When you hear about life in Los Angeles, you probably think about traffic, smog, and sprawling suburbs. But LA has a thriving network of intentional communities, many of which exist just under the radar of activity in neighborhoods like Silverlake, Mar Vista, and Koreatown.
I spent several years living in the city and got to visit many of them, including the LA Eco-Village, a multi-unit complex that houses over 40 residents.
“I lived nearby it for years and never knew it existed,” says reporter Dija Dowling of KCET, before setting off on a tour with Lois Arkin, the community’s 80-year-old co-founder.
Founded in 1993, the Eco-Village looks like it belongs in a smaller town: the intersection is painted with brightly colored designs, the yard is overflowing with fruit trees, and the sidewalks are fitted with bioswales and other gardening projects. The heart of the village is a multi-unit apartment complex, one of several buildings that house residents, a tool shed, a bulk foods store, community meeting spaces, and more.
According to an earlier KCET interview:
“The land underneath the buildings is owned by our nonprofit Beverly-Vermont Community Land Trust. These two organizations ensure that the property is permanently affordable and can never return to the speculative real estate market.”
The organization that formed the community created their own funding sources to buy the property:
“We achieved all these land and building acquisitions without the use of conventional banking. We created our own Ecological Community Revolving Loan Fund, which borrowed close to $2 million from our friends and others, and most of it has already been paid back.”
Additionally, the Eco-Village founders were committed to not displacing former residents. Although most of the residents are part of the intentional community, some of them lived there long before the village was founded, and continue to live side-by-side with the newer residents. The result is an inter-generational, multi-cultural neighborhood that often shuts down the street for block parties and other activities.
The community is affiliated with the LA Bicycle Kitchen and the Arroyo Seco TimeBanks, and works with the LA public school system to offer gardening experience to local students. The village recycles greywater, makes its own compost, and raises chickens on the property.
Most of the units in the Eco-Village are studio apartments, and there’s a waiting list and interview process for new members. Tours take place on Saturday mornings, and you can check out the tour schedule here.
Watch the KCET video below for a closer look: