BUILDINGS: The Co-op currently owns three buildings in the residential area of Westwood. In 1991, we completed a renovation of Robison Hall. Robison was designed by the Bauhaus architect Richard Neutra, and has been designated a cultural landmark by the city of Los Angeles. The renovation restored Robison to its original splendor, and the building remains one of the finest living spaces in Westwood. A second building, Essene Hall, was renovated around 1993.
GOVERNMENT: Once you become a Co-op member, you’ll have full voting privileges on membership matters. The Co-op is governed by a Board of Directors, which consists of students who are elected by the general membership. The Board, along with the Executive Director and staff members (non-student caree personell), help make policy decisions and plan for the Co-op’s long-term financial health. The membership Committee (Mem-Com) is another elected body at UCHA. Mem-com oversees the procedural aspects of the cooperative such as membership status, member-related issues, elections, and parking. After residing at the Co-op for just one year you can serve on either of these elected bodies. There is a sense of pride here at the Co-op because not only do we own the place we live in, we also share in the responsibility of running it.
CO-OP LIVING: The Co-op hires limited full-time staff to help facilitate the day-to-day operation of the organization. Every resident is responsible for performing one four-hour chore shift per week. The types of chore shifts available include: Facilities, kitchen, office, mail sorting, gardening, computer room, social events etc. As with your room selection and different aspects of the organization, Co-op residents have a say as to which chore shift they would like to become involved in. All chore shifts are arranged so that they do not conflict with classes or outside employment, and members are welcome to reschedule as necessary. With each student performing a four-hour weekly chore shift, the Co-op is able to keep costs low and provide one of the best and cheapest options in housing, in Westwood.
ACTIVITIES AND SOCIAL LIFE: The Co-op provides a variety of educational and social opportunities for its members. With an excellent mix of undergraduate and graduate students, visiting scholars and UCLA faculty, the Co-op continues to benefit from its cultural and educational diversity. You might receive help on a physics practice problem from a visiting scholar from Beijing, or perhaps practice your Italian with an exchange student from Milan. At the Co-op you don’t have to travel far to find a world of opportunity around you.
FACILITIES: The Co-op has a variety of facilities available for the use of its members. A study lounge, laundry rooms, piano, and ping-pong tables are all available. In addition, UCLA’s Sunset Recreation Center, with tennis courts, an Olympic size swimming pool and sauna, is only three blocks away. Even closer is the UCLA John Wooden Center which houses racquet ball and squash courts, a weight training room and indoor basket- ball courts.
MEALS: The Co-op provides nineteen meals-per-week, which are included in your room and board (i.e. rent) payment: breakfast, lunch and dinner Monday through Friday, brunch and dinner on Saturday and Sunday. The Co-op realizes that busy student schedules may not correspond to fixed meal times, so you can arrange for a late dinner if you’ll arrive later in the evening after regular dinner hours. Our full-time professional cooks prepare food with student assistance. We offer a vegetarian meal option with each meal, and often host international dinners throughout the year. Also, snacks are provided during finals week for those late night study munchies.
ROOMS: Accommodation includes double rooms, triples, suites, and singles. Unlike students at the UCLA residence halls, Co-op members choose their room and room-mates. Once you’ve moved into a room through the official “bump” process you may remain in that room until you decide to apply for another. Also the Co-op allows continuing students to stay in their rooms over break periods (Christmas and Spring). All rooms are furnished. At the Co-op, it’s your room, and we want you to feel comfortable in it.
THE CO-OP STORE: The Co-op store is a unique service to the UCHA membership. The store sells hot and cold food items, sodas, and a variety of study-break snacks. Members manage and help out in the store as part of their regular Co-op chore shift. Prices are set as near as possible to the actual cost, and the store is open in the evenings and on weekends.
LOCATION: The Co-op is located just two blocks west of the UCLA campus and within walking distance from Westwood Village. Westwood is one of LA’s prime gathering spots with restaurants, shops and first-run movie theaters.
A Brief History
The Founding: The Co-op started out small. There were just nine members who rented “Adam House” in West Los Angeles in December 1936. But the idea was big. So was the foresight and the leadership of the person with the idea: John Essene, for whom Essene Hall is named.
The times were right as the United States was just beginning to emerge from the Great Economic Depression and self-help cooperatives, perhaps out of necessity, were much in vogue. Essene’s concept made sense: low-cost housing for UCLA students; run by students; available to all, regardless or race or religion; and governed by the Rochdale Principles.
In the beginning, John Essene did the books while his mother acted as cook/housemother. House meetings were held at the dinner table and dealt with such matters as menus and monthly charges (which were then a whopping $40/month).
Growth came rapidly: In February 1937, two more units opened. McCampbell House with 15 students and the controversial racially-integrated International House with 4. Seven months later, Adam and International Houses gave way to Brentwood Hall (a collection of adjacent A, B and C houses, plus a cottage), housing 50 men. Small as it was, it operated much the same as UCHA operates today. Members elected both officers and an Assignment Manager and performed 4-5 hours of chores per week.
A key organizer of International House was Everett Robison, the son of the UCLA Director of Admissions, Charles Robison. Everett never became a resident and as fate would have it, he died at a very early age in 1940 of natural causes.
Incorporation: When the Co-op actually incorporated in September 1938, the officially-recorded name was University of California at Los Angeles Cooperative Housing Association, commonly referred to as just “CHA.”
There was a forced name change from UCLACHA to UCHA in 1954 at the insistence of the Regents of the University of California who wanted the initials UCLA to apply only to the school and to nothing else they didn’t own. Incidentally, the CHA initials were incorporated in the name of the newsletter that continues to this day: the Chatterbox.
Growth continued: Other leased units opened: D House, E House, F (Foo) House, and Fallick House with four married couples, which was then an eyebrow-raising issue. Some leases were lost. It was time to buy.
Buying Robison: In April 1941, John Essene found the “most favorable possibility yet uncovered for purchase.” It was the Richard Neutra-designed “Glass House” on Ophir Drive–our Robison Hall.
There were two key obstacles to overcome. One was money (the lack of it). The other was a restrictive Caucasians-only covenant in the deed. The money problem was solved when Everett Robison’s mother, June (“a flaming liberal” said John Essene), turned angel in memory of her son and guaranteed a $2500 bank loan. The restrictive covenant, clearly in direct opposition to the Rochdale Principles, had a loophole; it accepted “servants.” CHA attorney August Rosenberg concluded that since all members did compulsory chore assignments, it could be suggested that legally they were all servants. Escrow closed in October 1941.
The 1940s: CHA consisted of Robison and several other rented houses. Each house ran its own government which sent representatives to the CHA Board meetings.World War II came and the US Army borrowed Robison Hall for use as officers’ quarters from 1943-44. When the Army returned Robison, vacancies filled immediately and the waiting list kept getting longer. Many of the rooms housed 4 members and some rooms that are now singles and doubles were then doubles and triples.The atmosphere was rife with political controversy. CHA was labeled “a hotbed” of radicalism…(and) a nest of homosexuality.”
Death and Communism: In 1949, a California State Senator subjected CHA to a month-long investigation of the death of one of its members. The coroner’s report listed heart failure as the cause of death, and a subsequent fall into the boiler pit (in the Robison basement, where he did his chore shift) as the cause of postmortem concussion. The Senator was convinced the member had recently left a Communist subversive faction at UCLA and was murdered because he knew too much. Nothing became of the investigation.
The 1950s: Early in the decade, CHA acquired Landfair House at 500 Landfair, the “Pre-Fab” behind it (a small, rectangular, Army surplus building), and the adjacent vacant lot. The Pre-Fab was everybody’s worst Bump Night nightmare. In one barracks lived 12 men with metal Army surplus bunks, one bathroom, lights out at 11pm and rise and shine at 6:45am. The Pre-Fab developed its own identity. One year it flew the Confederate flag and threatened to secede from CHA.
Community relations: Although the Co-op had long had a reputation as being a lively place, by 1958 both UCHA and neighboring Theta Delta fraternity were in hot water with the University because of the noisy water fights. “They throw firecrackers at us, we throw rocks, mud, and dye in their pool.”
The 1960s: The atmosphere was no less politically outspoken than previous decades. Some members burned their draft cards, with the remaining members offering their support throughout their trial. In 1969, UCHA began admitting women as permanent members, but only after long, arduous debates.
Building Hardman-Hansen: Once a loan was procured, UCHA hired Cris Wojciechowski in 1971 who worked with the members on the plans and designs. After razing Landfair House and the Pre-Fab, HHH was built and opened in 1973.
Our Accountant: Earl Cline has a 50- year involvement with UCHA. He happened to be the first member to move into E-2 in Robison back in 1941-several weeks before escrow closed. Earl was drafted into the Navy prior to his scheduled graduation in 1943. He was studying accounting. He came back to the Co-op and Robison Hall in June, 1946, and became the bookkeeper. Now, nearly 5 dec
ades later, Earl is still inspecting the books as our outside CPA.Earl Cline helped UCHA obtain tax-exempt status, which means less expense to all members.
Robison renovation: After a half century of hard use, Robison was completely renovated, made earthquake proof and sprinklered. The 9-month project was completed in March, 1991.
Essene renovation: Like Robison Hall, Essene Hall saw many years of hard use by hundreds of co-opers before being rejuvenated in the summer of 1993.
Hardman-Hansen renovation: At the writing of this version of the Owner’s Manual, the plans are under works to renovate Hardman-Hansen.
Writing of the Co-op History: Like all other projects in the Co-op, a group of co-opers got together in the mid 1970’s to write the Co-op history from which most of the above summary stems. If you have an interest in the cooperative movement and the history of the UCHA, perhaps you can volunteer to write the next chapter, literally.