The Laytonville Ecovillage is in transition. Last Fall, the front parcel and house sold to some wonderful people who were drawn to the vision and want to create their own version of an intentional community. Although the name “Laytonville Ecovillage” might change, and the vision will surely be modified depending on who joins in, we’re moving forward into some creative future developments. Want to be part of creating the new vision?
Many people have asked me (Dan Antonioli, founder) about the history of the Laytonville Ecovillage, how it started, where it’s going, and why I wanted to create a green neighborhood in Laytonville. As such I’ve decided that this issue of the newsletter should answer those questions and provide some context. This is a short summary.
How It All Started
In 2004 I was exploring different parts of Northern California in search of an affordable property that could be legally developed into a sustainable green neighborhood, hence the name “ecovillage.” I chose the word “ecovillage” as a meme to draw attention to the vision of a sustainable green neighborhood where neighbors work together to create an intentional community, share common values of sustainability and social justice, and hopefully have fun along the way. I had long been inspired by the many intentional communities I had visited and lived at and it was time for me to put on a founders hat and go start one. Having done that, many people have asked me: “Why Laytonville?”
The answer to this question is simple: serendipity. I was exploring properties further north and as I passed through Laytonville I stopped at the local health food store and saw a real estate office. I figured they would have some printed material for local listings, which they did, and when I returned home that day I read through it and found one that stood out: “A Developer’s Dream!” Looking past the hype in the listing I found a property that was affordable, only a mile out of town, and that could be legally developed. Two days later I was back in Laytonville exploring the property and two months later handed the keys to the house on ten acres of land and the journey began. I also wondered—what have I done?
Laytonville is affordable. If I waited to embark on this vision in Sonoma County or any other place that was all about “location, location, location” it wouldn’t have happened.
Trials and Tribulations
In order to “legalize sustainability” I had to follow strict county and state guidelines. My proposals of cluster housing and low impact development were routinely rejected by Mendocino County officials, but I persisted. I used the process to give presentations on green building, preservation of open space, and making development green and affordable. To my surprise, many county officials supported my proposals but said that they were hamstrung by state regulations. Who could argue against affordable green housing and the preservation of open space? The vision is consistent with the Mendocino County General Plan supporting green development close to town centers, but how can this be done legally?
In order to build new homes, of any type or size, the state requires subdividing, roads, surveys, approved septic systems, and a host of assessments to determine whether or not the land is safe for development. When the dust settled the ten acre parcel was split into three two acres parcels and one four acre parcel. Although the subdividing process was expensive and time-consuming, the upshot is that each parcel can legally support two single family homes. And those homes can be a deep shade of green! Additionally, neighborhood associations can be created, resources can be shared, and small micro-businesses can thrive.
Working as a community, it would be possible to achieve food security, energy independence, live with a low carbon footprint, and move in a regenerative direction. And live in a fun neighborhood!
What’s in a Name?
Sixteen years into this journey I handed the keys of the farm house to the new owners. Parcel #1 was a dream, a vision, an opportunity to manifest an example of what a sustainably built environment can look like. A permaculture landscape, multiple solar systems, several greywater systems, extensive green building measures, natural building, and a host of sustainability features set the stage for a potential green neighborhood. See mendocounty-greenneighborhoodhomeforsale-laytonville.com.
Is it possible we could live in a more sustainable way or are we stuck with the status quo? Are ecovillages the answer to global warming? These are some of the guiding questions I’ve asked myself through the years and continue to ask as the world faces both cataclysmic destruction and tremendous potential at the same time. The Laytonville Ecovillage stands as a tiny example of what’s possible with innovation and dedication. The journey encountered supporters, naysayers, educators, fellow visionaries, gossipers, curmudgeons, and the usual pantheon of perspectives that comes with change. Rather than retreating under the radar to “just do it,” I chose the legal path and believe strongly that we can “legalize sustainability.”
The name “Laytonville Ecovillage” has served its purpose. It’s on the map and while the name might change, it’s not going away.
Parcels for Sale
Interested in being part of the neighborhood? The world is undergoing a dramatic change and if we can create hubs of sustainability, social justice, and sanity we can truly come closer to living our dreams. And the dream begins with you!
If you’d like to join us, we are offering affordable parcels for sale and generous owner financing. Please visit the website, mendocinoparcels4sale.com, for more information.
Laytonville Ecovillage’s Communications Director, Juliana Birnbaum, authored this award-winning 2014 book featuring profiles of 60 examples of permaculture sites around the globe, with contributions by Paul Hawken, Vandana Shiva, David Holmgren and Starhawk. Get an inscribed copy here or find it at your local bookseller.