San Mateo Ecovillage Community Charter

 

Mission Statement

San Mateo Ecovillage Community is a home for people committed to healthier more sustainable lives. We share organic gardening, eating, playing, inspiration and a value for social justice. We recognize the interconnectedness of all things and live consciously to honor and build those relationships: the land to our bodies, our bodies to our community, our community to the larger world, the larger world to the land.

Practical Overview

We are a community in two 4 unit apartment buildings. One building has been owned since 1989 by one family who founded the community and are current residents and members. The other units have historically been rented to others, but are now available to be shared by co-owners with a TIC agreement. A second building was purchased July 2005 and will also be set up with a TIC agreement for shared ownership.

We follow the basic Co-Housing model of individual households with some common spaces shared between all households.

We have historically had dinners and meetings once a week and shared responsibility for specific chores, including the care of our organic gardens. At a minimum, these commitments will continue in the future.

Operations

Community Membership

We define a "member of the community" as someone who accepts, in writing, all the responsibilities, benefits, and challenges of this charter, and who fulfills all related obligations to the satisfaction of the community.

Joining the Community

A person begins the process of "joining" the community when one of four things occur:

A. A unit is available and a "family" wishes to co-own in the ecovillage and meets all the legal and financial requirement of a Tenants in Common (TIC) Agreement and meets approval of current owners.

B. An entire rental unit becomes available and a party wishes to rent it; the landlords are satisfied that the individual can meet the commitments of their landlord-tenant agreement.

C. There is space available for that person in an existing rental unit; others in that unit wish to offer the space to the individual; the landlords are satisfied that the individual can meet the commitments of their landlord-tenant agreement.

D. Someone from the surrounding neighborhood, who already has a nearby place to live, wishes to become part of the community.

June 2005 - NOTE : Portions of the Charter which are in Italics have not been edited since community began reformation to reflect owners and TIC agreements. These portions will be recreated by the new group that forms as the San Mateo Ecovillage Community. At the time of signing the charter, these sections can be omitted.

Items not in italics, particularly sections entitled "Community Requirements" and "Shared Values" should be considered the very basis of the formation of this community and other than minor edits for clarification should pretty well be considered as clear expectations. If these values do not resonate wtih you, this is not the right place for you. As it says it my advertisements for the community, "we do not want to tell people how to live so will not try to convert anyone to our lifestyle, we are looking to share with folks who already do."

November 2006 NOTE: slight editing done for clarity in conscious consumerism section, political activism secion, links added, added two additional statements under subheading of Health and safety after conversation with potential co-owners; no other substantial change in content.

Note: This charter was worked on in committee for three months beginning January 2002 and then brought to the community for input and modification. Consensus was reached by the whole group in August 2002. Charter revised March 2005-June 2005 by small committee of co-owners and potential co-owners.

The following steps must take place for a candidate to join as a renter or extended community member:

1. Candidate must talk with a small committee of community members in case (A) or (B), and with potential apartment-mates in case (C). Members involved in this meeting will screen for basic community fit, and tentatively approve the candidate to continue.

2. The candidate must attend a community meeting and dinner where the community is given the opportunity to ask them questions and vice versa. The essential questions we are trying to answer about a prospective member are, "Will this person live in accordance with our charter? Will we and they benefit from them joining us?"

3. A community vote at a meeting with quorum is held to decide if the candidate can join, requiring the following for the vote to pass: (a) approval from all apartment-mates in case (C), (b) approval from all community members financially responsible for the unit, and (c) approval of four-fifths of all community members who vote.

4. The candidate must agree to and sign a copy of the charter; they must also sign a rental agreement if they are to be renting from existing community members or owners.

5. The new member will participate in a 3 three week orientation including such topics as consensus andcommunication skills, shared values, and community culture and history.

The following steps must take place for a candidate to join as a co-owner/member-owner:

1. Candidate must talk with, a small committee of community members. Members involved in this meeting will screen for basic community fit, and tentatively approve the candidate to continue.

2. The candidate must attend a community meeting and dinner where the community is given the opportunity to ask them questions and vice versa. The essential questions we are trying to answer about a prospective member are, "Will this person live in accordance with our charter? Will we and they benefit from them joining us?"

3. The potential new member will participate in a 3 month orientation including such topics as consensus and communication skills, shared values, and community culture and history. Alternately, the potential co-owner can start living in the community as a renter giving all parties an opportunity to experience if it is a good fit.

4. After existing member-owners feel the "family" has met financial requirements for participating in TIC, a community vote at a meeting with quorum of community members who are also member-owners is held to decide if the candidate can join, requiring the following for the vote to pass:

5. The candidate must agree to and sign a copy of the charter.

6. The new community member has read the TIC agreement and is financially, emotionally, and responsibily able to commit to all legal requirements of such an agreement.

 

Community Requirements - "What We Are Accountable For"

Each member agrees to participate in the following ways to the best of their ability:

1. Shared Values

Commitment to the mission, values and procedures of the community as expressed in the Charter. See additional statement of shared values in Appendix 1.

2. Gardening

Contribute to our garden in some way each week in order to build a relationship with the land and our food.

3. Weekly Dinners & Meetings

Attend our weekly dinner and meeting.

4. Shared Cooking

Cook dinner for the community once per rotation. Two people cook together (approximately) once every other month. Weekly dinners and other community meals are vegetarian with occasional seafood. (On some occassions, a potluck will be held in lieu of the above.)

5. Shared Work

Put our time and energy into the work necessary to make our community thrive ­ each of us manifesting a generous presence in our own way. We anticipate each adult community member spending approximately 12 hours a month on community work.

6. Decision-Making Process

Demonstrate some knowledge about the consensus process within three months of obtaining full membership.

7. Shared Expenses

Pay monthly dues to cover agreed upon expenses. (Additional shared expenses in TIC agreement for member-owners.)

8. Honest & Respectful Communication ­

Willingness to communicate responsibly and to earnestly seek a positive resolution to conflict

9 Drug Free Home

No on-premises use of tobacco or illegal drugs

10. Rental Agreement

If one rents to or from a member of the community, adherence to any landlord-tenant agreements laid out in one's lease

 

Resolving Conflicts - "How We Are Accountable To Each Other"

1. We each consider the above agreements before deciding to live here, and strive to keep them for ourselves.

2. We encourage and invite each other to participate actively in the above ways.

3. If someone is breaking community agreements, any member can raise the issue with that person or bring the issue to the Accountability Committee, which will endeavor to bring the issue to a positive resolution. (People are encouraged to consider whether an issue is best resolved through the committee or through direct 1-on-1 communication.)

We have a standing accountability committee whose purpose it is to evaluate and resolve issues of community participation. Anyone can bring an issue to the accountability committee. The goal of this committee is to help people to succeed within the community and to find creative solutions to issues of community membership. Powers of the committee include:

A. Offer specific actions and interventions (within specific time frames) by which to improve one's standing within the community.

B. Evaluate effectiveness of previously mentioned actions and interventions and determine the future course of action. During this time, the committee is required to solicit input from any and all interested community members.

C. Issue warnings pertaining to any requirement from (1) to (9) to resolve an issue or leave the community by a specified date

D. Recommend to the community that we terminate someone's membership in the community because of problems pertaining to any requirement from (1) to (9). The recommendation will require consensus -1 within the committee and is reached only after interventions are evaluated after the specific time frame (ideally one month). The community vote to terminate membership requires quorum and a four-fifths majority to pass.

The accountability committee will be composed of no less than six members, one member from each household, chosen by that house. If no one in a given house is interested or able to participate, that seat will be filled by community vote. In the event that an issue regarding a member of the committee's community membership is raised with the committee, that person will step down from the committee for the purpose of their own review, and that person's apartment will have the right to temporarily appoint someone else.

Note, one can be evicted and removed from the community in one of only two ways: (1) Eviction by landlord for breaking the conditions of one's rental agreement, or (2) Removal from the community by community vote as described in step (D) above for consistent breaking of the community agreements outlined in this charter, followed, where applicable, by eviction by landlord with support of the community, as per one's rental agreement.

If a member-landlord issues an eviction notice to a member, that member's membership is immediately suspended. By the next community meeting, the community must review the suspension and decide upon it. A four-fifths majority vote is required for the suspension to remain in effect until the landlord-tenant dispute is resolved.

If one is removed or suspended from the community, whether by eviction or community vote, the former member is no longer allowed in common spaces unless invited by the community with consensus ­1 approval.


Decision-making

Scope

We make decisions together pertaining to our shared activities and our commitments to the community, with certain exceptions named below to acknowledge the specific needs of member-owners.

Processes

1. The main decision-making process we use is consensus, which for this community is defined to mean that every member present for the making of the decision agree to the decision, or at least agree not to block it.

2. New members have the right to contribute to a block against consensus after completing a 3 week orientation process and participating in three weekly meetings. We are still required to seek agreement from members who do not yet have the right to block.

3. The community can consensus to delegate authority. This consensus includes approval of who is on the committee. We seek to delegate decisions unless those decisions are likely to impact all members significantly.

4. The community can also empower a committee to make proposals on specified issues. We should seek consensus to empower a committee to make proposals, but if consensus is not achieved, the vote of at least two-thirds of members present at a meeting is sufficient to empower a committee to make proposals.

Member-Owners

1. If a decision has significant financial or legal impact specific to member-owners, the decision is made by these member-owners, and not by the whole community. Consensus amongst those member-owners partaking in such decisions is required.

2. It is recognized that decisions made by member-owners can affect other members. Member-owners will consult members likely to be effected and will consider their input in making these decisions.

Details on Committees

1. Committees will use consensus as its own decision making process, unless the committee decides otherwise or unless otherwise stated for specific committees elsewhere in this Charter.

 

When Decisions Can be Made, and Quorum for Decisions

1. Decisions in which the whole community is involved are made at scheduled meetings.

2. Decisions made for the community by smaller groups are made at scheduled meetings of these groups. Proposals made to the community by smaller groups should be approved at scheduled meetings of these groups whenever possible.

3. Decisions require that everyone entitled to attend the meeting be notified, and that at least two-thirds of members (or committee members in the case of committees) be present at the meeting.

4. On important and sensitive decisions committees are encouraged to gather input from any effected parties.

 

Logging Decisions

1. Decisions need to be included in the minutes of meetings at which they are made or announced.

2. Minutes recording these decisions must be archived for a long but reasonable amount of time.


Amending this Charter

Proposing an Amendment

1. An amendment is formally proposed by making it an agenda item at a community meeting.

2. The proposal must be written.

3. At the time of proposal, the proposal can be briefly explained, and only clarifying questions can be asked, unless the facilitators of the meeting decide otherwise.

4. A vote is then taken to decide if the amendment will be considered at a later meeting, or discarded immediately. At least two-thirds of members present must vote in favor for the amendment to be raised and decided upon at a future meeting.

5. If we vote to discuss the amendment, it must be decided at which community meeting the amendment will be next discussed. It must be scheduled for a meeting that the member-founders will attend.

6. Both the amendment and the schedule to discuss it must be made part of the minutes.

7. It is not an option to ratify the amendment at the meeting at which it is formally proposed.

 

Ratifying an Amendment

1. When the amendment is considered for ratification, ample time must be scheduled for discussion.

2. The amendment becomes part of the charter if there is unanimous approval amongst member-owners, and consensus -1 amongst all remaining members.

 

 

 


Appendix 1: Shared Values

Sustainability and Conscious consumerism

Organic Local Food

Conscious Consumerism

Social and Political Activism

Spirituality and/or Personal Growth

Health and Safety

Sharing time in the garden and at the dinner table with the people we live with and finding other opportunities for sharing which increases feeling of community and support

 

Background image and house/face graphic created by Patty Mara Gourley from Tierra Nueva Cohousing in Oceano, CA

A few links to relevant web sites. Some others can be founded on one of the founder's home page (http://www.greensolutions.org) and to the website that she created for the Unitarian Universalists of San Mateo-Social Action Committee (This list needs to be updated...it is several years old.)

California Green Party 
Co-op America
Damanhur
Death Penalty Focus
Find/Replace by Alan AtKisson
Global Ecovillage Network -What is an Ecovillage?
Global Exchange
New Dimensions Radio
Non-violent Communication
Re-evaluation Counseling
Sustainability Institute
Sustainable San Mateo County
Sustainability 101
Thich Nhat Han (no specific spiritual path is being advocated.)
True Majority
Working for Change