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Inside an Intentional Community on LA's "Boulevard" of Communal Houses

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There are many communal living houses in the Harvard Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles, but Synchronicity LA seems to be at the center of them all. The intentional community began in 2008, the brainchild of 12 friends who wanted to live together. Seven-year Synchronicity resident Ryan Maxey says the high tenant count was a dealbreaker with a lot of landlords in the original group's search for a space, but the owner of the nine-bedroom Craftsman in which the Synchronicity folks still reside today was up for it. (That landlord happens to live just a few doors down, in another Craftsman.) These days, 11 people call Synchronicity home. How does their living situation differ from, say, sharing a two-bedroom with your old roommate from college?

Because residents share the 105-year-old house, the cost of living there is considerably cheaper than it would be if they all just paired up in apartments somewhere. Rent is just $525 a month, with $400 of that going toward the actual housing and $125 going to a group fund that pays for communal supplies, like dirt and pots for gardening, and to keeping the kitchen stocked. Rent also includes access to house amenities, like a dedicated music room, space to produce podcasts and music, a wide front porch, and a roomy backyard with a patio and basketball hoop. ("We play a lot of HORSE," says Maxey.)

Life in the nearly house is much more organized than it is in most roommate situations. With nearly a dozen people living all together, sharing food and rent and chores and physical space, things could get chaotic easily and quickly. But from the looks of things, it's all very orderly. Nowhere is this more clear than with the beer. There are two shiny, bar-grade beer taps in the kitchen—one pouring a cheap beer for $1 a pint and the other dispensing a fancier brew for $2. Beers are self-service, but everyone marks their selections on the special beer tally chart—a tried-and-true way to keep track of who's had how many. At the end of the month, the total cost of a month's pints are tacked on to residents' rent.

Synchronicity residents place a lot of trust in each other, most visibly with food. A resident can expect to cook for the others a couple times a month and rotating cooking duties means that communal meals are like a culinary trust fall. (The consensus seems to be that food is usually pretty tasty.) Group mealtime is also kind of a bonding time at the house, so maybe it wouldn't matter if the food weren't that great. On the day of Curbed's visit to the house, one resident's birthday was being celebrated with a special dessert of freshly-baked cookies à la mode; her friends strung up a banner of gold, glittery letters spelling out, affectionately, "Birthday Bitch." Residents at other houses on the street (nicknamed "the boulevard" or BLVD) can opt into a "meal plan" that allows them to eat four meals a week at the Synchronicity house, as long as they help with clean-up on assigned days.

Communal living is obviously not for everyone, but for some, it's the only way. Krista Frank, a newer resident of the house, was looking for an intentional community when she accidentally encountered this house. She had originally visited another, similarly organized residence on the same street, but when her host took her to Synchronicity for dinner (on the meal plan), Frank realized that it was the place she'd been hoping to find. An urban planner by trade, Frank is a total convert after just three months. She's had plenty of experience renting other apartments in Hollywood and across LA in a non-communal setup, but this, her first foray into communal living, is more or less the way she sees herself living into the future. "There's no going back" to living in a regular rental situation, she says.

It's not the constant stream of drop-in projects (gardening, beer-making) or the immensely creative atmosphere (dedicated spaces for music production, recording, and editing), but the strong sense of community that's made her so dedicated to the intentional community. Having so many friends—not just in the house, but also on the block—who collaborate on projects or drop in to say hi or hang out gives her a "resilience" that other living situations can't provide. If anything happened to her, she says, "I know my friends would take care of me."

Made and hung our stockings at Synchronicity LA #sync #synchronicityla

A photo posted by Peter Dean (@psdean21) on

· Renters Week [Curbed LA]