MGU 240 | Tiny House Living

 

Increasing prices in the housing space and restrictive legislation leave many people without desirable living options. Today’s guest, however, has found a great way to get around these issues – tiny house living. Adam Garrett-Clark is the founder of Tiny Logic and is here today to discuss accessory dwelling units, or ADUs, with our hosts, Jason Wrobel and Whitney Lauritsen. Adam discusses how he got started in the ADU space, the ins and outs of ADUs, and what you need to know before building one. If you’re thinking of building a tiny home or renting one, then this episode is for you.

Listen to the podcast here:

Understanding The Pros, Cons, Realities, And Misconceptions Of Tiny House Living With Adam Garrett-Clark

I’m looking forward to this episode because it features a special guest who I have not connected with for many years. We went to Emerson College together and have been chatting on Facebook direct message and I learned that he was doing some fascinating work and work that can become uncomfortable at times. It felt a good subject matter for this and this is something that we haven’t, to my recollection, explored except for maybe little ponderings here and there and this is about tiny homes.

Specifically, in Adam’s case, urban tiny homes and tiny houses, which I can’t wait to learn more about. It touches upon homelessness and that’s an incredibly important subject matter. Before we get into it, Adam, one thing that you and I have in common is we both went to school to study something that’s not directly related to what we’re doing. Remind me, what were you studying? Were you studying film production like myself or were you studying something else at Emerson?

I started at broadcast journalism and two years in I realize that broadcast journalism is a poor man’s actor. There are voice lessons as one of the classes that you had to take. It wasn’t about newsgathering. It wasn’t real journalism. It was news presenting so I thought of myself as a serious genuine journalist so I switched to print. I took a lot of production classes with you guys because I was in love with the documentary form. I wanted to go that route.

Memories are starting to come back for me hearing you describe what you’re doing at Emerson because I do remember now that you were in journalism. It’s interesting because now that I’ve become a podcaster and some of the more online digital work that I’ve done, I wonder maybe I should have studied broadcast journalism or something. Funny enough that my accountant has mainly put the word journalist to describe myself for my taxes because the government better recognizes that than saying that you’re a social media content creator. Maybe that’s changed these days but in the early days of doing my work with Eco-Vegan Gal, with my blog and all of the things that I’d been working on since 2008, there was that weird area where it wasn’t taken seriously and now it is.

One thing that I think a lot about especially in terms of Emerson is how much that college experience has changed. I’m not 100% sure about Emerson but I imagine this will be true because I’ve heard that some schools are now giving their students a track based on social media based on becoming an influencer and all of that, which I find super fascinating. Because when you and I were in school, we didn’t even have YouTube and so much has changed.

For me, I wanted to do video content and that’s what I ended up doing. We called it film but I wasn’t attached to whether it was on actual film versus video or whatever you call it. It’s so fascinating to see how this has all evolved. Perhaps part of the work that we do now is still connected to what we were studying in school. I don’t know if you would say the same but since you’ve had a podcast as well, Adam, I’m sure everything that you studied, how you were developing and college has impacted that in a lot of ways. Would you say so?

Definitely. I remember in my senior year somebody did a presentation on what is a blog. We graduated in 2005 and that was still a new term. Much has changed. You and I went to The Castle in Europe. We did a semester in Europe together and if you remember Moses Roth, you might have remembered seeing me and Moses running around with a camera arguing with each other about shots and stuff. That was at the time that George Bush invaded Iraq in 2003. Moses and I were doing this interview tour of Europe, asking people what they thought about the war and America and all the great footage.

We interviewed a woman in the red-light district. All that great footage ended up somewhere in my basement or in my closet. A year after college, I did end up editing this one moment when we were in Munich. I don’t know if you remember when we went to Munich with the group and we caught this interesting moment with this young Iraqi girl holding an Iraqi flag in the square of Munich. Our camera presence brought this crowd of people and grew and it became the screaming match. I edited all that footage together in this weird avant-garde way and I was like, “How can I put this up?” I started Googling around and I found YouTube. This was in 2005 or maybe 2006 but it was some obscure website back then.

Is that video still up on YouTube?

It is. The title is Little Girl with A Flag. It’s a five-minute little clip.

2005 was when YouTube started so you are right there at the cutting edge. For me, YouTube became a big part of my career and I often wondered, what if I started taking it seriously earlier on because I didn’t get super into YouTube until 2009 and 2010, which was still fairly early. The people that had started a few years earlier had that advantage. Granted, I had been posting similar to you, Adam, I had been posting some of my short films on YouTube as early as maybe 2007 or 2006 but it felt such a different way of thinking. Going to film school and creating content like you were doing was different back then. What you’re also describing would resonate with people so sometimes making this different, less YouTube-focused content but more the viewpoint of a college student is taken seriously these days.

There are a lot of people that don't consider themselves homeless. They just want to do affordable housing on their own terms. Click To Tweet

I’m getting so much nostalgia thinking about going to school. Adam was referencing the study abroad program that we did, which is so funny. I still have my Emerson shirt that I got either right before that program or while I was there. I know I had it when I was in Europe because there are pictures of me wearing that shirt. I still have it to this day but it’s not with me now. I was like, “That would have been the perfect shirt to wear during this episode for the YouTube version of this podcast,” but another time.

I’m fascinated by the career evolutions that people take. I’m curious for you, how did you start getting into tiny homes and when did you even learn about them? I remember hearing them through Jason. Jason’s super excited to talk to you about this because he has this personal interest in passion and tiny homes. I’m curious, as you’ve been in that world, Adam, how long have they been going on? When did you first hear of tiny homes and what was your journey going from broadcast journalism and studying different forms of journalism to getting involved in this tiny house movement?

I tend to be long with my answers. I’ll try to be concise on this. I was in New York during the financial crash trying to be a reporter. It was a romantic reason to go back home to the Bay and my job fell through around 2010. I went through this period where I was still trying to find work as a reporter but there wasn’t a lot of stuff happening at that point if you remember. In New York, I saw a pedicab around the Times Square area and talked to the driver.

A pedicab is a big tricycle with seats in the back where you can carry tourists around. I was cycling up and down Manhattan to get to work. I lived in Brooklyn and was working in northern Manhattan. I decided to jump on a pedicab in San Francisco and I fell in love with it. It was a temporary thing while I look for a real job. Seven years later, I fell in love with pedicabing. Two or three years into it in about 2012, I’m YouTubing around into environmentalism at this point. You guys seem to be inspired by food. Food is also a big motivator for me and that brought me to thinking about the environment.

On YouTube, I came across tiny homes and tiny homes in relation to permaculture and sustainable systems. I was also going through this moment from the Great Recession, realizing there’s nobody behind the wheel in our society. It can fall apart so I was thinking seriously about how to provide the basic needs for myself. How do I grow food? All that lined up for me around tiny homes. I jumped full in. What jump-started everything was breaking up with my partner that I moved back to the Bay for and getting a one-way ticket to Australia to study permaculture and work on farms. I was staying in a lot of weird situations and getting more and more into the idea of tiny homes.

Once I ran out of money and decided to come back to the Bay, my housing leap of faith was, “Let’s figure out how to jump in a tiny home.” What I realized was the most direct way to do that rather than try to build one that might end up taking me a couple of years. I needed housing right then and there. It was to buy a used RV and renovate it. You can find them for free or cheap. That’s what I did and that sent me down the rabbit hole.

We had one guest on our show who talked about living in an RV. Jason and I both get so excited about this. I can’t wait to hear Jason. I’m sure he has a list of questions. This is fascinating to me. It lights me up, Adam and it’s funny how sometimes you don’t even realize what lights you up until someone else starts talking about it so I’m glad that you’re on the show. Tiny homes are fascinating. Jason, you started getting into them I would say in 2013 or 2014 perhaps. As they were growing in popularity before there were shows on TV slowly showing up like TV shows coming up with a tiny home concept. You had a book about tiny homes, Jason. You were considering it and it seems your interest dwindled. I want to know, Jason, where you’re at with that.

The RV scene, Adam, I feel has even grown in massive popularity, converting vans, traveling and people not having to pay rent because they’re living out of their cars, vans or buses. I’m sure you’ve seen so much of this, Adam so your perspective on that is interesting to me. I’m drawn to it as well because of that freedom that comes along with not having a lot of things. We’ve talked about minimalism a bit on the show. There’s this draw to simply have freedom.

In our country, theoretically, it is based on freedom but not all less experience that, at least in the way that we want to. There’s something about, “How can I be self-sufficient? How can I depend less on others? How can I do whatever and whenever I want? How can I have more money?” That’s incredibly appealing. Jason, this is where you come into the conversation, which is what drew you to tiny homes? How would you like to engage with Adam in this conversation? I’m super curious to know what you’re going to have to say.

There are a lot of reasons. It was right around 2013. I remember being in a bookstore in Los Angeles and being drawn to this one. I was in the architecture section and I remember seeing these books on tiny houses. I’m thinking, “What is this about?” To Whitney’s point, this was prior to any of the Tiny House Nation or any of the shows on HGTV, Discovery or any of those. I pick up this tiny house book out of curiosity and I’m slowly leafing through it. I’m looking at the pictures and I’m looking at some of the architectural designs.

MGU 240 | Tiny House Living

Tiny House Living: Poverty and people that are not making enough to afford million-dollar homes are basically looked at as things to be concealed and to be legislated away.

 

I get into the philosophy in this book, which at the time I remember and I still have it on my bookshelf, was espousing this triumvirate of sovereignty. They defined it as, “Why would you want to be tied to a 30-year mortgage, where you’re paying all of this money and you’re throwing all this money to the bank. That in some ways, it’s keeping people in a perpetual debt cycle financially.” The other side of it was the independence to pick up and move from community to community and put yourself in different places. That freedom, as Whitney was alluding to, was something that was exhilarating.

The other two sides were the minimalism of reducing your material things in life and living simply but then also giving a level of autonomy to people in desperate social situations, homeless people and people living under the poverty line. Giving them a safe, equitable and manageable space to get them off of the streets and empower them to do different things. In this book, I was digging and going, “This is interesting to me. I’d never read the intersection of these different philosophies in quite that way.”

To me, I’ve always been a rebellious person and when I see people doing things a certain way in a society that works, I’m like, “This doesn’t work for everyone. It works for you because you’re benefiting.” Part of the tiny house thing was different, weird and new. I started buying all these books, watching all the shows and looking at different individuals and companies that could build one for me. I don’t know that I’ve lost enthusiasm per se, it’s more so the zoning laws in Los Angeles and the way things are set up in LA are not friendly or conducive to the tiny house movement. I want to hear more about your community, Adam, in Oakland.

I’ve toured communities in Portland. I’ve gone to tiny house communities in Austin, Texas. The municipalities that, from a legal perspective, are much more beneficial than doing those things. Los Angeles is not one of them. Los Angeles is crappy when it comes to supporting people in building and maintaining tiny houses. Anyone that does now it’s more of an ADU. It’s on a foundation and they’re like, “We’re more liberal now with the zoning for ADU.”

For a tiny house on wheels, there are not many of them here in LA. It’s been disconcerting. That’s my long-winded history with tiny houses. Back to you, Adam. As you’re getting into this and you’re finding your intersection of sustainability, permaculture and tiny houses. You get back to the Bay Area… what things did you start exploring? What challenges came up for you? How friendly has the Bay been toward you in your endeavors to get this movement going and create what you’ve created?

I appreciate you bringing rounding out the tiny house straw. A lot of what you said, I resonated with and we’re and we’re part of what brought me to tiny homes. It’s not a friendly scene here in the Bay. It’s similar, I would say to LA. That was one of the big lessons I learned quickly. I didn’t realize the whole class antipoverty context that I was jumping into. It’s within all of us. I had a friend, a pedicaber, who was living in an RV about a year or two before I started doing it, parked outside of a friend’s house and plugged in. I looked at it and I remember judging him. I remember looking at him like, “You’re a loser. You’re making the same amount of money as me. Why don’t you live a normal upstanding person?”

That anti-poverty framework is in all of us, it’s in our culture and it’s reflected in our laws. It is illegal in Oakland, at least to live in an RV for more than 72 hours. It’s illegal to own land and own the RV and park it on your land without concealing it because it’s considered blight. It’s considered an eyesore. Poverty and people that are not making enough to afford million-dollar homes are basically looked at as things to be concealed and to be legislated away.

That was a rude awakening but it also puts you in this renegade space that you were talking about Jason, where you’re like, “Screw you.” I wasn’t affected by the class stuff. Whitney, we could have bought a McDonald’s franchise with the amount of money we spent going to school. Even still, it does affect you over time, when you’re living at home on wheels. Especially in the beginning, I didn’t have a place to go to the bathroom so I would have to get on my bike and ride to Target to drop a deuce.

I had to get creative. My dad had some electrical background so one of the things I was forced to do is figure out how to do sustainable energy. I set up a solar panel, a little wind turbine, the battery bank and figured that stuff out. How do you get water to your site? I had a pedicab friend to help me build a big trailer to haul water like one of those blue barrels, one of those 55-gallon rainwater tanks. I would bike that to my little sister’s place that happened to be nearby and fill it up with water, bike it back and figure out how to pump it onto my tank.

It forces you to learn a lot, which was what I was after. The other aspect of it is the legal side that you referenced. It gets into a lot of sticky issues that our society is still dealing with. It’s still not solved for sure. One other real quick thing though. LA was one of the first places to legalize tiny homes on wheels as an ADU you so it’s held up as an example but I don’t know what’s going on in the ground there. That’s something people talk about in the tiny house world.

You talk about this host of challenges and how laws, municipalities and zoning. I love that you said antipoverty. There’s judgment and legally, they’re not allowing people, in some places, to have affordable housing options. It brings up the idea of, as I was looking here in LA I was considering buying, buying a plot of land like 0.25-acre, 0.5-acre or whatever it is but the cost of land here is so expensive. After buying the plot and putting a tiny house up, building one or inviting my friends to live in a community. One needs to have quite a sizable reserve of cash to even pull that off.

It's interesting to think about housing as not just housing or a tool for shelter and not also an economic vehicle. Click To Tweet

One of the things that I’ve hesitated to, Adam, to your point here is not in the past, at least a few years ago, the rigid zoning restrictions but their prohibitive cost of access. Some friends have done it in the system in Ohio or Topanga here. There are a few people I know that have tiny houses that because they didn’t have the budget to buy the land, they would find through the grapevine maybe someone who did have the land. They would rent and pay them $300 or $400 a month to park their tiny house in the back of their property.

I know some people that have done that but this brings up classism and the lack of entry to people that don’t have a ton of wealth and cash reserves to buy land and put up these tiny houses. Are there any other systems you’ve seen other than approaching a private landowner and saying, “Could I pay you to park $300 a month to park my tiny house there?” How do we make this more accessible and affordable to people that don’t have a ton of money to do this?

That’s the big question. It sounds like we’ve toured some of the same places. Did you go to Community First! Village in Austin and Opportunity Village in Portland?

I did.

Both of those are great examples but they’re nonprofits and the context is people who have been chronically homeless and the city’s usually in most cases giving land away and there’s a lot of donated money to provide this “charity.” That’s one model but there are a lot of people that don’t consider themselves homeless. They want to do affordable housing on their own terms. The main way that they do it is like what you referenced, they’re finding an undercover backyard lease situation. What my community has done and a couple of other places do is like that but more of when young people lease a big brownstone house or big Victorian house and divvy up the rooms.

In college, I was living in basically a hallway between two rooms but it was five people crammed into a three-bedroom. What we did was we leased a big lot. We divvied up the costs that way and we rolled our homes. The legality is not there but the logistics are there. It pencils out well when you have fixed costs of your land costs, your trash service, your internet and your water. In most cases, we’re doing porta potty service because there’s no sewer line connected. When you split those fixed costs across 5 people, 8 people, it gets affordable compared to if it’s only 1 person.

Let’s talk about what affordable means because it’s all relative. Affordable in a place like Los Angeles, where Whitney and I live. Whitney has also lived in the Bay. I used to live in the Bay years ago. We live in two of the most expensive metropolitan areas in the world. I also want to talk about the cost of building a tiny house because that can vary widely. I’ve looked at individual builders and also companies that do it and that’s a huge range of expense. Before we get into the actual building of it, how you learned those skills and got into it when you say affordable, what does that mean per month? What’s a monthly nut to operate and maintain your space in the tiny house community you have? What does that look like? What’s your monthly outlay?

I referenced being a pedicaber because it’s a service-level job. The community that I lived in in the beginning was primarily made up of pedicab drivers and people that worked on that level of the economy. For context, we would make roughly $25,000 to $30,000 a year in cash like a waiter-type salary. It wasn’t sustainable to pay more than $600 or $700 a month for your rent. That was not possible back in 2014 when I got into this. It was a little bit before that but it was getting harder and harder. Our first iteration was roughly $300 to $400 a month that each person had to pay and now the community is at $600 a month for space. In an RV park, you can’t find anything but in the urban core around the Bay Area proper, it’s $12,000 minimum to get a space for an RV, for a tiny home on wheels. If you get further out in Lake County, there are some spots that are closer to $400 or $500 a month.

The average cost of rent, even though it’s gone down a little bit during the pandemic that’s so much less for your monthly nut than what we pay in a normal situation, a house, an apartment, whatever. That’s substantially less. It’s interesting and in that sense, when I’ve talked to certain people in my family about wanting to build a tiny house and put it there, they’re like, “You won’t build any equity. What about equity? You should buy a house because you build equity and your credit.”

They give me all these reasons which are valid and that’s fine. It seems that the judgment you talked about, Adam, this antipoverty thing extends to that of, “What about your credit? What about your equity? What about building your future?” There’s all this future fear built into what I’ve personally heard of why I ought not to do that, be normal and get a regular house. Is that something you ever think about or you don’t give a crap about when people bring up those concerns?

MGU 240 | Tiny House Living

Tiny House Living: You’re not as insulated from the outdoor environment, the elements, which can be cool, initially, but after 3-4 years it can be a drag, and it can affect your overall mental state.

 

I think about it all the time. In fact, I realized that especially after the financial crisis in 2008 and with my pedicab job I wasn’t building a 401(k) or anything. What am I going to do when I get older? I was lucky enough to have a dad that had a high-paying job and was interested in playing in real estate. Before I got into tiny houses, we invested together in a fourplex, an investment property. Through luck, I was able to get into two real estates, putting in a little bit of my savings and sweat equity as a property manager and the majority of my dad’s money and his ability to get a mortgage.

I also realized in that process, that as someone who works in the service industry who’s primarily paid in cash, I’m locked out of that game that you’re referencing. I’m not able to get a mortgage. That’s another injustice or ridiculous aspect of our system and which is partly why people jump into tiny homes. We’re in the middle of working on getting my real estate license, ironically. You reference another idea that pops up. For me, studying this and being involved in this for so many years, I realized that real estate is one of the most solid ways to park your money, wealth and grow your wealth. Not everybody is able to play that game. I played a lot of poker while I was pedicabbing at one point right before my tiny house started.

You realize when you play poker seriously that the game changes depending on how many chips you have in front of you. It’s a much harder game when you are short-stacked compared to if you happen to buy in for a big amount or you get a big windfall. All of a sudden, every decision is a lot easier. It’s a similar analogy to the way our economy works. It’s interesting to think about housing as not just housing or a tool for shelter and not also an economic vehicle. That is a problem that we’re in and if we can somehow divorce the two and remove the two, we would be better off. A big part of why these laws are prohibitive for people living affordably is because everybody’s worried about their property values going down. Those people are the people that politicians care about and where policies are framed.

From the perspective of reflecting on the money involved when it comes to how we live, this one, if not the main reason that younger generations are more and more interested in living minimally. It seems like a lot of people like Millennials, Gen Z and perhaps even younger, they’re rethinking how they want to work when they want to work where they want to work. They want that freedom. They’re confused and overwhelmed by things like real estate and credit cards. I noticed a lot of this on platforms like TikTok where I’ll read through the comments and see a lot of people are feeling overwhelmed and confused and at a big disadvantage financially. It’s different from our parents’ generations.

They seem to have it all together and perhaps many parents make the assumption that their children are going to buy a house, raise a family and make all these financial decisions that they see as savvy. Let’s say, Millennials like us if they’re working in the service industry, which is common, they’re not getting those financial benefits. They’re not set up in the same way that our parents, many of which I don’t know if this is true statistically but perceive them as having all these steady 9:00 to 5:00 jobs with all these benefits and money was different then, too.

Jason has pointed out how the average income perhaps has gone down but housing prices are going up or staying the same so they’re not matching each other anymore. Jason, I want to come back to you with that, in fact, what you were saying. Money has shifted a lot and during COVID, we have whole new relationships with how we make money and how much money we’re making. All of these different reflections as the government continues to change and how we’re treated in the US with money.

With all of these things considered, it leaves a lot of people who say, “Screw it all. I’m getting a van. I’m living out of my car.” To your point earlier, Adam and Jason as well, that is a little bit more acceptable and also seen as cool. I see this so much on TikTok. We see it on Instagram. It’s big there, too like people living out of their vans, people converting buses, people living out of cars. All of that to become not only acceptable but trendy. This whole life of minimizing those expenses, living minimally and having that freedom to go wherever, whenever.

What we don’t often see in those types of posts is it’s not always as easy and glamorous. To your point, Adam, there is a lot that goes into this. I experienced a little bit of it in 2020 when I drove across the country and camped in my car. It was eye-opening because I had never experienced what it was like to camp but since I was staying in my car, I would often go to RV parks or something. It was fascinating to me to have seen what it was like to stay there amongst people who might be living there or staying there for months on end. I met all sorts of characters in those environments.

It wasn’t a vacation or a quick experience like I was having. I was meeting all of these people who had this as their life. I started to feel incredibly overwhelmed and it’s still overwhelming but a little less so for me trying to understand where you can park your car and sleep overnight? Where is safe? That’s a whole other conversation for me as a woman especially when I was doing part of that experience on my own.

It was overwhelming to try to figure out how do I get my basic needs met? What is a good cost for this? What are the rules? Is it safe for me to even be doing this? I find it fascinating that even though it’s becoming more trendy and it’s becoming more common, there’s still a lot of vagueness, which goes back to what you were saying, Adam. I assume that part of the reason it’s vague is that you’re learning something for the first time and like anything else you have to spend a lot of time studying it? Is it kept purposefully vague because the country doesn’t want people living out of their cars or vans? Is it a mix?

You brought up a couple of things, Whitney. I’m thinking about how we’re in this interesting moment where there are a lot of “middle class” comfortable people that are experiencing what poor people have experienced for a long time. It’s going to lead to some good changes in the future. I saw an Instagram post of a super cool hip couple doing their van life thing. They had lots of family and resources to park their van but they were like, “The cops banged on our door because some stodgy neighbor called us in. WTF?” That’s an experience that a lot of people deal with and it’s now seeping in and brought into the broader culture some of the stuff which has positive repercussions.

If you could give somebody two weeks of a steady place to sleep and those basic needs that we all deserve are met, they turn around. Click To Tweet

The safety stuff is huge. The other idea is it’s not always so great to live in small spaces and not be able to stand up to deal with sometimes the mold that can develop or the moisture. You’re not as insulated from the outdoor environment, the elements, which can be cool initially but after 3 or 4 years it can be a drag and it can affect your overall mental state. It can affect your performance out in the world and it can start to drag on you. I was doing it for about five years but I also had the privilege to go to Sundance every year and volunteered to stay in a nice hotel. I would travel a lot in the winter when it wasn’t fun.

During the pandemic, I moved in with my girlfriend into a studio and she calls it the flush life because we have flush toilets for once. I was surprised at how it did affect my productivity, my mental state to have a little bit of these creature comforts. That’s another aspect. Camping full-time, which is one way of thinking about it can affect you. The promise of tiny homes is you can get a well-insulated wood structure like the ones you see on HGTV and eventually, we can get them for more than the price of a car rather than $60,000. Eventually, we can find a lot of these places to park affordably and it can start to pencil out and it can start to be a comfortable and more Flush Life type experience.

I love what you touched upon there, Adam, which is how living that way full-time could affect your mental health. That’s such a great point because social media paints it as, “Look at all the mental health benefits because of the freedom and the money I’m saving because of all these great experiences.” My perspective mostly comes from that cross-country trip that I did, which all in all is about maybe twenty days or less there and back total. I did find that it was exhausting. I did not have the mental space or energy to do much else other than drive, figure out where I was going to stay the night and make it through the night.

I thought for sure, Adam, “I have all this time. I’m going to stop.” For me having an electric car, I’ll stop and charge my car and I’ll work. I could never work during that time. Driving a lot is exhausting. It’s a little different than if you’re parked somewhere. All of the variables that go into that experience especially if you’re going to a new place all the time, you’re constantly taken out of your comfort zone, you’re constantly thrown into a new environment with new people.

I imagine for someone that lives out of their car, the likelihood of them being able to stay in the same place for several nights is probably slim so at the very least they have to go find another spot. I’m sure over time you get used to where safe and where you’re allowed to be but that can shift around too. Having that limited experience, I could absolutely imagine that it’s tough. Being a woman but anybody who’s experiencing fears around their safety whether it’s your gender, race, age or whatever else factor is out there, that’s a whole other level of mental energy. The other thing I experienced, Adam, was I found it hard to sleep because my brain was constantly like, “Are you okay?” I wasn’t expecting that and maybe that’s because I wasn’t used to it but maybe the way that our brains function.

If we have experienced so much of life of safety and comfort, we don’t know how unsafe it can feel and uncomfortable it can be to be in those situations where your survival is truly at stake because when you’re in your car, it can feel vulnerable. You said someone can come to knock on your door and wake you up. You don’t know who that person is. They’re outside and you’re in a small space. That’s something I thought a lot about. Is it okay for me to be here? Is it safe for me to be here? Is somebody going to try to break into the car? Is someone going to try to do something bad and vandalize? There are these constant thoughts that go through.

Even when I would pick places to stay the night that felt safe, there was still that underlying thought for me. It gave me some perspective and a lot of compassion for people that are living that way. One thing I’ve been seeing on platforms like TikTok going back to this point about it becoming more acceptable to the point where people are more comfortable sharing these things. There seems less shame. More and more, I’m exposed to people sharing how they live out of their cars because they don’t feel like they have another option or they literally don’t have another option.

One trend that breaks my heart but it’s also smart from survival is there’s a lot of people sharing how you can use your seatbelt to thread it through the armrest so way in the middle of the night, nobody can come and open up your car door. If you’re reading versus watching on YouTube, I’m showing on our video version of the podcast the handle where you would put your hand through to open up the car, people are now putting their seatbelt through that handle loop and buckling themselves. They’re also putting it through the top.

There are all of these ways people are rigging up their cars for more safety, which is smart but if you step back, you recognize that they’re doing that because they’re staying in their car and they need to secure it. They can’t sleep if they’re thinking about someone breaking into their car all night long which is something I experienced a lot. Can you imagine living a whole year that way and what that would do to your mental health? How exhausting it would be to wonder where you’re going to sleep. Is it safe? How are you going to use the bathroom? That was something else I experienced.

Because I was traveling during COVID, I didn’t want to use public bathrooms but I had the option to so I got creative. I was trying to protect my health by not being in some of those situations but they were still there for me. To your point, Adam, that flush life concept is real because just thinking about how are you going to sleep? How are you going to use the bathroom? How are you going to eat? How are you going to have access to water? That could take up your entire day. How do you have the energy or time even to do anything else? That’s the drawback to things like this if you have the choice of whether or not to live that way but if you don’t have that choice it’s an important thing to point out and realize what other people’s lives are like.

MGU 240 | Tiny House Living

Tiny House Living: The promise of tiny homes is you can get a well-insulated wood structure like the ones you see on HGTV, and eventually, we can get them for more than the price of a car rather than $60,000.

 

I love that you brought up to sleep in. Do you watch the MasterClasses? Do you do any of that? It’s a streaming platform. I watched the MasterClass on this PhD Scientist at UC Berkeley that studies sleep for the last couple of years. The big takeaway is sleep is so massively important to our health and it’s not a three-legged stool where it’s sleep, exercise, nutrition. It’s a two-legged stool of exercise nutrition, sitting on a platform of sleep. It’s that important. I love that you brought up compassion, too because that’s definitely something I’ve learned in this journey. Most people tune out homeless folks. Maybe there’s judgment, maybe they’re irrelevant but they’re not me and I don’t see myself in them.

If you traveled a bit as you did, Whitney or you do something long-term tiny home living like I’ve done, you start to realize, “I could go crazy if I didn’t get enough sleep for a couple of days. I could be that person talking to myself out on the streets.” It’s not so easy to get into a business and use the bathroom and you’re locked out of society. It does affect your mental state. I definitely experienced some of that feeling that there’s something wrong with me. I’m not normal. We all have those moments but when you do something like this, it reinforces some of those things.

For part of my cross-country trip, I was with my friend. She was camping in our tent and I was camping in my car. We were avoiding situations like public bathrooms. We had the option to do them but because we were avoiding them, we weren’t showering. We may be showered twice on the whole trip, which was about 9 or 10 days. That’s not a huge period of time to go without showering but still, if you’re used to having an access to a shower every day, it seems extreme. We brought limited amounts of clothes and we didn’t have a laundry machine. We got to that place where our hair is messier, our bodies might smell more and our clothes are not as clean.

That perspective of 9 or 10 days that we had did put us in positions where a question we had is like, “How are people perceiving us?” One of the things that we did during that trip was we brought a bunch of dehydrated instant soups that all you have to do is add water to them and we didn’t have access to heat up water so we would go into gas stations to get water. That was one of those experiences. The gas stations are maybe the main place where people go to wash their bodies, brush their teeth, get food and water and that sort of thing. I remember sometimes going in there and thinking, “Are they going to think I’m a homeless person because I’m coming in here to get water?”

That thought process too of being afraid of people judging me for that, which is something that so many people are experiencing all the time. Your point about judging someone based on how they live or also how they look, we get fixated on that. Many of us are functioning with this constant thought process to others all the time of, “How do I look?” Many of us have the luxury of a shower, laundry machine and money to buy clothes. For women to buy products to do their hair and makeup and men’s own products as well. We take that stuff almost for granted but it also consumes much.

One of the plus sides and one of the perspectives you could get out of traveling and camping for an extended period of time is you recognize how it’s not important on most levels. At the same time, it’s still a consideration because that’s so much of how our society works. It’s like, “I have to brush my hair because I don’t want to be perceived in this way that doesn’t even matter but I’m still afraid of what other people think of us.” To your point, too, Adam, about how we judge a homeless person without even recognizing, “How did they get to that place where they look the way that they do, live the way that they do and are exhibiting behavior in a certain way?” We have no idea.

I remember starting to experience homelessness for the first time when I was at Emerson College in Boston. In Boston, we have a park called the Common and my dormitory was across the park from the classroom. Every day, I’d have to walk through the park. It’s a nice park and it’s safe but there were homeless people in there. That was my first major exposure to seeing these people and observing them. As a woman, something that would cross through my head is, “Am I safe? Is this person going to attack me?”

There’s the mindset that many of us are in of like, “Should I give this person money? Are they just going to use my money for drugs?” All those judgments that we put on them. The ignorance that we have overall of either not being exposed to them but also not being educated about who they are and what they’re going through. Many of us have the privilege of trying to avoid homeless people. In Los Angeles, people have the privilege of complaining about, “The homeless are getting out of hand.” That to me is a heartbreaking statement.

At one point, I started to go to a lot of neighborhood meetings and business meetings where they were talking about the homelessness problem, which has accelerated in the last few years since then. I remember noticing that people would talk about homeless folks almost like rodents or pests. It reminded me of the same conversation I had a few moments earlier in Home Depot talking about the right technique to keep them out. You also realize when you get deep into this world that and maybe you saw this, Jason, if you could give somebody two weeks of a steady place to sleep and those basic needs that we all deserve met, they turn around.

That’s hopeful for a society that we could get to if we can figure out how to get those basic needs met for everybody. I wanted to make sure that your readers get that it’s also a cool experience to live in a tiny home community. A hipster trailer park is what we used to call it. Most of the people that live there never experienced homelessness like you see chronic homelessness and that sort of thing. We had internet, ducks, chickens, bees and lots of space to grow food. It can be a cool scene.

You’ve transitioned to living in a studio with your girlfriend. Where are you at with it since you’re living there? Do you go back and visit the community? Do you go and show with friends there? Also, I want to also know professionally what you’re doing because we had a chance to dig into Tiny Logic and see some of the services and the consulting you offer. I want to touch on that a little bit because I’m curious, who are you working with? When you do have someone approached you with a tiny house or even an ADU concept, what’s that whole process like for you? What was that learning curve? When we go back to career transitions and that being a part of this conversation, are you the one drawing up the architecture plans? Do you have architecture students you work with? How do you run the company? How do you build houses for people? I want to get into the nitty-gritty a little bit because I know nothing about it. How the hell did you learn how to do this?

There's a ton of people that moved into their RV and they set up shop on the side of the road. People are already figuring it out. Click To Tweet

When we started the community, I had previously managed the hostel when I was traveling in Central America after college. I’m a little bit of a spreadsheet nerd and had a healthy bank account. It was a logical choice to put my name on the lease, put my name on the bills and manage the finances as my gift to the community. It was to split it five ways initially. Over time, I realized, “I stepped into a lot of responsibility here. I could be sued from a couple of different angles.” I don’t know if you remember the Ghost Ship fires, which was a big artist warehouse that erupted into an electrical fire and killed a lot of folks. A lot of people contacted me thinking that I was part of that community because they knew that my situation was similar to that but I wasn’t in Ghost Ship.

I realized that the person who was collecting the rent was on trial for a year or so facing jail time and that was potentially going to be me. I was getting treated like a landlord but I wasn’t getting the money of a landlord. I wasn’t trying to profit off of people but I realized there was a need to professionalize what I was doing. I was essentially doing property management. I created an LLC and focused on trying to figure out this space of being a facilitator of a housing cooperative and collecting a fee for that. There was another community similar to ours that was mostly about Burning Man folks living out of buses and box trucks. The founder of that was going to step away and it was going to potentially die. I came in to keep it alive and serve as that admin through-line for the group. That was what I was trying to push, running an RV park that’s not permitted.

In that process, I also began to work with contractors to build backyard units, often not permitted. I would sell for the contractor. I wanted to learn how to build it so then I would go in and help the project manage and build. We had some weird adventures there. We built one in San Bruno in a backyard and then once we got to the stage of finishing drywall, an inspector showed up and said, “This is not legally in the right spot. It’s okay because you’re calling it a shed but it’s got to be 20 feet that way.” We ended up having to slice this tiny house into parts. We had to slice the roof into three parts, disassemble the walls, carry it 20 feet and reassemble it. It was nuts.

I’ve been doing these two things. To answer your question, Jason, I’ve been doing this property management piece focused on the niche of tiny home communities. On the other side, I’ve been trying to be a facilitator to builders, being a matcher because I have a lot of sales background. To tie in what you’re saying about the career transition, with all of this, I’ve applied my journalism skills to figuring out the laws. In New York, I used to go to community board meetings and cover them. I knew the dynamics and the drama of a community board framework. I applied a lot of that knowledge to try and understand what was going on in Oakland and generally, figuring out how to grant a permit is definitely a research experience every time. It’s always different. It’s a lot of calling people and hounding people. A lot of the journalism stuff is helpful for permitting but also sales and conveying these complex ideas to potential customers.

There was a big law that was passed in 2020 to make ADUs, Accessory Dwelling Units or backyard units, a lot more possible. Before that, there were a lot of these poison pills. “You could do an ADU but it’s got to have three parking spaces associated with it and you can’t build it if you have square footage that’s 800 square feet and all this stuff.” It effectively made it impossible to build an ADU almost everywhere. This law made it so that there’s a bare minimum of standards to build an ADU and many more properties are now able to do it. There’s this big boon happening. All these companies are getting into the ADU space.

I jumped in with a startup and was serving as their sales rep and permitter where they were converting shipping containers into prefabricated ADUs. What I’ve realized is that there are a ton of builders. They all want to do their one thing and they don’t always match what a property needs. For instance, a prefabricated unit has to get into a backyard and that means either by a crane or driving it into the backyard. Not every property can do that. If you have power lines over your street, a crane can’t go over.

Some properties have unique spaces that need more of a custom-built. Some builders are not necessarily able to take on your build. They might fit your type of yard but they might be booked out for the next year. There’s a need for someone to be a matchmaker. Someone with knowledge of the unique challenges of installing an ADU, knowledge of the builders and where they’re at and making a match. That’s what I’ve been doing. I’m offering free consultations if people want to contact me. I get a sense of their yard, their property, what their mission is for the ADU and then I go and look for a builder that’ll fit that build.

I’m curious, Jason, if all of this conversation is reigniting your interest in living at a tiny home now that you know a little bit more about how it all works.

The issue that I have is I have a lot of animals. I would need a two-tier tiny house which I’ve seen. I still am obsessed with looking at YouTube videos and articles. Over the years, I’ve seen it evolve, Adam, from these boho, hippie, aged wood living up in Northern California. It’s not my aesthetic per se but ramshackle rustic and then now everyone’s doing these super modern tiny houses. They feature them in Dwell and Architectural Digest. It’s like, “Tiny houses in Architectural Digest.” I’m seeing people provide an example of still affordably creating something that has more creature comforts. It’s more advanced plumbing systems and different blackwater toilets that are a little more user-friendly. People aren’t necessarily pooping in a bucket like they used to.

In Costa Rica when I was there years ago, some of the tiny houses I saw there from the ex-pats were like, “You poop in a bucket and you just take it.” That’s a choice. I’d prefer not to poop in a bucket. My point is I’m seeing more advanced interesting designs in tiny houses that I say, “I could live in that.” I have five animals. Five animals and van life are not necessarily compatible. I’d have to have like, “The litterboxes go in the back half.” I want to go back to accessibility and affordability.

MGU 240 | Tiny House Living

Tiny House Living: There was a big law that was passed in 2020 to make accessory dwelling units or backyard units, a lot more possible. Before that, there were a lot of these poison pills.

 

Can you tell me your five animals? I’m super curious.

I was hoping, Jason, you’d list off like, “I have a mini horse. I have an iguana. I have a capybara. I have a duck.”

It’s not even that interesting but they are my companions. Through COVID, they’ve been a Godsend. I have four cats, Adam. I have Claudia, Lynx, Figaro and Julius. The newest member is a tiny French Bulldog named Bella. That’s my five. In essence, if I bundle them all together, they don’t take up that much space. In a van or a tiny house, I want them to feel they have autonomy and are not too cramped. They’re used to living in a house and I’m used to living in a house. It’s another consideration of like, “What do I keep? What books do I keep? What clothes do I keep? Do I keep my guitar? Where does the guitar go?”

I’ve thought through in my head of like, “How would I restructure my life to live in a tiny house?” It’s an interesting challenge. To go back to the affordability and accessibility side of this thing, it’s going to be interesting to see, as we see massive attrition in places like New York, LA and the Bay Area specifically, of how many middle-class people have moved in 2020. One thing that I’ve been looking at is buying property in LA but I’m not able to because the median house price in LA is over $700,000 for the first time in history. In Orange County, it’s $800,000. That’s the median price.

I’ve been talking to friends who have been going in and trying to buy a house. They’ve got good credit, they’ve got a stable job, etc. They’re saying, “We cannot buy anything because there are cash buyers coming in and dropping $100,000 over asking.” Middle-class people with good jobs, benefits and the whole thing can’t even buy a house here because they’re so priced out of the market. It’s interesting you bring up ADUs because the relaxation of that law here in LA was pitched as, “We need more affordable housing in LA. There’s not enough affordable housing.” I’m curious if this is a thing that’s delivering on that idea, wherein a private homeowner or landowner is building an ADU because they probably want to make more money and they want another passive stream of income. What are they renting these ADUs for? Is it affordable or is it like, “We’re going to put up an ADU in Oakland and we’re going to charge $2,000 a month for the ADU?” That’s not an affordable option.

My whole point in this is in a place like LA, the Bay Area and New York City, it would seem that allowing ADUs and tiny houses to have more freedom could be a potential solution to offer more affordable housing options. I don’t know if the reality is necessarily panning out that way. What are you seeing, Adam? When you help people with ADUs and these tiny house projects, is it an affordable option? Is that a pie in the sky dream that politicians want to say, “This will be great,” but it doesn’t work?

The majority of people that come to me and want to build an ADU in the short-term want to have an office space or a flex guest room for grandma because they have a new baby or they have a college kid that isn’t able to go to school and is living back at home with them. In the long-term, they want to be able to rent it out. In fact, there’s a company that I work with called Rent the Backyard. Their whole business model was around the fact that you can get high rents in this market for your ADU. Initially, they would finance the build, be a partner with you on it, split the rents with you and then over time, you would buy them out.

It was all based on the idea that you would be able to get higher rents for this backyard unit. You’re right. At best, it’s extra housing units that are going to support families that wouldn’t be out in the rental market so maybe that would bring the rents down. For me, what I’ve realized in doing the numbers for this stuff is that the main cost line is the land. Like you referenced with these crazy prices, the land is not connected to reality in a lot of sense. It’s the magic part of the market. One idea that I’ve been playing with is to use a piece of the comments. This goes back to the homelessness approach but maybe we can find a way to make it more for everyone so people don’t feel like they’re in that class category.

I’m sure this is happening in LA and it’s definitely happening in the Bay. There’s a ton of people that moved into their RV and they set up shop on the side of the road. People are already figuring it out. In a lot of cases, it’s disorganized and it’s a problem. In some situations, people are keeping it clean. LA did a version of this where they had designated green streets wherein these streets you’re allowed to park and live 24/7 in your home on wheels. What would be cool is a parking pass that people could get that says to a cop or a neighbor, “This person and this rig has been vetted.” Maybe they’ve paid a little bit to be vetted. They have this parking pass. The cops won’t bother them. The neighbors will feel like, “This isn’t a heroin addict who’s going to leave a cow pie on my sidewalk.”

An add-on to this idea would be to marry parklets with tiny homes. I’m talking with a parklet architect about a pilot to create a parklet with the permitting process of a parklet. Slide a tiny house in there and figure out how to connect it to utilities or set up a system of trucks that regularly come and pump out blackwater, fresh water and do a battery swap. To play with the idea of taking up, it’s not much. It’s maybe 2 or 3 parking spaces, maybe 300 square feet. That will make things so much cheaper and more affordable if you pair that with the ability to acquire a tiny home on wheels affordably.

One quick add-on to that. We think about our personal space. No matter where I am in the world, there is a certain sphere around me that’s my space. You can’t invade my space even if I’m in your house. It would be cool to apply that to your house. That’s 300 square feet. As long as I’m not in the middle of a freeway and I’m not blocking these other pathways, I’m allowed to be there as long as I’m not a problem. That would be an interesting law to push for.

What's cool about living in a tiny home community is that you are involved in the outdoor space. Click To Tweet

All of this is mainly evoking more desire to be more educated about the homeless in general. That’s something that I reflect a lot on and feel mainly ignorant about. As you’re talking about the green streets, I looked it up. In LA, there are a few things. I found safe parking streets that were updated a few years ago so that might be what you’re referencing. In LA, there are certain areas where I’ll take note of what the homeless situation is like and then I’m fascinated by how it changes. For example, in Hollywood where I live, there are lots of tents around and there’ll be some areas where you’ll see a lot of people living out of tents. I’ve noticed, sometimes, they disappear. Sometimes, I’ve seen the cops coming by and clearing them out but then they’ll come back.

I’m intrigued by what the rules are and why that happens. I’ve also noticed that it shifts around to different parts of the neighborhood and there’s one, in particular, I drove by that hadn’t been down for a bit. There was a combination of tons of tents probably on this two-block area. I would estimate at least twenty tents but there’s stuff all over the place. There were a lot of RVs parked over there and I was reflecting, “They must all be part of this little community that they’ve built.” It’s fascinating to drive through it because I suppose, as long as I don’t feel threatened safety-wise and as long as I feel like I can drive through that area because I need to or I want to, that feels okay.

Aesthetically, it’s interesting because a lot of people don’t like the way it looks. If you examine it and recognize that every human being deserves to live and have their space, that’s an important thing to remind ourselves. People don’t live the same way. Even in apartments, we can be judgmental about what we consider messy or ugly or decorations we like or not. If you try not to judge the homeless and say, “This is another human being deserving of living the way that they want to live.”

To your point, Adam, do we want to waste in the street? Do we want used needles, drugs or whatever else? That triggers us to feel less safe. Certainly, there are ideas around, “Am I safe to walk through these areas?” I start to examine that too and I think, “Is it really that it’s not safe? Is it that we’ve been convinced it’s not safe as a way of being judgmental of these people? Is that some misconception we have in our head that homeless people equal drug users, homeless people equal unsafe people, homeless people equal mentally ill?” That’s not always the case.

In a way, perhaps we’ve been brainwashed to think of those things as a way of controlling, getting us to be judgmental and leveraging people that live in those areas to say, “We can’t have someone sleeping in their car on my street. We can’t have someone putting up a tent on my street.” It also comes back to that territorial mindset. The more I learn about this, the more I step back and wonder, “Where’s the truth here?” I need to be mindful that everyone deserves to have rights. That’s what it comes down to. Each person has basic human rights so that they can survive. We also have to step back and recognize our privilege of simply having the financial resources to live in a certain way that not everybody else has.

You brought up two important things to note in that discussion. Part of the trash problem and the eyesore aspect of a lot of encampments is because there’s no outlet for trash. There’s often no outlet for bathrooms. In a lot of cases, you hear that there are trash cans but they’ve been locked up by the city or there are bathrooms at this park but they have locked them up because they don’t want to encourage someone to be there so trash piles up. We provide water and bathroom at public parks for everybody. If we could figure out how to provide trash service and bathroom access for everyone, that would go a long way to this eyesore problem, which isn’t cool.

The other thing is that I noticed when doing my journey in tiny housing and looking across outside of the fence at folks who are camped out on the street and talking to them, you realize that there is this spectrum of aesthetic pleasingness based on how long you feel like you’re able to be in that space. A homeowner on one end of the spectrum is there and not going anywhere. They can throw $20,000 or whatever. They can spend a couple of hundred dollars making their space nice. It’s going to stay there and it’s going to be worth it.

It doesn’t make sense if you’re camped out on the other side of the spectrum on the street and you may only be there for maybe a couple of weeks or maybe a month. You’re going to just cobble together what you find. You’re not going to put too much money or effort into it. Where we were was in the middle of that spectrum because we were behind a fence. We were leasing space but we realized zoning officials could crack down on us and we could maybe have 1 month, 2 months or 3 months to leave. We’re going to invest in some stuff and make it look cool but we’re not going to throw all of our money into it. There are going to be some aspects that are a little recycled and maybe someone might say janky. That’s worth noting.

I’m curious now that you’re in a traditional studio, Adam, what do you miss about tiny house living?

Being inside all the time insulated from the outdoor elements can have negative effects. I find that I need to get outside. I have a tradition every day where I go out and have my tea. I’m right by the lake. It’s like Central Park or whatever. It’s a big lake but it’s a big park as well. I go out and have my tea at the lake every day and listen to The New York Times podcast. That’s an important ritual. Even if it’s raining, I still had to go out and walk around under the trees for 30 minutes to get that fresh air.

Living in a tiny home community, what’s cool is you are involved in the outdoor space. A lot of your activities are in the outdoor space. When I lived in the community that I still manage, I took it for granted. I would go out constantly. What’s cool also is the social aspect of it, which has been a blessing during the pandemic. I was always able to go to the tiny house community. It’s oriented like a horseshoe. There’s a big courtyard in the center and it’s a safe place to socialize with folks. We have a fire pit so you can sit by the fire. You can’t always get those aspects in a city normie lifestyle.

MGU 240 | Tiny House Living

Tiny House Living: We think about our personal space. No matter where I am in the world, there is a certain sphere around me that’s my space. You can’t invade my space, even if I’m in your house.

 

In my travels, I want to come up and visit and see it. That’s something I would love to plan, Adam and meet you in person because I feel like I personally have so many questions to dig into. Maybe that’s an opportunity for me at some point to book a consultation with you if I decide to move forward, honestly. Speaking of which, your company is called Tiny Logic. Is that correct?

Yeah.

That’s an awesome name.

It sounds official like there are a lot of spreadsheets and a lot of organization involved, which I like because Whitney is the spreadsheet queen, anyone who knows Whitney. That’s why when you brought up spreadsheets, Adam, I was like, “You two are friends. You guys both have the superhero spreadsheet powers.” With Tiny Logic, if someone wants to get in touch with you, Adam, you offer services where you go, assess their property and see if it’s a good fit. If I understand correctly, you match them with a builder or a contractor to execute the project so you’re like a liaison. Is that correct?

That’s correct. What I’ve found is that that’s what most people want. They want to get into a contract with a builder. I’m making that commitment to folks. If they’re willing to pay me to come to spend some time out and give them a consultation at their property, I will stick with them until we find a contract for them. The way that I would make money is a little bit on coming out for that consultation but a commission, if possible, from the builder. It doesn’t always work that way. Like a real estate agent, how I’m framing it, the main goal is to be in the homeowner’s corner and the buyer’s corner trying to find them the best deal.

You also have your podcast. Last we spoke, you weren’t updating it but you still have the episodes. I’m curious, what is your plan with that? As podcasters, we love seeing other podcasters explore important topics. Yours is called We Are Homeless. I love the description of it because you say, “The objective is to make homelessness a historical concept,” which is such a powerful mission statement. Are you planning on updating it? Last I checked, you hadn’t. Where do you stand on the podcast?

Thanks for asking. I updated the podcast title to just be Tiny Logic. I’ve been updating it, which feels good to get in that habit. I would love for your readers to come to give it a listen. In some of the first episodes in season two, we cover some of my initial inspirations for getting into tiny housing and my journey. It’s formatted like these long-form conversations and it’s like my audio notes for the work that Tiny Logic does. It’s a learning experience for me. Sometimes, I try to talk to folks who are directly experiencing homelessness. Sometimes, I try to talk to more policy thinkers or service workers. There are a lot of interesting characters that I’ve come across that have done tiny house journeys and have a lot of interesting perspectives to share. I’d love it if you would come to check it out.

Adam, it’s been such a wealth of information and so many cross-sections of socioeconomics, class, privilege, safety and deconstructing these normal patterns that our culture says we ought to do. There are so many layers to this conversation. One thing for me that I reflect on a lot in this homelessness conversation too is my father, at the end of his life, the past few years of his life were homeless here in Los Angeles. When we talk about this concept of acknowledging the inherent humanity and the inherent basic human right for safety, shelter, protection and nourishment, it hits deeply and closely to home for me having had a homeless parent.

I certainly have a lens that is different having had that experience with my father of looking at this incredibly complex issue with so many of the variables we discussed. Also, being like, “We may not know what the solution is but if we keep discussing this and trying to change zoning laws and change the classism, sexism, racism and many of the factors that are interwoven in this.” At times, I can feel overwhelmed by it all because it’s like, “What the fuck do we do,” but I do believe that the baseline of this is acknowledging the inherent value in humanity in each person and saying, “How can this person be protected, housed and taken care of?”

To me, if more human beings, from the politicians to the policymakers to us on this show, discuss how to acknowledge and support the inherent humanity in one another, that’s the jump-off point. Until we start to do that and not look at them as rodents or trash or a problem to be dealt with but these are human beings with feelings, emotions, complexities and rights. From my own personal experience with my father, I feel deeply passionate about this. With that being said, Adam, I’m sure there are going to be more conversations with you in the future for a variety of reasons. Your wealth of knowledge, love and compassion, Adam, I’m grateful to have met you through, Whitney and feel a real kinship with you. Thank you for being and sharing on the podcast. It’s been wonderful.

Thank you. There are a lot of different conversations we can have so I look forward to continuing the conversation with you. This has been great.

Thanks, Adam. It’s great to be reconnected with you as well. It’s a great way to catch up in such an in-depth way. I want to acknowledge you also for stepping up your podcast game. When we originally talked, you weren’t sure where it was going to go. I feel proud of you, knowing that you’re getting the word out about such an important subject matter. As podcasters, we know that it is not always easy to stay on track with posting but when you have such an important subject matter like this, it goes beyond us. Thank you. I hope the reader goes and checks it out and helps spread the word. We certainly will. We’re grateful for all that you do, Adam. Thanks for being here!

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About Adam Garrett-Clark

MGU 240 | Tiny House LivingAdam founded one of the longest-running Tiny Home Communities in Oakland in 2015 with friends, and managed operations for a second Community in 2018-2020 known as “Buspatch.” In 2013 Adam apprenticed with Biomimicry Architect and Futurist Eugene Tssui, most notably known as the creator of Berkeley’s Fish House, designing a personal living pod prototype in Mt. Shasta.

In 2014 Adam went on a permaculture pilgrimage to Southern Australia, woofing on farms and ultimately apprenticing with co-originator of the Permaculture design philosophy, David Holmgren on his 30+-year-old farm Melliodora. Since then Tiny Homes have taken over his life, selling, building and maintaining tiny homes across the State of California.

 

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