Room for rent in MCS-safe Oakland/Berkeley house

Purple room for rent

Additional photos (click to enlarge):
House Exterior Side door Compassion altar Living room Kitchen Dining room Upstairs bathroom

Oakland, CA 94609 Room for Rent in Private Home

Description: We are a private communal household consisting of one family (mom, dad and teenage son), one man (and his GF several days a week) and four cats – yup they are pretty convinced they have voting rights in how the house runs (they’re probably correct). We are an alternative bunch of adults with day jobs and a tendency towards taking classes in unusual topics, and more books than bookshelves. The Mom has MCS/EI with assorted allergies to plants, foods and chemicals, the guys are all much more resilient but have some food sensitivities and their own health concerns and are VERY supportive of MCS/EI needs and issues.

We are looking for someone to join us in our scent/chemical free, spiritually open minded household located on the boarder of North Oakland and Berkeley (we are officially in Oakland, CA 94609) within easy walking distance of BART, buses and stores.

The available room is 11’ x 14’, unfurnished, has two east facing windows, 10’ ceiling, wood floors and is currently painted purple. There are no known chemical or allergy issues with the room. It has recently been cleaned with scent and chemical free cleaners and left to air out for about a week. The purple paint job is more than seven years old.

The house has a total of four and a half bedrooms, two baths and a water closet. All rooms have wood floors that are MANY years old and actually in need of work, but until we find an EI/MCS safe way to do that, they will remain kinda sad.

Everyone in the household shares:
• Two story house
• Central gas run heating
• Back, front and side yards (in need of someone with a green thumb, no pesticides have been used on the property in the last 8+ years)
• Full kitchen with large fridge and separate freezer, gas stove, microwave, dishwasher, and pantry
• Upstairs bathroom with large walk-in shower and separate water closet (there has been a mold problem in this room which we are working on and we think we have solved *fingers crossed*)
• Downstairs bathroom with claw foot tub
• Laundry room with front load washer and dryer
• Downstairs living/craft area (crafts are all MCS safe)
• Upstairs library/living area
• Detached dedicated temple space
• Four cats (we treat them for fleas with Advantage but otherwise they are chemical free)

We run the house scent free / chemical / smoke free to the best of our ability. This means that we use only unscented cleaning products, no perfumes or incense *at all*. The mom, dad and son use only unscented personal products, the housemate and his GF use shampoo/conditioner that are mildly scented but well tolerated by the Mom, all other personal supplies are unscented. The household shares unscented laundry detergent. New “things” – computers, appliances, clothes, whathaveyou are either washed, set to outgas on the back porch or treated by whatever means necessary to make them safe to have in the house. Where possible we look for look for recycled/second hand things for both their EI/MCS safe value and to help lessen our impact on the planet. We do have friends who smoke and the house policy is that they are welcome to smoke outside the house, in a few specific areas. None of the household smokes.

Sorry, we can not incorporate any dogs into the household at this time.

We would be willing to consider additional cats but *only* females. Our girls are good with other girls, but our one boy is a pill and a half about territory and it’s just not worth the smell or the noise.

Other pets are negotiable.

Square feet: 154 (11′ x 14′ room)
Date Available: immediately

Price: $700 a month, due on the 1st of each month and includes the room as well as utilities (water, gas, electric, trash/recycling and wifi)

Contact Information: Contact Kate at

Building Materials/Indoor Air Quality
Age of house: 100+ years it is the 2nd oldest house in the neighborhood.
Construction: Standard construction overall. As we make changes to the house we are slowly switching things over. We are in the process of rebuilding and painting the back deck. We are sourcing all EI/MCS safe materials.
Passive solar design features: n/a.
Moisture barrier installed over the slab: No slab.
Exterior building materials: Wood.
Roofing materials: Asphalt roofing tiles over wood shingles.
Insulation materials: Fiberglass.
Are the walls foiled?: No.
Wood detailing: House was built originally with redwood, newer construction has used pine and fir, all of the downstairs flooring is plywood installed 32 years ago. We stopped using plywood five years ago. Wood cabinets in kitchen, wood trim throughout the house.
Wood sealants used: n/a
Flooring: Wood.
Carpet: We have one rug in the dining room that is more than five years old. There are carpet remnants in the temple that are over eight years old.
HVAC: Flex (it’s at least 30 years old so no idea about formaldehyde content).
Whole house air filter: No whole house filter though there are two filters for the downstairs where the Mom sends most of her time. The bedroom that is being rented out is upstairs and we welcome additional filter systems up there.
Whole house vacuum: No…er…we have a Dyson “Animal” vacuum that is used throughout the house.
Sauna? Yes please? Lol sorry… nope, no sauna.
Dates of past repairs/renovations: The last major internal renovation was the upstairs bathroom and the painting of the downstairs living room in 2000. We did a massive overhaul of all the yards in 2006 with some smaller work done last year. All of the work to yards was about maximizing usage of the space (reclaiming it from the blackberry bramble from hell) and minimizing the amount of yard work needed. We are in the process of rebuilding the back deck with redwood plankings and low VOC stain. We are also investigating options for getting the exterior of the house painted (desperately needed!) with no-VOC paint by the end of this summer.

Utilities and Major Appliances
Heating system: We have a gas heater for the central heating system. There is no A/C (not really needed in our area), and a gas water heater, both are in a room on the lower level the house (not the same floor as the available bedroom). The room vents outside the house away from all the accessible yard space.
Cooling system: n/a – (in the summer we get the bay area A/C which is the local fog bank that rolls in every three – four days.).
Appliances? We have a gas stove, everything else is electric. We also have a propane grill in the backyard, but it doesn’t get used much because it is propane and the Mom is reactive to smoke of all kinds.
Did the house ever sit empty for any length of time? No.

Electromagnetic Fields
We are a geek household. There are at least five computers along with several iPads, smart phones and a combo laser printer/copier in the house. We also have a flat screen TV downstairs and housemate and his GF have a large TV in his room.
Unshielded electrical wiring: None.
Dimmers and 3-way switches: Most of the switches are on/off flips but we do have two or three dimmer switches around the house, none in the available room.
High voltage and above ground power lines: Telephone poles and wires and the assorted phone/cable runs to the houses. No high voltage lines.
Neighbors with WiFi: The house is WiFi enabled and there are several other WiFi networks near by though how close I don’t know (but it’s a pretty geeky neighborhood so probably on the same block).
WiMax installed or planned for area in near future: n/a.
Smart Meter on site or planned in near future: Yes, already on property.
Cell/microwave towers nearby and/or planned for near future: There have to be several in the area but don’t know where exactly or how close to the house.
Other wireless technology being used nearby or planned for near future: Don’t know.
Located under an airport flight path: We are on what we think is like an overflow flight path for the local airports. It doesn’t get a lot of use but every now and then we are aware of planes flying by overhead. We are not close enough to either SFO or OAK to have to deal with approach or take off level planes though. We will also get the back end/turn around for the Blue Angles when they are doing practice runs for Fleet Week shows.
Have others with electromagnetic sensitivities healed in this house? No, but its never come up and the Mom does not have ES.
Have others with electromagnetic sensitivities done poorly in this house? No, but its never come up and the Mom does not have ES.

Is the property graded, are French drains, swales or other features used to wick away rainwater? We are on a slope but other that nothing was specifically done.
Are there plantings or berms around the perimeter of the home? We have plants all around the house.
On-slab foundation, crawlspace or basement? House was originally built with a crawlspace, when it was raised in the 1970’s that area became the first floor.
Exhaust fans in bathrooms, kitchen, and other high-humidity locations? Exhaust fans in bathroom only.
Whole house dehumidifier? No.
Other mold-reducing features: n/a
Have there ever been roof or plumbing leaks: We had one drain back up several years ago on the lower floor that did very little damage and was cleaned up the same day. All leaks have been minor and repaired within days of identifying the source. Method of repair depended on location. The house has a slanted roof. No tar was ever used.
Was mold remediation ever completed in your home? Not formally no. We have been working on hunting mold room by room this summer with a high degree of success. The real test will come with the rainy season that begins this winter.
To the best of your knowledge, is there currently high levels of mold or existence of allergenic, pathogenic, or toxigenic molds in the home? We have found black mold in the upstairs shower. That has been removed, we are waiting to see if we have been successful at permanently eradicating it.

Pets that have lived in the house: We currently have four cats. They mainly live downstairs and have indoor/outdoor access. They do go upstairs and will happily race up and down the hall way and sleep on any available bed or piece of paper. A previous housemate had two rats. They lived in a cage on a high shelf in the room that is currently available. The rats moved out two years ago. As far as we can tell all signs of the rat’s have been removed from the room.
Known vermin infestations: None, though there are squirrels aplenty in the neighborhood and a family of sparrows that think a section of our front roof should be their home. We do get occasional visits from opossum and raccoons through the yards. The neighbors behind us have dogs, and several along the block have cats.
Homestead animals: None since the early 1900s.
Local flora that might be a problem (e.g., juniper, pine, cedar, etc.) and worst times of year for pollen counts: We have four birch trees, a dogwood, plum, pear and lemon tree. There are many roses around the property. We are constantly at war with the local grass but have not formally planted any grasses.

Other potential toxic exposures
Were pesticides ever used in the house, or outside the house and around the property, by you or by former owners? N/A prior to our moving in eleven years ago; since then we used almost no pesticides on the yard prior to 2006 and absolutely none since then. We have had to use Wasp kill spray on a few occasions in the last four years. In about 2004 we had to call in a company to kill a hive of bees that moved into the exterior wall of our kitchen (that was very sad!).
Has a pet that was treated with Frontline, wore a flea collar, or had other pesticides applied to it ever lived or entered the home? Yes, all the cats are currently treated with Advantage. They have been treated with Frontline in the past but not for over a year. None wear flea collars. We use diatematious earth around the doors and on the couch/chairs to help keep the keep the fleas out between treatments.
Has the home site been checked for radon and other potentially hazardous elements? Are you prepared to provide a copy of any environmental home/site inspection that has been done? No.
Is the house currently fragrance free, and has it always been? The house is currently fragrance free and has been since 2006.
Is the house currently smoke free, and has it always been? The house is currently smoke free. Prior to 1999 there was a smoker (pot) who lived in the house and smoked primarily in one room downstairs. We allow friends to smoke outside the house in the back and front yard but never in the house.
Has the house or any neighbors’ homes in a three block radius ever been used as a methamphetamine (“meth”) lab? No.
Has ozone every been used in the home to try to remove odors/chemicals/mold? No.
Garage: There is a detached former carriage house that we use as a dedicated temple space. The space is the only one on the property that is maintained as cat free. We use a small amount of charcoal and burning sage for ceremonial purposes in the space but no other incense, fragrances or smoke. The space also serves as a massage studio for the Dad who uses all unscented products with his clients.

Do you or your MCS partner tolerate the home yourself? The Mom tolerates the house. We have (and continue to) worked to clear the house of any and all unsafe products and identify any triggering issues, like the mold. While we could all be better at keeping to a regular cleaning and dusting schedule, the house has become a safe haven for the Mom.
How long have you lived in the home? Since 1999.
May I talk to a former tenant to see how they felt about living in the house? The Housemate has lived with us since about 2002/2003, other house mates stayed between two and five years. Yes, former housemates would be happy to talk with interested folks.
Why are you renting the room? Room became available.
Who are the closest neighbors and what are their potentially MCS-triggering habits? We are in a city on a block that is wall to wall houses. There is at most six feet between each house on either side of us and then a full street of folks across from us. On the plus side the street is one block long and tucked between three major streets and one minor one creating a kind of niche community. The biggest set of triggers we have noticed are the weekly weed whacking up and down the block (and right next door), smoke from fireplaces when its close, BBQ smoke, occasional windblown laundry / dryer scents, and the assorted remolding work any given neighbor is doing. We do get the usual burst of fireworks around July 4th and occasional loud music or laughter from someone throwing a party but mostly this is a family friendly neighborhood that tends toward quiet and environmentally conscious.
Are the neighbors MCS aware/compassionate/friendly? The neighbors are compassionate folks. I’m not honestly sure how much they have taken in over the years about MCS, but the majority of them are open to conversations when issues come up. We had one big construction project a few years back, the demoing of an old house and the building of several environmentally friendly ones in its place and I spoke with the owner/designer about giving me notice on the dates for the demo and he did. They also made sure to run a water sprayer the whole time to keep the dust levels down. It all went very smoothly. I don’t foresee problems with asking for MCS related assistance in the future with any of the people on the block. We have never had issues with leaving things outside to offgas and several of them have clotheslines of their own.

One other thing a potential renter should know is that we host spiritually based events once a month throughout much of the year in the back yard. Everyone who attends the events knows about MCS and the Mom’s illness. The No Scent rule is strictly enforced and folks are very good about it all. Many are friends of the household as well as members of the group putting on the events. The events include drumming for several hours running from roughly 1pm till between 5 and 8 pm depending on the event. Due to the nature of the event there is some cigar smoke during the event in the back yard only. Housemates are welcome to attend if they are interested, but are by no means required to be involved. We also have smaller closed events in the temple 1 – 2 times a month. These are very quiet and all the people involved are aware of the Mom’s MCS and actively involved in her healing work. Several of them also have asthma and so benefit from many of the MCS based rules for the house. Additionally we have several areas of the house, mostly downstairs, set aside as altars / meditation focal points where we light unscented paraffin based tea lights and home made unscented candles. Housemates are welcome to engage with these spaces or not as they are comfortable.

Due to the nature of the illness, potential MCS renters will need to stay in a home overnight, or for an extended period, before committing to a long-term lease. Doing so puts the homeowner at risk for potential contamination of the space. Are you willing to do this? Yes.

Potential renter can stay overnight in home for up to two weeks before committing to rent at a fee of $175 per week.

Allowed personal care products: All standard MCS personal products/laundry supplies are acceptable i.e. unscented/fragrance free. No brand new bedding or clothing.

House rules: No smoking, no recreational drugs, no pets until after we agree that the arrangement will work. Please respect the altar / meditation spaces. All standard good housemate rules apply – be respectful with each other, clean up after yourself, say hi and get to know us and help us get to know you, etc.

Be Sociable, Share!

Tags: , , , ,

Trackback URL:

posted August 16, 2011

Community Feedback

  • Ann Hart

    November 9, 2011 at 9:14 am

    Dear friends- I’m putting out an sos to everyone I know in this area, I got lead poising a million years ago, I’m ok now but it left me unable to process a lot of chemicals, I have built a green living space out of a vintage 64′ travel trailer. I’ve parked it where I am now for 10 years, but neighborhood has become really bad in the last year, my place was broken into last fri and it’s time for me to go, I’m not safe here anymore. If you know you know of anyone that has a temporary place to park it until I can find another slot here in Berkeley I would be grateful for the hookup- feel free to pass this on.



  • Terry Mandel

    November 16, 2011 at 11:52 am

    Ann, maybe you can park in my neighborhood in the Berkeley Hills? Send me an email if you want to explore that. I have eco-friendly guest rooms that have safely accommodated a number of people with MCS and other sensitivities. Blessings, Terry

  • Ann Hart

    November 16, 2011 at 6:49 pm

    That would be great Terry, lets talk 847-6412

  • Jeff Grainer

    September 19, 2012 at 4:56 pm

    Currently living in Berkeley in a toxic building, suffering from reaction to what is probably formaldehyde exposure. Looking to see what’s safe housing in Berkeley. Must take Section 8, as I’m on it. Any ideas? Jeff

Leave a comment

* means field is required.