboth on Wed Mar 12, 2014 at 07:26 PM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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