(Co) Housing Legal Cafe Night with Janelle Orsi of SELC (Oakland/Eville)


EBCOHO member Janelle Orsi, lawyer, author, director of the Sustainable Economies Law Centers wrote us last month about SELC's new "Resilient Communities Legal Cafe" which is happening weekly in Berkeley or Oakland through August.

"One idea we've contemplated is creating themed cafes some nights and trying to attract a group of clients who share common interests, and having a group discussion and Legal Q&A. We could potentially choose an evening where I spend at least 90 minutes of the cafe in a circle with cohousing/shared housing clients answering their legal questions and facilitating a discussion."

Of course we said YES, sign EBCOHO up! So, please join Janelle on May 15 at Crossroads Cafe.

Janelle is one of a handful of attorneys specializing in law for a sharing economy - including cooperative housing and shared ownership law.  A number forming groups in and out of EBCOHO have worked with her.  For more information on the purpose and format of the Legal Cafes keep scrolling below, or go to www.theselc.org for more on all the good work Janelle and her team of visionary legal beagles are up to.

RCLC logoThe Resilient Communities Legal Cafe provides direct legal support to individuals and groups who are working to create new solutions for resilient local economies in Oakland, Berkeley, and beyond! The 6-month pilot program will run every week at different locations in the East Bay between February and August 2013.

The Cafe series is a joint effort of SELC and the Green-Collar Communities Clinic (a project of the East Bay Community Law Center). Come, ask us your questions, and join others from your neighborhood who are taking their livelihoods, communities, and economies back!


  • 2nd Wednesday of Each Month @ Location and Time TBA
  • 3rd Wednesday of Each Month (4:30-7:30 p.m.) @ the Crossroads Cafe 942 Stanford Ave., Oakland 94608 
  • 4th Tuesday of Each Month (6:00-8:30 p.m.) @ the HUB in the David Brower Center – 2150 Allston Way, Suite 400, Berkeley 94704

Unsure about what week it is? Check out SELC’s Events page!

Why The Resilient Communities Legal Cafe?

SELC believes that because our current economic systems prioritize corporate profits over community resilience, they destroy opportunities for satisfying and sustainable work, damage the environment that sustains us, and unravel our sense of connection to one another. That’s why SELC is committed to providing reliable, affordable, and accessible legal information and advice to the people who are creating alternative economic systems. Through this work, we can help form the enterprises and entrepreneurs that will ring in the new economy.

About the Program

Those who want to create alternative economic structures have difficulty finding affordable and competent legal assistance because there are so few attorneys specialized in the legal needs of the sharing economy. Communities with high rates of unemployment and poverty will find the hurdles to launching new enterprises especially insurmountable. The Resilient Communities Legal Cafe will give direct legal assistance to the residents of East Oakland, and at the same time create the reproducible model and resources to support similar programs around the country.

The Resilient Communities Legal Cafe will provide events, workshops, legal advice clinics, and legal services supporting the creation of, for example:

  • worker cooperatives
  • food cooperatives
  • urban farms
  • land trusts
  • housing cooperatives
  • local investment initiatives
  • community-supported enterprises
  • social enterprises
  • micro-enterprises
  • cottage industries
  • time banks
  • local currencies

Some of the Services

Weekly walk-in clinics. SELC is holding a weekly legal advice clinic at a soon to be announced cafe or community center.

One-time consultations. Resilient Communities Legal Cafe participants have the opportunity to receive one-time advice sessions with an attorney either at a low fee or without charge for low-income individuals.

Workshops. Between February and August, SELC will hold at least three community legal workshops on topics like “Legal Tools for the Sharing Economy,” “Legal Workshops for Community Food Enterprise,” and “How to Start a Worker-Owned Enterprise.” Stay tuned for event times and locations.

Community discussions. At least three guest lectures and discussions will help expand understanding of the sharing economy and cooperative enterprise.

Written resources. We’ve developed a series of legal handbooks and information sheets for clients to use and share with others.


Join or login to comment.

  • Raines C.

    If you liked the Legal Cafe, you might want to join SELC for the Sharing Economies Happy Hour this Thursday evening in downtown Oakland: http://www.ebcoho.org/events/128657072/

    July 9, 2013

  • Jonathan P.

    A good introduction with plenty of responsiveness to individual attendees' concerns. Given the diverse issues affecting them, it could be useful to compile a catalog of legal issues in California shared housing, identify persons who share issues of interest, and encourage them to collaborate on these issues. The SELC work on model governing documents could be one basis for such collaboration, which in turn might test and refine the models.

    1 · May 15, 2013

  • Marcia R.

    Great! I really appreciated the broad range of legal information and judicious parsing of benefits and downsides that Janelle offered for multiple questions and situations.

    1 · May 15, 2013

  • susan s.

    Janelle is the best.

    May 15, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    I'll be at the Brower Center 4th Tuesday.

    April 30, 2013

    • Raines C.

      Great, Brent, but just fYI only this one on the 15th (3rd Wed) in May will be focussed on community housing with EBCOHO participating, although I am sure your questions will always be welcomed by SELC.

      April 30, 2013

    • Betsy M.

      There will be other (non-EBCOHO) SELC clients as well

      May 15, 2013

  • Emily P.

    I'm interested and intending to come to this tomorrow night, but I will be late due to a previously scheduled appointment. Is it ok to come if I will miss the first half of the evening?

    May 14, 2013

    • Emily P.

      Ok, thanks for your reply. I had a feeling it would not be great to miss the first part of the gathering. I will have to wait until another time. Thanks.

      1 · May 14, 2013

    • Betsy M.

      You might want to come and check out the company and the cafe

      May 15, 2013

  • Betsy M.

    Show up early to sign up for a private consultation time after the group discussion.

    May 15, 2013

  • Susan

    There is something I must do on Wed. so I can't come to this session. Sorry to miss it!

    May 13, 2013

  • Rachel T.

    Sorry to cancel -- I look forward to attending another co-housing event sometime soon.

    May 13, 2013

  • Mickey T.

    I have long advocated combining condominium ownership with cohousing communities. The is not really a contradiction -- you own your house or apartment, but you are subject to the rules of the condominium association. Those rules incorporate everything that you want in a cohousing community....

    The point of this is to make First-Time Homebuyer subsidies available for "low income" families. That is not real low -- the limit for a family of two is around $54,000 per year. (Also, with a cohousing condo purchase you can get the current very cheap interest, even with a very low down payment.) .... If you qualify, the subsidy is really critical. In Oakland you get up to a $60,000 loan with no payments (you pay it back when you sell or die). This means that a lot of people who cannot afford to join can afford it There is also a very big Federal tax subsidy, in addition to the usual tax deductions

    May 8, 2013

  • Betsy M.

    We're making this an unofficial part of "Affordable Housing Week" in the East Bay. But of course, people from market-rate communities with legal challenges or questions are welcome as well. We can all learn from one another -- most of the issues are the same, no matter your income or how much of it goes for housing.

    May 6, 2013

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