Pacifico Student Cooperative Housing, located in South Davis, has undergone management changes, which some residents believe are too restrictive and not conducive to a cooperative lifestyle. Others are content with the situation as the co-op provides housing for transitional youth.
“Management has attempted to replace the co-operative atmosphere in Pacifico with a system that is overly standardized, overbearing and very ‘Big Brother’-ish,” said Jana Shute, a resident of the co-op and senior community and regional development major, via e-mail. “There is someone at Pacifico in charge of walking around to keep tabs on all the other floors so as to inform management as he sees fit.”
The cooperative atmosphere Shute is referring to is one in which residents of the co-op will meet together to discuss house issues, work together to make home improvements and generally function as a community. Shute has lived at Pacifico for three years and said that many changes have been made since she first moved in.
“When I moved into Pacifico, when it was still a member-owned co-op – members had the freedom to improve the co-op atmosphere,” Shute said. “But now, management has essentially stripped Pacifico of its charm and it now looks more institutional than ever.”
However, management said that financial issues have made these changes inevitable.
Pacifico was originally owned by Davis Campus Cooperatives, a nonprofit that had representation from community members. The co-op was then bought and managed by North American Students of Cooperation (NASCO), an organization that aids cooperatives.
It was foreclosed on and is currently owned by the city of Davis. The city employed the California Center for Cooperative Development (CCCD) to manage the properties, though the contract expires June 30. They are in negotiations with new management.
“What we are trying to do is turn the project around economically, while trying our best to maintain the cooperative aspect,” said Kim Coontz, director of the CCCD. “We don’t have a situation where the manager is an autocrat telling people what to do.”
Part of the conflict lies with the binding lease that has residents feeling trapped in their living situation, which many feel is not what they signed up for when they agreed to live at the co-op.
The cooperative is made up of four buildings that house a total of 112 students. At present, two of the buildings are closed for renovations. Seventeen of the 49 rooms are vacant.
Shute said that 22 residents are paying their own rent, and at least eight of them want out of their leases early because of the changes management has made. In addition to the paying residents, a third of the co-op are transitional youths whose rents are paid for by the government.
“Seven out of eight will be in the area over summer, so it isn’t out of not wanting to live in Davis,” Shute said.
However, Coontz said that people frequently try to get out of their leases to avoid paying rent over the summer. In addition, the changes have been approved by the co-op members and are necessary to make Pacifico financially viable.
“We [hired] a consultant, held meetings where three-fourths of the residents were present, and one resident was the only one to raise any complaints,” Coontz said. “Residents who stay on the property have to realize that we will be enforcing rules that weren’t enforced as strictly, which may have led to the original economic problems with the co-op.”
Coontz was not able to offer any examples, though she said that one of the major issues was regarding the timely payment of rent.
Avonte Russel, a first-year at Sacramento City College, said he likes living in Pacifico, though he just moved in this month. Russel, whose rent is paid for by the state, said he is part of a program that provides housing for transitional youth coming out of foster programs.
“I didn’t know what to expect, but after being here for a few days, it changes your perspective on how people live,” Russel said. “As long as you’re respectful, not playing music too loud and stuff like that, everyone here is very friendly.”
Shute said that many people move in without knowing about co-op style housing.
“A lot of that is due to it being very easy to move here,” she said. “A lot of the residents are attracted to the convenient move-in process and are not really into the cooperative aspect.”
Rafael Montes is also a first-year at Sacramento City College and living at Pacifico. He said that while he did not know what cooperative living meant initially, he now appreciates the communal lifestyle.
“I used to get bothered by the… work, such as cooking and cleaning, we had to do each week,” Montes said. “Now I enjoy the communal dinners we make Sunday through Thursday, where two people clean and two people cook, but everyone eats together.”
Montes just recently moved into Pacifico, but said he is already getting used to it and that he enjoys the active lifestyle promoted by residing in a co-op.
“I really like living here because there are a lot of people from a lot of backgrounds, you get to hear about what everyone who lives here is doing and that varies a lot,” he said. “Also, in general, the residents are pretty mature about getting their work done.”
Shute said there used to be a more effective chore system. The new system put in place is strict, but some residents still chose to ignore the tasks they are given. Although there is a fine for not doing chores, she said she believes management is not enforcing the system.
“We came to Pacifico wanting to live in a co-op, not in a city of Davis-owned housing site that is labeled as a ‘co-op’ on paper,” she said.
AARON WEISS can be reached at email@example.com.