Last updated: September 29, 2014 (2 months ago)
Listing created on: May 31, 2009

San Francisco Backyard Neighborhood and Learning Center

(San Francisco, California, United States)

  • Status: Forming
  • Formed: 2009
  • Visitors accepted: Yes
  • Open to new Members: Yes
  • Website address:
  • Contact Name: SFBNLC
  • Visitor Process

    Visitors accepted: Yes
    Our meetings are announced to the people on our mailing list.

  • Membership Process

    Open to new Members: Yes

Mission Statement:

Our vision is to create a cohousing community in the heart of San Francisco where children are self-directed learners. We value diversity, social and ecological responsibility, mutual learning, and joy.

Community Description:

We are working toward founding a cohousing community in a multi-unit building in San Francisco, with the vision of adding adjoining properties later. (For the story of five families that purchased three adjacent duplexes together in Oakland and later used easements to add two adjacent houses, see And see for neighbors in Davis who gradually took down the backyard fences between 17 homes.)

We intend the backyard and much of the ground-floor indoor space to be used as common area for all the members of this cohousing community, and we intend much of the common area to be used for self-directed learning by the residents and their guests, including adults and children of all ages. (Some of us are working on forming a co-op for self-directed learners, which will utilize our common area as well as other places in and around the city.)

The common area will have many opportunities for children to observe nature; interact with older and younger children and adults; run, climb, and jump; experiment with materials and processes; garden, cook, build, repair, and sew; dance and make music and artworks; play games; and, through it all, learn valuable life skills.

The learning center will probably start out as a backyard with gardens and play equipment; a large ground-floor playroom with educational materials; and a small workroom with tools. As the community adds adjoining properties, the learning center will grow and have more-specialized rooms, such as an arts and crafts room, a carpentry workshop, a chemistry lab, a music practice room, and a teenager hang-out room, depending on the interests of the children and the adults.

The Backyard Neighborhood could also be the seed of an urban ecovillage: a model of sustainable city living, with passive solar heating and cooling; rainwater catchment; greywater filtration; some energy production from biomass; small, quiet windmills and solar panels on rooftops; and a high degree of onsite food production.

More details are available at our website:

We are keeping a list of people who might want to participate in the community, as residents and/or as members of a co-op for self-directed learners.


  • Adult Members: 4
  • Child Members: 3
  • Percent Women: 50%
  • Percent Men: 50%
  • Visitors accepted: Yes
  • Open to new Members: Yes
  • Additional Comments: All non-coercive paths welcome.

    Unschooling [homeschooling with self-directed learning] on and off property; some may attend private or public school off property.

Social Factors

  • Common Spiritual Practice(s): Other
  • Education Style(s): Up to each individual


  • Decision Making: Consensus (everyone agrees)
  • Identified Leader: No
  • Leadership Core Group: No

Land and Buildings

  • Housing Provided: Not yet, we aspire to do so.
  • Location: Urban
  • Land owned by: Other
  • Additional Comments: Each multi-unit building will be owned by the families living in it, with those owners having rights to private use of specified living spaces and permission to sell those rights to existing or new members of the community. The legal titles of the buildings will probably have easements that allow the owners of the community’s other buildings to use the backyards and perhaps some of the ground-floor indoor space. [Ownership of all the common area by the entire community would not be practical because in California, property tax increases when property is purchased.]

    We will probably start with one or two and add more as we can. The owners of the first building will try to get to know the owners of other buildings on the block and let them know that we might be able to find buyers for their property and save them from paying commissions to real-estate agents.

    The first building will probably have 3 or 4 units. We hope to add more multi-unit buildings over the years until we occupy a square block or don’t want to grow any more.

    We are concurrently finishing our founding documents and watching for appropriate buildings for sale.

    Our indoor common area is expected to be part of the ground floor of each building.

Labor and Money

  • Shared Income: Members have completely independent finances
  • Shared Expenses: Little or no share of expenses
  • Open to members with existing debt: Yes
  • Required Labor contribution: 0
  • Join Fee: 0
  • Regular Fee: 0
  • Additional Comments: The owners of each building will probably own the building together as tenants in common. They may get separate mortgages for their ownership percentages. Or they may have a group mortgage with legal protections in case of nonpayment by a member. An extra reserve fund could cover several months of loan, tax, and insurance payments in case of emergency. The members who get larger or more desirable units will have proportionately more loan, tax, and insurance responsibilities and more insurance coverage.

    as long as they can handle the new debt

    Group meetings and team duties. The members may choose to pay people for jobs like cleaning, maintenance, accounting, legal research, and dealing with contractors for repairs, but there will still be a need for members to hire and monitor those people. Specialized teams of members could do research on choices and report to the entire membership at meetings.

    There may be a fee to reimburse the founders for part of the start-up costs, such as hiring a lawyer. There may also be required lump-sum contributions to reserve funds that will be reimbursed with the joining fees of new members when property is transferred.

    Monthly dues for common expenses, such as loan payments, insurance, taxes, water, sewerage, garbage pickup, electricity, gas, cleaning, maintenance, accounting, and legal advice, and contributions to reserve funds for expected repairs and unexpected circumstances. The amount of each member’s dues will probably depend on the member’s living space and the number of people sharing that space.


  • Shared meals: 1-3 times per month
  • Current food produced: Up to 25%
  • Additional comments: We will probably have group meals only before group meetings, but some members might choose to have meals together in the common area more often.

    perhaps, depending on the interest of the members

    Common-area restrictions, if any, to be decided.

    Various dietary practices.

    Common-area restrictions, if any, to be decided.

    Smoking will probably be restricted in the common area.

Cohousing Info

  • Building site status: Retrofitting
  • Shared common building: No

Community Affiliations

Backyard Neighborhoods


natural learning, organic learning, permaculture

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We happily link to the following organizations, all of whom share our strong commitment to promoting community and a more cooperative world:
Cohousing The Federation of Egalitarian Communities - Communes Coop Community Cooperative Sustainable Intentional North American Students of Cooperation Global Ecovillage Network
Special thanks to the sponsors of our Art of Community Events.