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Jack Kerouac’s boarding-house now co-living for creatives

In 1953 Jack Kerouac stayed here for part of the spring, but when Sara McEre bought the former 19th-century boarding house in San Luis Obispo (CA), it was rundown. Instead of converting it to apartments for a profit, she turned it into a communal living residence for 19 like-minded individuals. Having lost her 19-year-old son she had lost 3 months prior, she wanted to create the kind of place he would have liked, with the people she liked.

Today, “The Establishment” is one of the country’s longest-running coliving sites. With 4 refrigerators, two stoves, 19 bedrooms (many with private sinks), a living room, a porch, a vegetable garden, 4 bathrooms, and one outdoor bathtub/shower, there is plenty to be shared, including cleanup (the chores board assigns a weekly task to each resident).

It’s run as a democracy- new members are voted in- and while there is no bigger philosophy behind the place, everyone strives to live in community. While each resident has their own fridge and pantry space and cooks their own food, often meals are shared (usually around a themed dinner). To stimulate conversation and bonding, cell phone use is forbidden in the communal areas and board games are plentiful and well used.

Rent for a room is around $600/month in a town where the average rent is over $2000/month. In a gentrified college town like San Luis Obispo, the Establishment is one of the last places where artists can still find a safe haven.

Sixty-year-old Mark Grayson first heard about the place while living down the street in 1992 and finally moved in four years ago. Cardiac surgery and the need to isolate post-surgery due to Covid-19 forced him to move out this year despite having found a real home here. “Prior to the surgery I had planned on living out my life here, like riding into the sunset, and that all changed… You hear people talk about bonding, friendships here that last lifetimes. Such an abundance of lifetime friendships here and that doesn’t happen when you live 2 blocks away in an apartment by yourself. I miss it so much.”