When my wife and I first moved to Sonoma County, we decided to live in FrogSong. No, that’s
not a typo, cult, or some sort of vernal pond.
FrogSong is a delightful cohousing community in the southern portion of the county. Cohousing
design emphasizes neighbor-to-neighbor encounters, collaboration and sharing. It’s what many
people believe small-town neighborhoods used to be.
Lest you write off FrogSong as a place populated by long-haired hippie refugees from the
summer of love, I’ll tell you that those living in its 30 households include one of the world’s
foremost climate scientists, the president and CEO of a local power utility, three Sonoma State
University professors and many other successful and accomplished individuals and business
FrogSong self-governs through a number of committees and operates by consensus. ANY
household wishing to block any community decision may do so by voting against it. All 30
households must approve, or the community does nothing.
You might think this would be a recipe for disaster and would make it impossible to accomplish
anything, but the opposite is true. FrogSong sports an organic garden, lushly permascaped
grounds, a really well-equipped workshop full of metal and woodworking tools, solar power, a
shared bank of electric vehicle charging stations, guest rooms, open areas and a playground
where kids can play, a hot tub, an exercise room, a vibrant concert series and several optional
common meals per week made by residents in a well-stocked commercial kitchen.
So, why have I spent five paragraphs talking about FrogSong? To make a point about living in
Oakmont is, first and foremost, a community. Like FrogSong, it features a number of amenities
and self-governs. Like FrogSong, it’s residents enjoy the benefits of knowing each other better
than those living in a typical American neighborhood. Many Oakmonters know many more
people here than we did in any previous place we’ve lived.
The upsides of community life include the opportunity to enjoy amenities, clubs and resources
shared by everyone, as well as enhanced friendship opportunities and emotional support from
neighbors. The downside of living in community is that, in some ways, external influences such
as golf courses, dog parks, recreation centers and community politics affect our lives more than
they would in a standard nondescript residential neighborhood. We need to care more about
what our neighbors want, and that’s not always easy.
It’s unreasonable to expect to enjoy the benefits of living in community without accepting the
downside. Those who desire a bit more control over their environment can run for office, but the
job even then is NOT to do what’s best for you, but to do what’s best for the community even
when you’d personally benefit more from the alternative.
The vast majority of Oakmont residents moved here to relax after a lifetime of work, raising kids
and struggling to sock away enough money to enjoy their golden years. They don’t much care
about community governance as long as it’s reasonable and civil. No one, I would venture to
say, moved here to govern the community.
Living in community is not for everyone. Those who are least enjoying living here are, I believe,
those who are trying the hardest to bend the community to their will. Those who are most
enjoying living here are those who gratefully accept the joys of community life as well as the flip
side of the community coin.