How the Westside Repair Cafe Works



What is a Repair Café:  What do you do when you’ve got something you like but it no longer works?  Throw it out and buy a new one?  Stick it in the attic, the basement or under the stairs?  Pay to get it fixed?  Fix it yourself?


Chances are you toss it out.  Or maybe you store it away until that magical day when you can figure out what to do with it.... right.


Plan: We have established a Repair Café on the Westside of Los Angeles to give you another option. The Westside Repair Café is a volunteer-run, community service dedicated to encouraging the repair and reuse of goods rather than relegating them to landfills.  This would be an extension of OTB’s Sharing Economy program to further support sustainable living solutions.


Consider this:  In 1960, each person in the US generated 2.68 pounds of waste per day.  By 2000, the average was 4.65 pounds per day.  This is the most in the world.


The first Repair Café was started in Amsterdam in 2009.  Since then, over 30 Repair Cafés have sprouted up in Europe.  Others are forming elsewhere around the world.


The Westside Repair Café is affiliated with the Repair Café Foundation in the Netherlands.  We are one of a small number of Repair Cafés to become operational in the United States.  (Though we would be affiliated with the Repair Café Foundation, we would be self-funded and would operate independently.)


Learn more: The Repair Café Foundation in the Netherlands here .  Other LA area Repair Cafés: and .  Read this 2012 article in the New York Times  and this 2015 article in the Los Angeles Times  this 2015 articlearticle in the los Angeles Times.


How it works:  We will conduct Westside Repair Café events quarterly or every other month.  Bring your items for assessment, disassembly, and possible repair.  We would provide workspace, specialty tools, repair Volunteers, and guidance to help you disassemble and troubleshoot your item.  Whether we get it fixed or not, you'll learn more about how it was put together and how it works.  You can work with our Volunteers to do the repairs yourself (with their guidance) or have them tackle the job directly.  With luck, you’ll walk away with a once-again useful item and some knowledge of how to repair other things in your universe.


You would need to provide any parts required for repairs and pay for the repair labor in Time Credits.


Non-repairable items:  Some items might be candidates for re-cycling or re-purposing.  These items can be reviewed by our team, if desired, to see if recycling or another use for them might be appropriate so they are kept out of our landfills.   We will have an optional “give-away table" where you can offer your item to others with the understanding that you remove it before you leave if it’s not wanted by others.


We will not accept donations of items to be fixed and sold (we may have a volunteer who transports certain items to a place that takes donations - that volunteer would earn Time Credits).


What to bring:  Expertise will vary event to event, but we would like to be staffed and equipped to diagnose and do work on:

q      Small household appliances like toasters, hair dryers, mixers, vacuums, etc.

q      Various electronics including computers, games, tools, audio/video, and other devices

q      Toys, furniture, lamps, kitchen items, fixtures, minor woodworking

q      Bicycles, tricycles, skateboards, scooters, skates

q      Clothing, shoes, luggage

q      Blade sharpening

q      Small plumbing items like faucets, valves, hoses, sprinklers

q      Car, truck, motorcycle, lawnmowers ... diagnostic and repair advice

q      Most items suitable for general handyman types of repairs

q      If its too big to carry in, bring a picture and/or describe the problem to us and we will make repair suggestions


Please see our Repair Stations page for more details about the types of items we plan to be able to repair.


What to expect:  Of course, there is no guarantee you’ll walk out with a workable item.  We may not be staffed with the right skills or equipment; it may take some time to research and/or find repair parts, or it may just not be feasible or cost effective to repair your item.  But we would give it a shot.  If we can’t fix it, we may recommend local repair shops. 


No Rivalry: The Repair Café Foundation sometimes gets asked whether access to free repair get-togethers is competing with professional repair specialists.  The answer is; quite the opposite.  Our sponsors want to use a Repair Café to focus attention on the possibility of getting things repaired, reducing landfills, and building sustainable neighborhoods.  Visitors are frequently advised to go to the few professionals still around.  Furthermore, people who visit Repair Cafés are not usually customers of repair specialists.  They say that they normally throw away broken items because paying to have them repaired is, in general, too expensive.  At the Repair Café they learn that you don’t have to throw things away; there are alternatives to adding waste to our landfills.


Volunteer:  If you would like to help, please email us at  We will need volunteers to keep this program alive, so please let us know if you are willing to help.  Please tell us the ways you could help ... you do not need to be an expert to help with repairs!  

Update 2/10/13:  Thanks to our members, the Westside Repair Café has received enough support to move forward from the proposal stage and start the planning and organizing stages of the project.   


The initial plan is to have the inaugural event separate and by itself (not part of the potluck).  It will start as a member only RSVP event.  Then, as we gain experience with it and do some fine tuning, we will consider making it part of the potluck.  This, however, may not be feasible if we decide to open up the Westside Repair Café to the general public at some later date.


We are assembling a Steering Committee to oversee the project.  Here are the steps we see for implementation:

Phase I – Planning (station layouts, inventory assessment for tools, supplies, repairers)

Phase II – Development (create posters, signup sheets, repair travelers, liability waiver, etc.)

Phase III – Organization (staffing, procedures, refreshments, entertainment, scheduling, seek sponsors & parts discounts)

Phase IV – Execution (announcements, RSVP’s, conduct Repair Café)

Phase V – Post RC Audit (successes, weaknesses, improvements, schedule next Repair Café)


OTB and TCC held the first Westside Repair Café in May 2013.  Read our newsletters for more updates, watch our calendar for location, date, and times of the next Repair Cafe. 


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