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LA ecovillage: self-reliance in car-free urban homestead

In urban Los Angeles, about 3 miles west of downtown, 500 people live on 11 acres priority is given to bicycles, fruit trees, greywater, veggie gardens, clotheslines, compost, shared spaces (tool shop, art space, bike shop), micro-businesses, on-site natural food coop and chickens.

The Los Angeles Ecovillage was launched over 2 decades when its founders looked to the neighborhood for inspiration. “The way in which we think about making an urban ecovillage, we have to ask ourselves the questions, ‘what are the problems in your neighborhood with air, soil and water’”, explains co-founder Lois Arkin. “And for us, in the beginning, it was discovering that the children in our neighborhood had 20% less lung capacity than children in other neighborhoods. So what could we do, we could stop driving.”

Today, rents in this intentional community are a third to half lower than market rates. Residents are “shareholders” so they don’t own a specific unit, but rather a portion of the building. As long-time resident Somerset Waters explains, “I moved in 2003, single, moved into a single, I proposed to Risha and she moved in and we got a larger unit. And now here we are in one of the larger one bedrooms because we have a third. That’s possible because unlike a condo, we don’t own the actual condo, we own shares. For example we just bought the building across the street and those are 2 bedrooms so if we have a second child, that might be somewhere we want to move to.”

* Filmed by Johnny Sanphillippo, owner of a small, mortgage-free home. He also films stories about urbanism, adaptation and resilience for his site Granola Shotgun.