When Corinne Cooke, a retired Davis resident, thinks something in her housing complex needs to be fixed or spruced up, it’s not a landlord she goes to, it’s a neighbor.
That’s because she has lived in the Dos Pinos limited-equity housing co-op since 1986, where issues become a family matter.
“It is the cooperative spirit that we have,” Cooke said. “We help each other when there’s something happy, like someone having a baby. We help each other through the sad things as well, like someone’s death.
“Each person treats the other 59 residents as a friend. We can call on each other in any case.”
The nonprofit co-op at Sycamore Lane and Antelope Avenue in North Davis is part of the more than 30 cooperative projects in Yolo County that rely on a collaborative support network.
Kim Coontz, executive director of the California Center for Cooperative Development, described the co-op business structure as one that is owned and controlled by the people who use its services.
These organizations must have policies set and changes agreed upon by a committee of individuals who purchase goods or services, and who have the same relationship to the business as any other customer.
“Cooperatives are democratically governed; each member has one vote,” Coontz said. “The cooperative business model is as American as apple pie.”
Having a decision-making group composed of friends and neighbors at Cooke’s residential co-op allowed her the flexibility to move locations to accommodate her disability, which has left her house-bound. Many of the same people regularly visit her and bring food.
“None of that is required,” Cooke said. “It’s just that we have built that feeling here.”
The inclusive, friendly nature of co-ops has been recognized by the United Nations, which has declared 2012 as an “International Year of Cooperatives.” October is dedicated to the national celebration of participant-governed enterprises.
One of the most clear reasons for supporting co-ops is an economic one, according to Ben Pearl, a longtime advocate of the cooperative model in Davis. A greater portion of the income derived from these local, member-owned assets is invested back into the community, he explained.
“In terms of buying local, and keeping that money in the local economy … cooperatives provide a pretty critical alternative to the unfortunate predicament that the U.S. is in with most private, for-profit corporations,” said Pearl, who does project management for the Solar Community Housing Association.
Davis is even home to consumer-owned credit unions — The Golden 1, Yolo Federal, Travis and USE credit unions — allowing its residents to quite literally keep their finances within city limits.
Cooperatively run businesses encompass a variety of services in Davis, including childhood education and care, retail product sales, artist galleries, housing and health-food markets.
“We’re seeing a lot of local interest in more community-oriented organizations,” Pearl said. “Globally, there’s an incredible network of cooperatives.”
More than 800 million people are members of cooperatives worldwide, and California co-op members serve a combined constituency of more than 1.5 million people, the Davis City Council noted in its written acknowledgement of National Co-op Month.
In Yolo County, Pearl said there has been consistent growth of co-ops since the formation of the early jointly owned farming operations, which sowed the seeds for the local cooperative movement. He expects that growth to continue.
“With the rich history of agricultural cooperatives in the region, the stage is set for a special understanding of their importance here,” Pearl said. “The community is well-positioned to take advantage of these models to serve the city of Davis.”
— Reach Brett Johnson at [email protected] or 530-747-8052.