It was clear to us from the beginning - in order to realize the kind of out-of-the-box village development we are envisioning for our  "Bright Village" project, we would need to find some very creative legal and financial help. Here's some of the issues we are facing:

  • We want to establish our village as a cooperative, at least in function, if not in legal form (which carries other restrictions).
  • We want to incorporate cutting edge permacultural design features that may lay outside the usual building code boundaries.
  • We want to make use of investment funding from a variety of sources including "angel" investors who may live outside California, or even outside the United States.
  • We may have to rely on bank financing at least for construction loans.
  • We want to provide for some very low income units.
  • We want to take advantage of potential government funding available for disaster recovery projects.
  • We want to maintain a high level of control over who lives in the village. Providing relief to survivors of the 2015 Valley Fire and  the creation of a sacred cooperative culture associated with service to the Mountain Of Attention retreat sanctuary are key raisons d'être for the project.

In addition to the critical ongoing mentoring by our patron saint Clark Bladsell at NorthBay Family Homes, our search quickly brought us into contact with the Sustainable Economies Law Center (SELC) in Oakland.  We had been aware for a few years of the work of one of SELC's key founders, Janelle Orsi. She is a truly pioneering attorney who has literally written the book on all of the legal ins and outs of cooperative ventures of all kinds.  SELC holds free monthly "Legal Cafes" where you can sit down with an attorney familiar with the emerging legal landscape around what is coming to be known as the "sharing economy."

We LOVE these folks. Bright, happy, eager to get creative with the law. They were key players in lobbying effort in Sacramento pass AB 816, the "California Worker Cooperative Act" , AB 2561, the "Neighborhood Food Act," and AB 129, the "California Alternative Currencies Act," and they continue to be active partners in several other innovations in State law that will enable greater freedom to work creatively in the world of cooperation + tolerance = peace.
From our first free consultation at the SELC Legal Cafe we got some excellent basic advice and introductions to several attorneys committed to working through the kinds of creative challenges outlined above. After a few interviews we settled on Jill Jacobs, whose website proclaims her interest in serving:

Social enterprises, green businesses, cooperatives, shared housing, cohousing, intentional communities, ecovillages, land trusts, collaborative consumption (shared facilities, utilities, ridesharing, community childcare, grocery cooperatives), community gardens, urban agriculture, home-prepared food enterprises, community owned enterprises, Entity choice, formation, and governance – including cooperatives, benefit and flexible purpose corporations, non-profits (for businesses, housing or land), nonprofit tax exemption, Contracts and documents, Operating agreements, bylaws, governance, purchases, leases, sales, production, marketing, options, deeds, easements, CC&Rs, liability waivers, offerings, Creative capital raising like crowdfunding and related securities law, Alternative currencies (time banks, barter exchanges, etc.), land use, zoning, Title, easements AND (taking a breath)  .  .  . navigating legal gray areas that come up for your creative idea!

So we are off to the races with Jill.

Since Jill works out of her office in Santa Cruz, and we did want to have at least an initial in-person face-to-face with her (it's mostly been by Skype) it was time for a much needed ROAD TRIP break from our little office in the still-burned-over area at Seigler Springs to breathe the sea air and visit friends along the way. Jill has also connected us with the Cutting Edge Capital for some additional help navigating the intricacies of securities law as we build our financial model for the project.

After some initial research, we are working with Jill to establish the Bright Village as a Limited Liability Company with some very explicit Operating Agreements (23 pages of lovely fine print thus far) that will allow us to build the kind of visionary project we are dreaming of. 

 


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