Hi friends,

I wanted to share with you all an exciting project i’ve been heads down working on for the past few months with a handful of SF community leaders in SF: Adi Melamed (my co-founder at The Commons), Jason Benn (Founder of The Neighborhood), and Tom Schultz (Founder of Solaris).

We’re coming together to build something called City Campus 🏘 - a non-profit that funds community builders to build social infrastructure in San Francisco.

Read below for our manifesto, but in a nutshell our goal is to turn one square mile (Haight/Hayes/Alamo) of San Francisco into a multigenerational campus designed to help you: meet inspiring collaborators, live, eat, work near friends, find & build your life's work, raise kids with "a village", explore your intellectual & creative curiosities, and engage in meaningful civic life ...all in community. All within a 15-minute walk.

We're excited about social infrastructure that can make SF a vibrant place to flourish for all. This can look like communal cafeterias, pluralistic & secular spiritual spaces, late-night cafes, civic spaces & debate halls, multi-purpose co-working spaces, mixed-use daycares, community experiences, and much, much more.

If you’ve read some of my prior essays i’ve talked a lot about building cities that help people cultivate purpose, third spaces for meaning-making, and why we need new kinds of community spaces. Working on City Campus has been an incredibly meaningful way to transmute theoretical waxing into praxis and take action towards new types of experimental mediums to support flourishing in our cities and communities.

If you’re interested in getting involved and live in San Francisco, I wanted to personally invite you to our City Campus Launch Party 🎉 on Saturday May 11th. You can also support our non-profit through our GoFundMe.

If you want to stay updated with our project follow us on twitter or reach out at organizers [at] citycampus [dot] org.

I’m excited to share continued learnings here and would love to hear any musings, guidance, or people/connections you may recommend. My inbox is always open.

City Campus Manifesto

Never before in history has humanity been as resourced to prioritize the pursuit of meaning over survival. And it is cities which have served as the cauldron for that aim for generations of human creativity and prosperity. Today, San Francisco is a beacon for dreamers around the world to take shots at building their life’s work. Imbued with the spirit of agency, earnestness, and innovation, what characterizes this city most has always been the self-actualizing nature of its people.

However, the city's current social and community infrastructure falls short in helping us realize not only the truest potential of its people, but also the foundational needs of belonging, emotional resonance, and safety. The kind of needs that villages have provided since the dawn of time. We want a heart connection to our physical surroundings via actually knowing the people we see in our neighborhoods. These aspects have been paramount to our wellbeing for millennia and in their absence today we struggle to fully thrive. How much more could we aspire towards, if our basic needs were more fully met?

Fortunately, we have an opportunity to create more connection and vibrancy for our city.

The last time most of us felt the electrifying current of growth and deep social embeddedness was probably in college: Rife with social schelling points, seasonal celebrations of collective effervescence, and containers to explore and express our values across the intellectual, artistic, emotional, and metaphysical. What contributed to the magic of the campus was not only physical proximity, but also continuity of community over shared lore, values, and space.

Today, we are at the precipice of building a multigenerational urban campus for San Francisco to actualize this vision for all of life, not just for 4 years. Located in Hayes Valley/Alamo Square, organizations like The Commons, The Neighborhood, and Solaris Society have started to build the social and physical rails to enable thousands of people to play, build, live, and explore in community. And we want more builders to join us in this mission to serve communities of people from all walks of life. Post-COVID shifts in work patterns have catalyzed a reimagining of urban spaces in neighborhoods like Hayes Valley, which blend walkability, safety, and a diverse mix of residential and commercial areas. With a federation of 20+ connected group houses already in the area, the old world vision of spending half of the day downtown can finally give way to the real possibility of the 15-minute walkable city where density is made pleasant, one's proximity is vibrant, and social intensity is real. The moment is ripe for us to actively build a neighborhood that mirrors the communal and self-actualizing spirit of our campuses.

However, achieving this requires collective effort.

This is why we’re launching a fund to empower local entrepreneurs who want to build essential social infrastructure to nurture serendipity, community, and purpose in the Hayes/Alamo region of San Francisco.

Whether that’s novel forms of communal spaces dedicated to co-living, eating, co-working, friendship, wellness, contemplation, learning, or creativity - we are excited about spawning social institutions that engender social cohesion and personal growth. Institutions that reflect various interpretations on what it means to live a good, beautiful, and true life, making it possible to have more days filled with serendipity and connection. Days that may start off with co-working together at a community cafe, grabbing a meal together at the local cafeteria, starting an impromptu frisbee game at the park, followed by meditation at the local secular church, and ending in philosophical discussion at the community tea house. We want to create the blossoming of a decentralized urban campus where each space plays a vital role in one’s journey to build a thriving life, whether within the unfolding of a day or over the span of decades. Spaces that are open to the public - people from all walks of life, stages, and experiences. Where via a plethora of interactions across different social spaces, every single person is oriented towards mutual care for their fellow neighbors. And through that quality of care, arises a desire to give back to the very social fabric they are enmeshed in.  

The City Campus fund exists to bring this vision to life. It exists because community spaces are harder to start than traditional commercial spaces, given the long time horizons it takes to nurture true community. Not only should new funding models step in where traditional financing is lacking, but allocation should be overseen by local community builders who understand the pulse and needs of the border community. In this way, new spaces can be integrated into the larger whole, engendering an overarching social membrane that serves to onboard, guide, and cohere people across the ecosystem.

We hope to be a schelling point at the intersection of capital, people, and place, in service of building a more vibrant, connected, and socially healthy San Francisco. To do so in partnership with local government, community leaders and neighbors. By accomplishing this vision for just one neighborhood, we believe we can reinvigorate new ways of living, playing, working, and thriving for neighborhoods everywhere.

Let’s get to building the future we want to raise our children in.

If you’re interested in helping us turn this into reality, we’re currently looking for people who want to contribute capital to the fund.