Meet Melissa and Jon Block, the sister-brother team behind San Diego’s first-ever tiny house village called Tiny House Block. In this interview, Melissa and Jon will share the journey that they took to go from a couple of backyard tiny homes to a dedicated piece of land with 25 tiny houses. Surprisingly, the majority of their homes are rented long-term, and they’ve had to figure out how to manage a community, including difficult tenants, disputes between neighbors, and more. I hope you stick around!
In This Episode:
- How (and why) they turned an RV park into a tiny house community
- Coming together: how the 4 Values help Tiny House Block residents care for one another
- Permanent residents or part-timers only?
- How to skip the drama with tenants
- The effect of a pandemic on a tiny house village
- How does a chef work from home?
- Can you bring your own tiny home or buy one that's already there?
- How to responsibly host a festival during COVID
- Appealing to Airbnb or long-term residents? These details matter.
Links and Resources:
Jon and Melissa Block
Sister-brother Melissa and Jon Block have created San Diego's first-ever tiny house village called Tiny House Block. Their flagship location opened in January 2019 at their 3.5-acre Mount Laguna property and currently has 25 tiny houses, with each house uniquely designed and themed, ranging from 180 to 500 square feet. The houses are comprised of short-term rentals, long-term rentals, and tiny house owners parking their homes. As a resort village for nature lovers and creative thinkers with a French-influenced on-site restaurant, Tiny House Block has been featured on ABC News San Diego as well as the San Diego Reader. Their second location Tiny House Block Julian at Banner Ranch opened in July 2019. You can learn more at www.TinyHouseBlock.com or call (619) 320-8099.
Do You Have A Question?
If you have questions that you’d like me to answer live on the Tiny House Lifestyle Podcast, I’ve opened a new way for you to submit them. You can now record a question to be answered on the show. To submit your question, head over to thetinyhouse.net/ask and hit the “Start recording” button to submit your recording today!
The tenants usually organize their own events now
Tiny House Block is about an hour from San Diego
The hosts of their events leave the place spotless!
Most of their tiny homes are able to be moved by Melissa's truck.
Many of the tiny homes have double lofts
Pura Vida “Pure Life” evokes an optimistic spirit
Outside Pura Vida
Storage and steps inside the Crystal Zen tiny house
Inside Crystal Zen
The Sedona Spirit, named after Sedona, AZ
The Sunchaser. Most of the tiny houses have flush toilets, instead of composting toilets.
A view from one of the lofts in the Wanderlust
Some of the houses are able to accommodate 2 or more beds, allowing for more guests
Some rentals are for shorts stays and others are long-term
Roomy sleeping loft
I can see the appeal of the location
Neighbors at the Tiny House Block look out for one another
The Farmhouse in the sun
Watch the sun rise on Sunrise Highway
Tiny House Block does get snow in winter
Jon Block 0:00
Something that I've been asked a lot is the co op model where we'd be open to parceling out and giving people that sense of equity and ownership. And I did look into this. And what I found is that there's a lot of drama.
Ethan Waldman 0:17
Welcome to the Tiny House Lifestyle Podcast show where you learn how to plan, build and live the tiny lifestyle. I'm your host, Ethan Waldman, and this is episode 142, with Melissa and Jon Block. This week I'm speaking with Melissa and Jon Block, the sister /brother team behind San Diego's first ever tiny house village called Tiny House Block. In this interview, Melissa and Jon will share the journey that they took to go from a couple of backyard Tiny Homes to a dedicated piece of land with 25 tiny houses available for rent. Surprisingly, the majority of their homes are rented long term, and they've had to figure out how to manage a community including difficult tenants, disputes between neighbors, and more. I hope you stick around for this really fascinating conversation.
But before we get started, do you have questions that you'd like me to answer live on the Tiny House Lifestyle Podcast? Well, I've opened a new way for you to submit them. You can now record a question to be answered on the show. To submit your question head over to thetinyhouse.net/ask and hit the appropriate button. Again, that's thetinyhouse.net/ask where you can record a question for me to answer on the show. I love hearing from listeners and I can't wait to answer your tiny house questions. Whether it's building living or anything related to the tiny house lifestyle, everything is fair game. Head over to thetinyhouse.net/ask and hit record to submit your question today.
All right, I am here with the sister and brother team Melissa and Jon Block. Melissa and Jon have created San Diego's first ever tiny house village called Tiny House Block. Their flagship location open January 2019. At their three and a half acre Mount Laguna property, and currently has 25 tiny houses with each house uniquely designed and themed ranging from 180 to 500 square feet. The houses are comprised of short term rentals, long term rentals and tiny house owners parking their homes as a resort village for nature lovers and creative thinkers with a French influenced on site restaurant. Tiny House Block has been featured on ABC News San Diego, as well as the San Diego Reader. Melissa and Jon Block, welcome to the show.
Melissa Block 2:52
Jon Block 2:53
Thank you, Ethan. Great to be here.
Ethan Waldman 2:55
Yeah, it's great. Great to have you both. So I'm just curious, I always like to ask, you know, how did you get this idea to do a tiny house village?
Melissa Block 3:05
Well like to start and so I think like most people, their first experience with a tiny house was on HGTV and Tiny House Nation type shows. And I just thought it was the cutest thing ever. And I fortunately have a lot of land and live in a rural area. And I thought, you know, why not? Let me try to find one and rent it out. I was already in the property management business, and familiar with rentals. And I saw one for sale on Craigslist. And it was reasonably priced for what it was. And it happened to be on Tiny House Hunters on one episode. So I saw it, I loved it, I brought it over to my property, I set it up. And it was just history from there. Everyone loved it, the response was overwhelming. And everyone wanted to live in it. And from there, I got a few more. And then I unfortunately ran into a zoning issue and had to then find a way to relocate them. And so we spoke with one of our agents, real estate agents. And fortunately, he was connected with someone that was selling an RV park that was in very bad shape. And I went up and visited it and I was just right away knew that it was going to be the perfect spot to have the first village it was up in the mountains and had pine trees everywhere. And I had never even been to the area before I'd even know it existed really in San Diego was one of the few places that gets snow. And so I just totally had the vision for how I could see it just with all tiny houses there. And that's how it started.
Ethan Waldman 4:38
Wow. So you really kind of bootstrapped this: one tiny house and then on to the next and the next.
Melissa Block 4:45
Yeah, yeah. It started. I had my own makeshift village with about five houses. And that was kind of like a prototype to see. Do people want to live among other tiny house people? What kind of inspired me was the Martha's Vineyard cottages in Massachusetts. And they're not on wheels. But they are really small houses with a unique look to the outside, all different personality. And I just was in love with the idea and just how that would be really popular in San Diego - people wanting to live in a community of these adorable little houses, each with their own look and vibe and live among other people with tiny houses. And so that's what brought that idea to San Diego.
Ethan Waldman 5:32
So the the zoning issue that you ran into, I'm guessing it was just you had too many dwellings on on one parcel?
Melissa Block 5:40
Yes, at the time. Now you're legal to have one. Back when I started with the one on my properties, 2017 we weren't allowed any at all. And so when so I was really pushing it with five. Usually it's a neighbor-based complaint system where you're fine, you can go under the radar, until someone notices it and calls the county and complains and I was fine with that. My own mistake was that we had solar installed at the property and one of the permitting, people from the county saw those structures and called them out for being there. And so that's what made us have to move. But I mean, otherwise. I mean, the community liked it. People saw it, like the neighbor saw it, and they didn't have any issues with it. So now it's legal to have one.
Ethan Waldman 6:32
And were these short term rentals that you were running? Or were they like long, long term tenants?
Melissa Block 6:39
They were on a month to month basis, because I knew that, you know, it was possible at any moment the zoning would come down, but the idea was, yes, for long term that and then these people were bummed that when they had to move and had to give notice about it.
Ethan Waldman 6:55
So I'm guessing you're now outside of the city of San Diego in this new location.
Melissa Block 7:03
We're still in the County of San Diego but not in the city limits. Definitely in what they call it back country of San Diego. 6000 feet in the mountains.
Ethan Waldman 7:12
Very nice. So Jon, how did you get involved in the project?
Jon Block 7:19
Well, I intersected when Melissa had just acquired the RV Park, which we could have the 25 tiny houses there because it was the same zoning as the RVs. Because these are homes on wheels and these would be tiny houses on wheels. And I come from a background of producing events, whether it's music and arts events or personal growth seminars. And I was really drawn to what I ultimately define as our four core values for the village: minimalism, nature, community, and creativity. And as I saw, this is a real opportunity to make a distinct difference in people's lives in ways that I could not with just doing events for one or a few days, when people actually live there, and we're interacting with each other. So with minimalism, folks are having to really pare down their belongings and just get off that McMansion hamster wheel that lust for more and really have to drill down to what really matters to them. Nature: the fact that we're surrounded by Cleveland National Forest, I just know being a nature lover myself just brings out the best in you release stress. And you can just tune in and become the best version of yourself. Community: I've lived in neighborhoods all my life where I didn't know my neighbors, where it was awkward to actually stop and have a conversation with them. What would it be like to have a community where you were far enough out from the city where you had to really look to each other? And having community dinners and bonfires, and this has been something that's happened a lot. And then the fourth value of Creativity: to me, that just means a creative life versus the default life. So it can be artistic expression, or it can be inventing a new business. These are some of the things that we've seen happen at the village.
Ethan Waldman 9:10
That's awesome. So you've seen real community kind of flower there.
Jon Block 9:17
Yeah, it's really beautiful how people have one anothers' backs. One practical thing is the fact that being in 6000 feet elevation, we experience all four seasons out there. So it's like when I was living in Colorado, it's that kind of weather. So it's as of today we are in the first week of November, and it started snowing already and it'll be on/off snow until April. So in that time, people will have each other's backs because there's only so much we can do. We don't live on site and people have a sense of ownership. And there'll be something like, "Hey, I'm going into town," there's a group text with all the residents there to you know, make a request and they'll pick up things you know, for, for one another. I think that's really nice. I love it personally the most during the summertime, where it's a bit cooler than it would be than the rest of San Diego. So the nights in particular, there'll be bonfires every single weekend and people will commiserate in the different tiny homes, usually it's a 500 square foot one will be the rallying place for obvious reasons. It's really wonderful to see people have become really close friends, romantic couples, in some cases. it's really nice.
Ethan Waldman 10:36
So the the RV park, I've heard of this as kind of a model for being able to more easily get it through on the legal front. Did you have to do anything in terms of zoning or or that side of things as to get this approved? Or were you just able to buy the RV park and say, "Yep, this is still an RV park. They're just tiny house shaped RVs?"
Melissa Block 11:04
Yeah, that was pretty much exactly it. When I first got cited by zoning on the regular residential property with the five tiny houses. I met with a land developer who I know, so people could stay there, can I convert the current land. And he basically said it was impossible with the way things were with the zoning, getting the permits, building the utilities and infrastructure. And he said, "Your best bet is to find the most economical way is to get an RV park and have that be your tiny house." That would be like pretty much seamless as the zoning and permitting wer already there and the spaces were all there. And so that was the way to go, we were just lucky that this one fit our needs and was within our price range. Because the thing is that they don't make new RV parks and mobile home parks. It's kind of what is in existence is there and so the demand is just greater and greater for these parks. So these are like these are in more remote areas. And so there's not as much demand to live out in the remote areas. People want to live closer to the city. It's an hour to downtown San Diego. But again, that is also what makes our locations attractive is the being out away from the city and the nature and that's what we're seeing now that people, especially with COVID, they don't want to be as close to one another in the city. And they like the idea of being more out in the open. And each tiny house there are no shared walls with your neighbors, you're each your own unit. And there's just something about that about not being an apartment complex that people really enjoy.
Ethan Waldman 12:39
So with the tiny homes that were in your your backyard and then move to this to this permanent location and forgive me, but I always have to ask, how did you deal with the plumbing? Were they compost toilets and in these houses, or were they somehow hooked up?
Melissa Block 12:59
Um, I had a septic system installed. So we have a plumber that works for us. And so he's familiar with building septic and so we put our own in, because I did have compost toilets before. And while people are willing to use them, it's not their preference. A flush toilet will always beat hands down. Unless someone's very, very eco conscious.
Ethan Waldman 13:24
Now, are there any restrictions - it being an RV park - on people living there year-round or permanently.
Melissa Block 13:36
Our park is grandfathered in for that. There are parks within the city limits of San Diego that I've heard from people saying that they have to drive off the lot for a day and then come back on and restart over again. And that there are limits but our location, it being out of the city limits and also due to the of the housing affordability crisis in San Diego, they've allowed the long term usage because our rentals are kind of definitely below the city pricing.
Ethan Waldman 14:07
That's great. Yeah. And how long of a drive is it like to the city from from the park?
Melissa Block 14:13
About an hour in downtown San Diego?
Ethan Waldman 14:17
And are there people who live there who commute in or who used to commute in before COVID?
Melissa Block 14:23
Yeah, yeah, there were quite a few that did make the drive and they felt it was worth it, to do it just to be able to come back to the quieter nature and the evenings and weekends.
Jon Block 14:33
Yeah, I think for a lot of people there was this perfect balance of they had to work downtown, so then to be out in nature was such a respite for them. I think for them it was unfathomable to have to live in one of those downtown high rises while working in the Gaslamp Quarter, it just be too much. And those are the type of people we attract where they value nature and they want to be there and being cut off for too long, that doesn't work for them. And the community aspect, a lot of folks did carpool with one another for these commutes.
Ethan Waldman 15:06
Yeah, I mean,
Melissa Block 15:07
We do have a lot of people that work from home, though and we had Viastat, an internet company, install its own system up there so people can have reliable Wi Fi. A lot of these people are, you know, digital nomads, they want to be able to work from anywhere. And so we definitely have that available to them, too.
Ethan Waldman 15:29
Yeah, it sounds like, it's become a really communal situation, or like, you know, you're talking about the carpools, and you know, people communicating with one another. I'm curious, you know, I feel like people want that, but it's hard to make it actually happen. And, you know, they say they want to live in a community, but then, you know, there can be all kinds of drama with people disagreeing and and meetings and that kind of so I'm curious, like, did you kind of architect this? Or did it just kind of happen on its own?
Jon Block 16:07
There's definitely a trial and error aspect to it. Because when I was listening to you just now, talk about communities that have frayed apart and been drama associated with it. And someting that I've been asked a lot is the co op model. And people have expressed interest in becoming land owners, and will we be open to parceling out and giving people that sense of equity and ownership of the land. And then really having less of a, you might say, traditional landlord relationship, but we're all partners in this. And I did look into this. And what I found is that there's a lot of drama that goes with that, I find that it's one of those things like Communism, where it's better in theory than in practice. And you have people who are independants to begin with, and want to think outside the norm, and they want those opinions to be heard. So any kind of structure you tend to put in with those people, as necessary as it might seem to put that structure in, there will be some rebellion against. So we've really encouraged them to come together, there's been some instances of drama, we have learned to stay out of it until it reaches a point where it's really becoming a problem. And there have been two occasions in the two years, we've been doing this where we did have to ask a tenant to leave. And there's definitely no regrets about that for anyone.
Ethan Waldman 17:43
Yeah, that's a tough position to be in, you're kind of like landlords, but you're landlords to, you know, 25 different people, some of whom are living there full time, and others are just, you know, in for the night or for the weekend.
Jon Block 18:03
Yeah, currently, it's about 80% of them are permanent residents. So we have four or five that are short term rentals. Interestingly, when we first started, we were very open just to see what the demand would be - would it favor more short term or long term? And at first, it was driven entirely by short term, it was very hard to get people to want to commit. And that held true up until COVID. And then it was like some switch got turned on a lot of people, they all wanted to get out of the city and come to our village to live, it seemed, and then just like that, we had BOOM: waiting list. And we decided to keep a couple of them, which are shorter rentals, because that demand is still there and we'd like to be able to provide that. And that's been really wonderful development. So when it comes to the COVID, I think this is one of the blessings we can count for ourselves.
Ethan Waldman 18:58
Yeah, I can just see that people are itching to get out of the cities and away from from the masses during this pandemic. It's interesting, because I would have thought that COVID would have created a huge spike in short term demand of like people just wanting to get away for the weekend. But I guess it it makes sense. They want to get away for more than just the weekend.
Jon Block 19:25
Mm hmm. Yeah. And we found that that's our preference too, like, we're pretty much exactly where we want to be right now primary long term with a few short term. What we found is that the short term folks just tend to be more uptight in terms of people. And if say there's a pipes freeze or the water's not working for some reason, just being in the mountains, things like that will happen time and time is a long term resident will be more understanding and can wait it out a day or two, but a short term person if they don't get this fixed, within In an hour or two, they're gonna leave you a pretty nasty review on Airbnb. And we just found that the anxiety of that was affecting our cost of living, you know, because these people will blow up your phone until this thing, yeah, get resolved.
Ethan Waldman 20:17
Yeah, wow. No, it's it's, it's fascinating. I'm curious. So it sounds like the the short term and the long term residents, do they? Do they integrate? Do they? Do they hang out? Or is it kind of like a community of long term residents and then, you know, short termers, that are kind of coming and going.
Jon Block 20:36
It varies, obviously, I would say that oftentimes, the short term guest profile tends to be couples or families, and they're there to bond with each other. But we've seen for a while there might be a bonfire happening, and oftentimes, they will come out and join, and certainly are people who are more social. So it's really up to the short term guests how much they want to engage. And what I've noticed that that tends to be a positive experience. Either way, sometimes people say, "Oh, yeah, me and my sweetheart, we had our anniversary, and it was so beautiful." And other times like, "Yeah, we got to meet the residents there and Aaron and Lionel are so sweet and can't wait to come back and see him next time." It does vary.
Ethan Waldman 21:19
How do you vet your potential residents? Like when someone says, "Hey, I want to live here?" Or do you vet them?
Jon Block 21:30
Yeah, we have a dedicated team member, Mo, who's our rentals manager. And it's his job to field all the inquiries coming in. And we're very high-touch so he has a phone call with every single person and part of our outline for these conversations that he does share our four values of minimalism, nature, community and creativity. And we've learned to ask them if they are a do it yourself DIY type person. That's proven to be a useful question to ask if they even know what DIY stands for. That's indicative of where they fall on that question. And those would be the ones that we do well with, moe has his own process where he'll give them instructions in terms of what to do next. All right, you're gonna go to Cozy is our third party site that we use for the credit and background checks and fill out the application. And if they follow all the instructions exactly that he's put upon them, then chances are this is going to be a good tenant. If they only complete half of it, then if there's someone else who completes all of it, then there's no question we're going to go with.
Ethan Waldman 22:42
Yeah, that kind of reminds me for some reason of like, like, in elementary school, the teacher hands out a test that says, read all the instructions for this. And when you read the instructions, it says, sign your name at the bottom, don't fill in any of the questions and just flip the paper over. But like half of the class doesn't read that and just takes the test. And doesn't realize that the instructions said not to.
Jon Block 23:07
I remember that vividly if you're doing that very thing. And I was one of the ones that fill out the whole test. And also don't just stick with.
Ethan Waldman 23:16
So you alluded to, to some, you know, disagreements or things that require some kind of mediation, and it sounds like you, you try to keep that within the community and let people figure it out themselves. But, you know, do you see yourselves as mediators? Or do you just try to stay away from that role?
Jon Block 23:44
I'll directly speak to this. There was an incident we had where - it was actually one of our tenants had an issue with one of our staff members - and some of the tenants had banded against this particular staff member. And other tenants had invalidated these tenants saying, "No, no, no, they're overreacting being Debbie dramas" and all that. And I found myself and this is interesting for me, because when I would lead my personal growth seminars, it was around communication, which to me is the cornerstone for any relationship working. So as I was, in this role of mediation, hearing all sides, I found that it was this stickiness to it where it was kind of like America's involvement in the Vietnam wars, like the more the time they put in, the more time they had invested, they had to see the thing through and this got messier and messier. And that's what this situation taught me is that yeah, there are certain people that are inclined towards that drama. There's something about being perhaps in a more remote area. where maybe there's a lack of things going on, particularly during COVID. And they'll stir things up. And I made an important decision. That instance where typically when a tenants were at it with each other, or I had to say, you all resolve it yourselves. And it was a challenge for me, because I see is one of my purposes is to help people have stronger communication and have stronger relationships with each other. People gotta want that. It's a lot different when they're paying to come to my seminar, versus they're paying to live in a tiny house and then they have some drama with someone. Are they willing to look at their own personal responsibility in a matter? Are they willing to look at their own projections and judgments and take responsibility for those? Are they willing or able to transform their behavior and become stronger listeners going forward? Statistically, no, most people are not willing or able to do those things. So that's why I've taken more of that position that you guys sort out yourselves. And if it becomes a pattern, where someone is a cause for a lot of the drama, then we will talk to them. And then as I mentioned, in some cases asked them to leave.
Ethan Waldman 26:14
I'm fascinated by the the community aspects of this. But there are other things that I want to ask you about, too, which is the restaurant that's on site, how did that come to pass? Was it a resident that wanted to do it? Or Or did you? Do you operate it? Yeah, tell me about the restaurant.
Melissa Block 26:30
The restaurant was there already when we purchased the RV park. And she had really good food there. But she was opening a second location in the nearby town, and her heart and effort fell more into that other location. So from the beginning, she was trying to sell the restaurant. And so for when we she was operating, it kept it running only open on the weekends. And then finally, these new buyers came along, a French couple, and they were ready to breathe new life into the restaurant. And the husband, he likes to play piano. So he saw that he had it as his evening piano bar to entertain people. And so they were ready to move in and commit to the mountain life and start the restaurant. And so they took over and it's been great. They love it up there. We hear all the time, how the food is great. And so it's been really an asset to have that on site for the guests and long term tenants. So conveniently, the great food right there just a few steps away.
Ethan Waldman 27:36
Yeah, that's awesome.
Jon Block 27:38
Yeah, and because it's such an anchor presence of the property, having someone who is excited to be there, and not just trying to figure a way out, does make a big difference, just energetically What that this French couple, Lawrence and Eric, are bringing to the property, I think is really, really terrific. They also live on site as well. So there is a sense of the community, that they're also part of.
Ethan Waldman 28:04
Melissa Block 28:05
Oh, and the chef lives in the village.
Ethan Waldman 28:08
Melissa Block 28:09
Ethan Waldman 28:10
So the chef, even the chef works from home, which is not something that most chefs can do. So, in your bio you talk about how the houses range from 180 to 500 square feet. Are those all houses on trailers or are the 500 square foot houses cabins?
Melissa Block 28:36
Those are also on wheels. And one of them it's like they call a park model. And so it's kind of like the original tiny house, but it's about 40 feet long. And so those are not easily movable. So to me, you know, real tiny houses, ones around, you know, 33 feet or under and you can easily move it with your own pickup truck. But these larger ones definitely have to hire an outside mover or it's about $2,000 - $3,000 to relocate them and have them set up. They probably someone like like a big rig truck. Wow.
Ethan Waldman 29:12
And so I guess the the intention there is that you know, they are going to move here one time and then that's it.
Melissa Block 29:20
Yeah, those definitely aren't ones that you would take on the road regularly. So it's like yeah, you move it and you set it up. Usually the wheels are taken off and then you put the skirting on. And it's there for quite a bit while the smaller ones, even though we don't move them around, generally, they are very easy to move and they can move around with my Ram truck from place to place.
Ethan Waldman 29:43
How many homes or how many parking spots are available for outside tiny house dwellers to to kind of bring their own tiny home.
Melissa Block 29:56
Um, we currently have nothing available. But there aren't any designated ones that are or park your own. It's just whatever is empty at the time. And we just have a builder that we're purchasing and placing our own there since At first, the demand of people with their own tiny houses, wasn't that great is the movement, you know, people are really interested in it, but no one is really pulling the trigger on wanting to own one themselves. Because up until recently, there is no place legally to put them. And so it was only inside these RV parks and all people didn't want to be the only tiny house in an RV park. And then, once we established ourselves and people realized, oh, wow, it's only tiny houses up here we got a lot more people inquiring about bringing their own tiny from other areas. And now we have I think, three is it, Jon? And someone coming in next week?
Jon Block 30:59
You know, and that mid-March pandemic shutdown was the demarcation point as well for folks, not just with us, obviously, just in general, it seems, pulling the trigger finally, and building their tiny houses. A lot of people were curious and we had lots of questions of lots of conversations of, "I'm thinking about building a tiny house. Is there any way to hold a spot for me for whenever I get around to finally having one built?" The answer was no, we can't do that because we get phone calls like this several times a week. But let us know when you actually have one built that you can commit to a day to actually park it. And it was one of those switches God turned on during COVID where people were now calling us saying my tiny house is going to be complete in six weeks. Do you have anything available? And we say yes, you can put a deposit down. So of the 20 or so permanent residents we have three of them are people who own their own tiny houses. And of those three, two of them. Use it for Airbnb. Not full time. But one of them's a flight attendant, for instance. So she'll Airbnb out when she is off to work. And that's turned out really nicely for her. We do really well with the short term using short term Airbnb to mean the same thing. So there's a certain cachet, as opposed to being part of the only tiny house village. And she's been able to piggyback on that. And it's just a really nice tiny house. We don't allow just anybody to park with us. Like we want them to be as nice or nicer than our existing tiny houses. Nice.
Melissa Block 32:43
Well, we had one tenant by their own tiny, he was renting it. And he decided to buy it and he left it there and he Airbnb ease it out.
Ethan Waldman 32:52
That's awesome that you allow tenants to do that. I think it's, you know, part of the wonderful thing about Tiny Homes is is there affordability, but also, you know, at least right now, how, how well they can do his short term rentals. And so, you know, the fact that you allow your renters to kind of get in on that economic benefit of owning a tiny home to rent it out when they're not using it. It's great.
Jon Block 33:19
Yeah, we wouldn't do that for anyone just off the street. But if someone is a tenant in good standing with us, and they intend to leave it there for a while, because it's a little bit of a headache just to find another tiny house or replace it with and if someone is a good tenant, then yeah, absolutely. To your point, you want to give them that opportunity to have equity and have something they can rent out and take with them and do whatever they want with eventually. So it was nice to be able to provide that. It's his first time making that kind of commitment and is doing very well with rentals.
Ethan Waldman 33:56
Do you have any, like, pre-planned scheduled gatherings for for residents? Or is it is it just kind of spontaneously as as they decide to meet?
Jon Block 34:08
At this point, they kind of run it themselves. I would say that when we were first establishing this, I was a lot more proactive was saying all right, Memorial Day barbecue. That was the last thing that we did. And if it wasn't for COVID, we probably done more, but I wanted to do that because we had just gotten a deluge of new residents shortly before that. So come Memorial Day, because all these new people around what we did was we had Lawrence and Eric who run the restaurant on site, they catered for us and as we opportunity for them to meet everyone the community as well. Outside of that, it's really up to them. I would say the year previous we did have, during 2019 that summer, we had bonfires every Saturday night. That was just a built-in thing. And then we let it be known to people that they could come out and hang out with us too, even if they weren't staying there.
Ethan Waldman 35:06
Nice. Now as a as a event producer, is there, is there music is there a stage?
Jon Block 35:14
But we've spent all this time talking about our first property, but we actually have a second one in Julian, which is the perfect transition. It's called Banner Recreation Ranch and it's currently an RV park, meaning that it's occupied by RVs, and we are in the early phases of transitioning, and I'm not going to go into all that details, because it's more than we can go into. But the idea of is to ultimately become a tiny house village. And in the meantime, this is being 62 acres, Tiny House Block in Mount Laguna is only three and a half. And across the 62 acres, there really lends itself to festivals. So me personally, I don't really have that energy anymore to be putting on festivals. But others do. God bless them. So they'll come to us and they'll rent out the land. And that's really been beautiful to see. I make it a point to go to every single one. And seen the gratitude that people have, especially during COVID to be out. And these folks, we put the onus on them to take responsibility. We have everyone sign waivers they come in but at the same time in terms of reducing or eliminating the potential spread of COVID a lot of more mandate COVID tests and you will be turned away if you don't have a COVID test showing negative at the door. And people would just get to really enjoy the music and community and the nature. And it's really, really wonderful to have those.
Melissa Block 36:49
Yeah, the new location, we currently have three tiny houses, there's 17 total spaces there. So we plan to slowly transition like we did in Laguna to all tiny houses. And then this meadow area where we having these festivals, that's great. It's all these campsites there's water and electric there, and people bring their RVs and park and over the three days just camp out and have that sense of community and kind of, you know, that Woodstock feeling, Burning Man, you know, and just feeling clean out in the nature in the woods and just away from the city. And there's bathrooms there. And so it's just all the amenities. And it's just that has taken off really well and got a lot of great feedback of being, you know, only an hour from San Diego and being this place so far away that people can go and enjoy themselves safely.
Jon Block 37:49
And just like we're really selective, sorry, just want to emphasize we're really selective about folks who host the events with us. As I mentioned earlier, there's a vetting conversation with the tenants who are going to live with us ongoingly. So too, with anyone to host an event with us, and that they share our values of really, for that weekend, they're taking ownership of the land, and having a sense of pride of ownership, that we are going to really be the guardian of this land and make sure that everyone gets that sense of responsibility who comes in. The one thing that I think is really rare in general is the fact that these events are, you would never know these folks, were there come Monday, because they've done such a good job cleaning up and that's something we talk about an advance and they all have responded, :Yes. That's how we do our events: exactly that." And that's how we know it's a good fit.
Ethan Waldman 38:44
Nice. So I want to ask also about the the tiny houses that you're sourcing. I think Melissa, you mentioned that you you work with one builder now. Mm hmm.
Melissa Block 39:00
Yeah, in the beginning, I was on Craigslist, Facebook and, and most of them were people that bought a tiny house off a builder or built it themselves and then they were no longer interested in the tiny house life. And so that was the majority or just didn't suit their needs anymore. And then as our demand for them grew we found a builder and so she steadily makes them for us. That takes about two months to make it. And then, her design is neat because it has a downstairs bedroom. A lot of these are just upper lofts. So it's just nice, having different styles from the beginning, those that we got randomly. And we can change up a little bit now but just for consistency and just easy. We're just kind of gotten the same style the last few times.
Ethan Waldman 39:51
So what's the name? I know, you know, all your tiny houses have to have different names. What's the name of one that is kind of this new kind of style.
Melissa Block 40:03
I don't know. I'm sorry. I don't mean the name like,
Ethan Waldman 40:05
I just mean like, I'm looking at, like on the site. like, there's Flower Fun and Stargazer, Blue Sky and Crystal Zen, and I'm just curious, like, I'm curious, what are some of the features of this house that you've kind of settled on? Because, you know, not many people have the occasion to buy, like 5 - 10 tiny houses and then start having them produced for for, you know, for living in so I feel like you might have some insight about design.
Melissa Block 40:34
Oh, yeah, Garden Delight is one of the ones that lately they're all been that similar design. And we find around the 24 ft - 28 feet is the best size is. Too small, you know, it's a small enough space. And if it's too big, it's, you have to have another set of axles on there. And then also, you need a bigger truck to move it and more gas. So you know, most people do keep it generally parked in one location for a while and the smaller size and being able to move it is more convenient. And the downstairs bedroom, like I was saying that's been a big plus for people. So it makes it almost like there's three bedrooms, the double lofts, that's a big plus. So people want the main loft, and that always we have both like a queen size bed and a smaller loft, hold a twin bed or storage space. And the downstairs is like a living room or second bedroom. And then the current style does have a smaller bathroom, we had a previous builder, but he stopped making for us he was more busy with the family business. But he had a really spacious bathroom and his with a full sized tub. And we got a lot of positive response from that. So many kind of things, you have to compromise kind of one thing or another to stay within that 24 - 28 foot is like you want a bigger bathroom or a bigger living room? You know, how big do you want your kitchen? And that's the beauty too and people look at their own to purchase as they can customize it to their own lifestyle. And so right now we're just kind of going with a more broad and what appeals to Airbnb more and which is kind of fitting as many guests as possible inside. And the bathroom in that kitchen don't have to be as large but for long term people that's definitely something they prefer is more space in the bathroom.
Ethan Waldman 42:28
Do you have a favorite tiny house?
Melissa Block 42:32
Um, I really love our one that's Costa Rican themed. Originally when I did it, I think it's a long term tenant in it now but colors is just really vibrant is inspired by my trip to Costa Rica. So it's like a bright turquoise with orange accents. And it has the double lofts and then off one of the lofts that has a little hatch to go outside to its own deck. And so that's the only one that has that feature. And that was one of the last ones our builder did before he decided to retire from making tiny houses.
Jon Block 43:09
So first off, Melissa is the one who very creatively comes up with all the scenes, the tiny houses and demos, whether it's a Vita, Stargazer, Blue Sky, Crystal Zen, Flower Fun, Garden Delights is that when we get a long term tenant who usually wants it, unfurnished, we'll remove the decorations and then just move it to the next tiny house we have come in so that becomes the new Garden Delight or the new Blue Sky house. The one that Melissa described in particular is a big favorite for a lot of folks, for sure the Sanger Reader chose that one for their cover story they on us in January of this year. And the tenants we had for about a year, Erin and her daughter, Paulina, tiny house giant journey shot a YouTube video that has now gotten three and a half million views in that house.
Ethan Waldman 44:01
Wow. Well, I wish I could tell you that this podcast would get three and a half million listens, but it it definitely won't. But the people who are listening are pretty dedicated to the tiny house lifestyle and I know they're gonna appreciate all the all the knowledge that you've shared.
Jon Block 44:17
Well, we're minimalist ourselves. So it's not about the numbers it's about the right connections.
Ethan Waldman 44:21
All right. Well, one thing that I like to ask all my guests is, what are two or three resources that that helped you along the way? It could be tiny house related or not. It could be books or YouTube channels or films or really whatever kind of open ended three things that that helped you along the way to share with our listeners.
Jon Block 44:44
Yeah, I'll share it. It's been really great plugging into the tiny fest community. This was a conference or a convention rather at the Del Mar fairgrounds and we are lucky because they hosted in different parts of California. This happened to be in San Diego. And it was the last weekend of February. So two weeks before the shutdown, they had 13,000 people there and Melissa and I spoke at it. And just what Renee McLaughlin and Ellen Stone put on there, really wonderful. And then we met other industry associations, in particular THIA, Tiny House Industry Association. Really great stuff they're doing for anyone who works in the tiny house industry. And there's a nice networking mixer, plug into. And now there's zoom events that I hop on. And I can only say great things about those folks.
Ethan Waldman 45:38
Melissa Block 45:40
I like to go on the tiny house Facebook groups a lot just to see what the tiny house community in general, what they're looking for, what amenities what houses, styles they like. And that I think that's a good resource. And of course, you know, the TV shows are always really inspiring with how extravagant they can get inside, some of them and just how they make use of the space when the sky's the limit on the money. But, but yeah, I think it's great, how popular it's become and I think it's just only going to get more popular from here.
Ethan Waldman 46:19
Nice. Well, Melissa Block, Jon Block, thank you both, for being guests on the Tiny House Lifestyle Podcast. I really appreciate it.
Melissa Block 46:27
Thank you. Our pleasure.
Jon Block 46:29
Thank you better come see us sometime.
Ethan Waldman 46:34
Thank you so much to Melissa and Jon Block for being guests on the show today. You can find the show notes including links toTiny House Block and lots of photos of some of my favorite tiny homes from their community at the thetinyhouse.net/142. Again, that's thetinyhouse.net/142. Also, don't forget to check out thetinyhouse.net/ask where you can record a question for the Tiny House Lifestyle Podcast. I'm really excited to start answering listener questions, so I hope you'll head over to thetinyhouse.net/ask where you can record a question for the show. Again, that's the thetinyhouse.net/ask. Well, that's all for this week. I'm your host, Ethan Waldman, and I'll be back next year with another episode of the Tiny House Lifestyle Podcast.
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