Fairmount House – Oakland
Fairmount House, Oakland CA
Faimount House is an apartment building that became part of Bay Area Community Land Trust in 2019.
About the Building
Fairmount House – 361 Fairmount Ave., Oakland
Residents self-manage this co-op property, learning new skills and creating new friendships
Number of People Housed: 11
Who Lives Here: Singles and couples
Type: Preservation, Community Land Trust
Size: 10 studio apartment homes
Density: 60 units per acre
Property Management: Bay Area Community Land Trust; Rick Lewis
Architect: UXO Architects
Funding & Financing: Donated property to be rehabbed for deferred maintenance.
Fairmount House is a 4,600-square-foot mansion that was built in 1908 and later converted to ten studio apartments. The long-time owner had a close relationship with the residents and when he passed away, the diverse, lower-income residents were very concerned that the property would be sold and they would all be displaced. Instead, his daughter donated the property to the Bay Area Community Land Trust (BACLT). BACLT formed a co-op with the residents, who now self-manage the property.
Prior to the creation of the co-op, the residents had casual relationships with each other. Now, residents are working together to form the co-op, which has created new friendships. They’re not just learning new skills in finance and property maintenance; they’re also creating a cohesive community.
EBHO’s Interview with Four Residents/Co-Owners
Fairmount House is a 4,600-square-foot mansion that was converted into ten studio apartments managed by the residents themselves. EBHO’s Ronald Flannery facilitated a conversation with residents Jocelyn Zorn, Chauncey Roberts and Michael Wharton about what it’s like to create and live in a co-op.
What are the benefits of co-op living?
Jocelyn: In countless ways, it’s the ability of us to have affordable housing in single-occupancy-units. I am a 30-year-old who is transitioning professionally. If I needed to sublet my place and move to LA, I could do that. It’s something I’m allowed to do. It’s nice to have your home be a rock for you, a place you can protect for yourself. I feel like financially and personally that’s an asset.
Chauncey: I appreciate seeing the transitions that other individuals in the house are going through – just being a part of their life transitions, be it economic, jobs, or personal lives. It just broadens your perspective.
Jocelyn: Totally, and we have so many different people in different positions. That’s honestly the coolest part about the house!
Chuancey: I grew up in East Oakland. That was one of those neighborhoods where the next-door neighbors would take care of the kids when Mama had to go to work. Those kinds of things got distorted as the demographics changed.
How has the community changed since you’ve lived here?
Michael: When I originally moved in, all of Auto Row was deserted. They were just parking lots. A lot of houses have changed ownership in this community, so there are actually families here now. Before, it was just older people. But the thing is, the people who were here are no longer here. They were not able to stay – they got laid off, they lost their houses. The same thing that would have happened to us.
Chauncey: Oh yes. This house, as beautiful as it is, probably would have been gone. Without a doubt. They would tear this bad boy down to the ground.
What’s it like to make decisions together?
Michael: I think we are still learning about the governance piece – how do you get consensus? How do you stay respectful of everyone?
Jocelyn: One thing I learned form this is that a co-op can look however you want it to, and it’s not just this one thing. Anyone can have a functional co-op if you can get through the weird part of interacting with your neighbors.
Chauncey: Affordable housing is one of the things that needs to be supported in a bigger way. I feel very fortunate to make a difference and come up with the solutions to what we started here.