#2: NYC coliving would look very different than SF

Hi! If you're getting this, you must have signed up for my ~monthly newsletter. I'm one of the cofounders of the Archive coliving house in SF and am taking 1-2 years to do R&D on a coliving community that lasts for a lifetime.

I spent my second month of community R&D exploring New York City with Rose. We both loved it, and hope to be back early next year. We're now visiting our families in Charleston and DC, and will be back in SF in mid-September to live with our friends at Crest.

Some of this month's highlights:

New Yorkers resonate with a different kind of community than San Franciscans. This makes sense when you remember that New York's housing stock consists primarily of shoeboxes. San Franciscans can visualize coliving houses because San Francisco has a decent number of 15-bedroom Victorian mansions. NY is also more normative than SF. Visions that do resonate with New Yorkers: urban social clubs like Soho House, hangout spots for a groups of friends (shoutout to Caffe Reggio and Vital Climbing Gym), and suburban retreats/villages within a short train ride of Manhattan. What these visions share is that they mesh better with the New York social reality: getting out into the city and hanging out at venues instead of friend's houses. Here's a post of another couple dozen differences I observed between the two cities, and here's a map of my favorite spots for reading and writing.

I interviewed CA State Senator and YIMBY hero Scott Wiener about housing policy. We discussed, among several other things, the importance of the middle zoning options that make cohousing possible. Thanks to South Park Commons for arranging this conversation! Video here.

Lots of quality time with other community organizers. It was a fun and generative month, spent mostly with my friends David Litwak (of Maxwell Social Club), Danielle Fong and Jane Dinh (of Haven Villages), Andrew Roberts and Priya Ghose (ambitious soon-to-be parents), Bridget MacAvoy (who wants to build for artists and makers), and Tyler Alterman (who wants to build something like Asimov's Foundation). We also arranged a salon for New Yorkers interested in building community that serves young parents. I came away from the dinner more keen to involve artists in a community: for one, they'd create fun projects for young makers (like kinetic sculptures or art cars), which would serve as a brilliant on-ramp to engineering and other creative careers.

Experimenting with new learning formats. Inexplicably — and despite my total control of my schedule — I found myself having a lot of unproductive meetings. Three of my learning clubs have now been reoriented from goalless recurring meetings (about as enjoyable as a fork in my eye, or Vegemite on my toast) to collaborations that build towards outcomes that I truly care about. In the School for Social Design, Joe Edelman and I wrote up a roadmap for the next few months that puts all my design practice in service of achieving my next three community objectives. Inspired by this, I redesigned the structure of my IFS with my therapist. Now, instead of a weekly meeting regardless of whether I've made progress, we collaboratively develop a self-improvement plan for a particular problem, stay up-to-date with weekly email check-ins, and meet only as I hit milestones or get stuck. Lastly, inspired by Letters to a Young Technologist, Scenius Club has planned a weekend together in SF in mid-November to hang out and write essays. We've redesigned our meetings in service of this destination: we'll record our questions and insights into shared Google Docs, and we'll end each meeting by writing Twitter threads.

Some of the things I've been reading:

  • Things i learned at school that i'm still unlearning. I had a pleasant upbringing and did fine in public school, but it's painfully obvious that my natural curiosity was systematically suppressed when I compare myself to my friends that were successfully homeschooled.
  • ...which pairs well with Chrisman Frank's vision for Synthesis School. In particular I agree with his predictions about the future of education: it's shifting online, this will favor specialist content providers, and that education will come unbundled from daycare. So where will these future daycares be? Community spaces like the ones I'm planning are perfectly suited for the task.
  • ppl on here are always talking abt urban villages and rural homesteads when what they really want is to live in a college town. I too am confused about the collective cultural boner we have for returning to antiquity. Farming is obviously miserable hard work, and college towns are where many people make their lifelong best friends. Other good tweets that take inspiration from college for redesigning adulthood: one, two.
  • The best explanation of narcissism that I've seen. Most people imagine narcissists to be the grandiose type that pronounces their importance, but this is too specific. Narcissists can also be depressed, reclusive, or maniacally happy and generous. The key psychopathology is that they reinforce a particular self-image regardless of its bearing on reality and especially regardless of other people's feelings. Narcissists are also probably a key distinguishing factor between communities and cults (h/t Jessica Alonso and Tristan Claude), so it makes sense to recognize and avoid them.
  • Pocket neighborhoods, as one vision for urban or suburban cohousing. The nice thing about this model is that they can grow organically as houses become available. Bungalow court-style neighborhoods are rare but do exist in both San Francisco and NYC.
  • Processes to go through with your parents before they die, by Daniel Schmactenberger. Seven ideas for helping a loved one end their life with meaning, dignity, and peace. I lost a grandparent this month and this piece helped me articulate to her how she has affected me.

Thanks for reading! I've rounded up other snippets of thinking on my website, if you're curious. In other news, I just corrected Rose on the Chinese pronunciation of Lao Gan Ma, and this is undeniably my crowning achievement since quitting.

Warmly, from Charleston,

— Jason

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