Truth in real estate advertising missing in dunes sale

Truth in real estate advertising missing in dunes sale

A large for sale sign sits on top of a dune. A dune that is not supposed to be built upon based on current law.

Should it be illegal to list such a property? Not if there is truth in advertising—as in this is a non-buildable lot.

A for sale sign on a dune property in Todos Santos, Mexico, that is not supposed to be built on. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Should the real estate agent and company who the person works for be fined or held accountable in some other way for describing a non-buildable lot as buildable? Yes.

Todos Santos, and other parts of Baja California Sur, are struggling to keep the dunes free of development. This is all about the environment. It’s the law, today, that these dunes are to be protected.

The Program for Urban Development (PDU) for Todos Santos, El Pescadero, and Las Playitas was published in 2012. It covers more than 30 miles from Elias Calles on the south to Agua Blanca north of Todos Santos. The PDU prohibits any development on primary and secondary dunes.

With the powers that be in the state government of Baja California Sur, the state which Todos Santos is part of, working to rewrite the laws when it comes to development, it’s possible in the future this lot in question will be allowed to be built on.

This particular lot has a sign with a QR code that goes to Mijares Advisors/aMiGo Realtor. An iPhone translation of the listing from Spanish to English says, “Welcome to this impressive paradisiacal corner of Baja California Sur, where it offers you an unparalleled life experience on the beach. Located a few steps from the gentle but enveloping wave of the Pacific Ocean to enjoy. The space is an invitation to creativity: 5,700 m2 that gives you the opportunity to design your dream place.”

So, obviously the lot is being sold as though it can be built upon.

Mexico has plenty of laws pertaining to real estate deals. And each state within the country has another layer. The problem is enforcement and corruption.

A vigilant group of Mexicans and expats is fighting to keep the current PDU in place. A sign across the road coming into town from La Paz, where the state government officials work, says, “No al nuevo PDU” meaning “No to the New PDU”.

Everyone who is part of breaking the law ought to be held accountable—including everyone involved in the real estate transaction—agents, brokers, bankers—everyone. Maybe laws need to be in place for contractors willing to work on an illegal build as well.

‘Burning Man’ becomes comedic musical in Baja Sur

‘Burning Man’ becomes comedic musical in Baja Sur

“Burning Man the Musical” at Teatro Pescadero in Baja Sur on March 19. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

I can finally say I’ve been to Burning Man, well, sort of, and not really.

I’ve seen the play. I’m sure that counts.

Burning Man the Musical is the whimsical, satirical brainchild of Dillon Porter, who founded Teatro Pescadero in November 2020. The inspiration for this play is from the eight times he’s been to this iconic gathering in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert. His first experience was with his father in the early 2000s.

The play was fun, lighthearted, and campy entertainment under the dark skies of Baja.

Porter describes it as a parody or farce as opposed to a re-creation of what actually takes place on that playa.

Many of the 19 cast members, most of whom live in the surrounding area, were performing in their first play. Some clearly had prior experience in theater.

The band was excellent; with members writing the original tunes. They also were participants in the play.

The dirt theater is so Baja. Chairs a mishmash arranged in a half circle. The set was perfect with RVs as the backdrop, much like what is at the real Burning Man.

Baja Sur is the richer for having this community theater.

Follow Teatro Pescadero on Facebook and/or Instagram to know about future shows.

Mexico’s Lake Chapala–forbidding and beautiful

Mexico’s Lake Chapala–forbidding and beautiful

Fishers at Lake Chapala in Mexico don’t care the water level is low. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

As Mexico’s largest fresh water lake, Lake Chapala is impressive. But something is missing; that something is people.

The amazing view from where I was staying made the lake look so inviting to cool off in or to take a boat ride on or perhaps paddle on. After all, it was in the mid-80s during the day.

When friends drove me around the lake it was still impressive, but less inviting. Part of this had to do with there being no obvious beaches and that the water level is extremely low because of drought conditions. Low water years make most lakes somewhat ugly because of the exposed land that should really be under water.

We had a drink at a restaurant in the town of Chapala where I wondered if in high water conditions the water might lap against the building or at least be a stone’s throw away.

Lake Chapala near Guadalajara, Mexico, is most beautiful from a distance. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

I’ve seen pictures of Lake Chapala with sandy areas near the malecons. Guess I just have to go back after a rainy spell.

Several towns border the lake. So do a lot of agricultural lands, which is a main reason no one is recreating on the lake.

“Lake Chapala’s principal source is the Lerma River, which originates near Toluca in Mexico state and flows through the states of Michoacán and Guanajuato before entering Jalisco. The water entering Lake Chapala from the Lerma River is highly polluted with heavy metals and other toxic substances as a result of insufficient wastewater treatment by the many industries operating near the Lerma River,” according to Global Nature Fund. “Additionally, many of the towns around the lake release their sewage and waste water into the lake without treatment. The mandated ‘federal zone’ around the lake, where construction is prohibited, suffers increasing invasion by landowners.”

Lerma River is the main source of water for Lake Chapala. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

This isn’t to say zero people are utilizing the lake. Fishers are out and I saw what was called a tourist boat. Not sure if they were going from restaurant to restaurant or eventually checking out one of the three islands on this lake that sits at 5,000 feet.

However, media reports say local fishers have reported skin irritations after being in contact with the lake’s waters.

Perhaps March is just a slow period in terms of people playing in and on the water, even though it was warm. Or maybe they know better. After reading up on the lake I’m glad I didn’t even touch it.

The lake is about 48 miles long and 10 miles wide. It has a maximum depth of about 11 feet, with an average depth of 7½ feet. The shallowness adds to its problems because the lake water isn’t mixing much.

March is not the height of the dry season and still Lake Chapala is so low. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Ninety percent of the water comes from the Lerma River, the rest from rainfall.

Lake Chapala is the primary water source for Guadalajara, which is Mexico’s second largest city. That would be reason enough to want to keep this body of water more clean.

Todd Stong, an expat and civil engineer, contends improvements are being made to Lake Chapala and that it is no worse than many California beaches. But if one reads the headlines about Southern California’s beaches, they are often polluted from sewage traveling north from Tijuana. So, there is that to consider. This information was also found on a real estate agent’s site, so that person has a financial interest in promoting a healthy lake.

The Guadalajara Reporter this year has had several stories about the lake.

“The combination of lower volume, rising temperatures, and accumulation  of excess nutrients is causing the proliferation of microscopic algae along the shoreline that turns the water green, creates noxious odors and endangers fish and other species living in the ecosystem,” the paper reported in February.

The surrounding wetlands were the subject of a multi-day conference in February to address the environmental issues.

Lake Chapala is captivating from multiple vantage points. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

An article in March in the GR said, “The toxins of microalgae and cyanobacteria present in Lake Chapala likewise have a potential negative impact on human health, considering that more than 3 million inhabitants of metro Guadalajara and the lakeshore region depend on its water.”

Besides being a major source of water for Guadalajara, it is also important for migratory birds north of Mexico. American white pelicans migrate from central Canada; staying at Lake Chapala from November until March. The lake is also home to native birds, some of which can only be found there.

It’s beyond sad what humans have done to nature. It’s 2024—Mexico being a Third World country is not a justifiable excuse for continued degradation of Lake Chapala. It’s fabulous to read people are worried about the lake and want to make it healthier. Maybe it will happen in my lifetime and I’ll swim in those waters one day. It doesn’t hurt to dream.

Magic of Baja comes through loud and clear in latest song

Magic of Baja comes through loud and clear in latest song

It’s hard to capture the essence of a location with just a few words, but singer-songwriter Tim Lang has done it.

In his latest single that dropped late last year, the Todos Santos resident in just more than three minutes sings about what Baja means to him. Only the Baja Knows is bound to resonate with anyone who has called Baja home or has visited this magical peninsula.

Lang said his goal was to share “experiences completely unique to anyone who has lived on The Baja.”

Tim Lang performs at Todos Santos Brewing in 2018. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

It’s about swimming with whale sharks, witnessing the sunrise over the Sea Cortez and later that same day seeing the sunset over the Pacific Ocean. It’s driving on dirt roads not knowing the destination. And it’s coping with poor cell service by writing messages on a dusty hood of a car.

It’s also a bit of a thank you to everyone—near and far—who has supported his music career in Baja. It was 15 years ago that Lang first came to Todos Santos on a friend’s recommendation. Prior to that he had been living on the Mexican mainland.

But something about Baja had first piqued his interest when he was a kid living in Wisconsin. Even though he wasn’t anywhere near an ocean, the walls of his room were covered with surfing posters—a sport he loves to this day. He wrote about Baja even then.

“I had a strong pull to get there,” Lang said.

Only the Baja Knows will be part of an album by the same name that is slated to be released later this year. Included on it will be two other versions of the same song—one more “rockish” as Lang called it and the other acoustic.

On the current version his wife Lorena Lang is on percussion, Scott Swayze of Todos Santos is on electric guitar, Robby Scharf formerly of Todos Santos and now living in California is on bass guitar. It was co-produced and mixed by Dane Taylor.

This isn’t Lang’s first song that has something to do with his adopted hometown. (He was born in Maine.) Nor does he expect it to be his last.

Lang said Baja provides him with “bottomless inspiration,” adding, “I don’t think I have enough time to explore everything I want to see.”

And it’s often those experiences that wind up as lyrics in his extensive playlist.

The video of Only the Baja Knows is like a tourism ad for Baja. Even his dog, whose name is Baja, is featured in it. Of course she was once a stray street dog who adopted the Langs.

Lang will be performing throughout Baja Sur starting in April. Dates are on his website.

Note: A version of this story first appeared in the Gringo Gazette.

Environmentalists trying to protect Baja’s waters

Environmentalists trying to protect Baja’s waters

Cabo Pulmo is a destination for divers and snorkelers on the East Cape of Baja Sur. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

 

 

 

It would be hard to find a place that humans haven’t ruined in some manner. Fortunately, the stories about recovery—by humans—are also out there.

One of those places is Cabo Pulmo National Park on the east side of Baja Sur in Mexico.

This area—which covers land and the Sea of Cortez—became a park in 1995, and a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2005.

SeaLegacy and Beta Diversidad point to the success of restoring Cabo Pulmo as they, along with other environmental agencies, try to broaden the protection of Baja’s natural resources.

Time magazine this month reported that the organizations are seeking to “create a protective zone that will fit like a sock over the southern half of Baja California—where the peninsula’s greatest bio-diversity is found—extending into the waters of the Gulf of California to the east of Baja and the Pacific Ocean to the west.”

The article also says the proposal states, “Some sport and artisanal fishing will be allowed near the coasts, and a tightly regulated ecotourism industry, but no industrial fishing. Farther out into the ocean will be a ‘no take’ zone that will leave part of the Pacific and the Gulf of California entirely untouched.”

Ultimately it will be up to the president of Mexico, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, to designate the waters a marine preserve. A decision could come this year.

Fishing is big business in this part of the world. Big for those selling their catch commercially, and big for tourist boats taking visitors out with the expectation something will be on the end of their line.

Tourist boats also are out in force chasing whales all for the enjoyment of looky-loos. What this is doing to these mammals, well, it can’t be beneficial.

Advocates for the preserve say the region has been overfished and something must be done in order to bring back the fish and their habitat.

The magazine article said only 4 percent of the bluefin tuna population in this region are still in these waters.

“For every 2.2 pounds of shrimp pulled from the ocean, there are more than 20 pounds of unwanted bycatch—mostly juveniles of various species,” Time reports. “The nets drag along the bottom of the ocean, damaging the delicate ecosystem of the ocean floor, and releasing the carbon that’s sequestered in the sediment.”

Cabo Pulmo is the example people keep returning to. Industrial fishing in no longer allowed there and ecotourism is regulated.

The coral reef there has recovered and the fish population has increased by 465 percent, reports Time. Plus, the diversity of aquatic wildlife has also proliferated.

People and nature out of balance in Todos Santos

People and nature out of balance in Todos Santos

Inadequate infrastructure adds to Todos Santos’ inability to capture rain water. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Balance. It’s something much of Baja California Sur is trying to figure out, with Todos Santos in the thick of it.

The balance of people and natural resources is at the crux of so many issues embroiling this town.

Money is also an integral component.

Development is an economic driver for those in the construction trades and for government officials putting their stamp of approval on plans. More people in town also brings cash to local businesses.

The problems, though, include, but are not limited to, an evaporating aquifer, destruction of dunes, and the rewriting of the rules governing development.

The latter has been going on for a few months. Officials in La Paz, the capital of Baja California Sur, decided to rewrite the PDU. The Program for Urban Development (PDU) for Todos Santos, El Pescadero, and Las Playitas was published in 2012. It covers more than 30 miles from Elias Calles on the south to Agua Blanca north of Todos Santos. The PDU prohibits any development on primary and secondary dunes.

That document took five years to finalize.

At a meeting this spring between government officials and Todos Santos residents it was revealed the new PDU would be done in five months. The meeting got heated, with accusations of corruption being leveled.

“Rumor is $25,000 (U.S.) will get you a building permit. We don’t have proof of it happening, but why would you do this if there weren’t some kind of reward?” a spokesman for Protect Todos Santos said.

The nonprofit Protect Todos Santos was formed in the last few years to bring light to illegal construction and other issues affecting the area. The group recently hired a criminal attorney to go after people who they believe are acting illegally, while a civil attorney is filing cases in federal court in order to stop building that Protect Todos Santos believes violates the PDU.

Urbanistica was hired to rewrite the Todos Santos PDU as well as PDUs for La Ventana and Las Barrillas on the East Cape.

“I don’t think they are qualified if you look at their project experience. I expect they will produce a terrible product and then La Paz will throw our PDU in the trash and that is what we will be left with, a piece of shit,” according to a member of Protect Todos Santos.

Urbanistica deferred comment to IMPLAN, the government agency that handles development and is in charge of the PDU. Iván Enrique Valencia Duarte was contacted by the Gringo Gazette newspaper, but chose not to respond to an email inquiry.

That means we don’t know why the government wants to rewrite the document, what they don’t like about the current PDU, who initiated this idea, or why locals were not consulted before a decision to create a new PDU was made.

Protect Todos Santos (PTS) members are alarmed with the contents of the second draft of the new PDU that was released in June. One of the main issues was water.

“They devoted a page and half to water. They didn’t even get the chart right. They don’t even understand water,” a PTS official said. “It was wrong in the first and second drafts. It is the most important thing. They are not doing their homework.”

PTS hired Victor Sevilla Unda, professor of Water Science at the Autonomous University in La Paz, and William Sanford, professor in the Department of Geoscience at Colorado State University, to look into the local water situation. This summer a report titled “Evaluation of Groundwater Resources in the Todos Santos Aquifer” was released.

Much of the data came from Conagua, Mexico’s federal water agency that manages the dams and oversees the country’s water resources. In 2020, 30 percent more water was extracted from the aquifer compared to 2007

The Santa Inés Dam near Todos Santos helps recharge the groundwater. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Considering the growth in the greater Todos Santos area, notably the Las Tunas neighborhood, that percentage is likely higher today.

The report states, “From 2013 to 2020 the rate of extraction doubled and if we extrapolate the rate based upon its recent growth, by 2030 we will be extracting twice as much water as is recharged in an average year.”

It goes on to say, “In addition, climate variability studies suggest that precipitation will decrease, and the frequency of hurricanes will lessen, which will reduce the amount of recharge to the aquifer. This coupled with the increased demand for water resources may cause a significant loss of available water.”

Protest Todos Santos’ summer newsletter said, “We think IMPLAN should know how much water we currently consume and how those numbers will be impacted by their proposed PDU as part of the development process. However, their most recent PDU draft indicates they are not going to do that very necessary calculation, so our plan is to present them with our scientists’ reports and predictions and hope they are incorporated it into the new PDU.

“In the end, desalination may be our only hope unless we find ways to slow development, move water currently used for agriculture to domestic uses, find other ways to store water, and reduce water use through conservation. However, we are skeptical that La Paz will have the money needed to build a plant in Todos Santos. And it is not our first choice for a solution since desalination plants are notorious for using a large amount of fossil fuels, which contribute to climate change, and the salt brine waste created needs to be properly addressed.”

Desalinization plants are expensive; La Paz is spending $165 million (U.S.) for one.

A Protect Todos Santos representative admitted it’s not the Mexican citizens who are the water hogs. Instead, this person said, it’s agriculture and foreigners who have taken up residence in the area. Big houses, pools, landscaping—they are draining the aquifer.

After all, on average Todos Santos receives 6 inches of rain a year. That doesn’t amount to much per person.

The experts who created the water report came up with 15 recommendations ranging from improving monitoring, installing flow meters on extraction wells, upgrading weather stations, identifying groundwater sources outside the basin, creating a groundwater model, and studying the water flow at the Santa Inés Dam.

Protect Todos Santos hopes to work with a university that would want to implement some of the recommendations as a potential research project.

Note: This story first appeared in the Gringo Gazette.

Tiny napkins a wasteful dining experience in Baja

Tiny napkins a wasteful dining experience in Baja

Tiny napkins are the norm at restaurants in Baja Sur. (Images: Kathryn Reed)

Cocktail napkins should not be used as a dinner (or lunch or breakfast) napkin. They are too dang small.

That’s not the belief in Mexico, though. Well, at least throughout the Baja peninsula.

Restaurants in Baja are known for their penchant to provide napkins that can’t do the job. Well, they can, it just takes multiple napkins to get through an entire meal.

I’m not really sure how this is efficient. It seems like a waste of paper and a waste of money. It seems like an environmental nightmare.

These servilletas, which in reality are probably a hair bigger than cocktail napkins, are also usually thin. This contributes to needing more than one or two or three to get through a meal—even if you aren’t a messy eater or even eating something messy. It’s not like I’m eating barbecue or the like where more than one of any size napkin is necessary.

The worst is when the napkin is wrapped around eating utensils. Inevitably the napkin is ripped because it’s been secured by a wrapper that doesn’t want to come undone.

While many times a container of napkins is on the table, you can’t be guaranteed that is going to be the case. To me, this arsenal of additional napkins is evidence the original napkin is not enough to get through the meal. So, it’s not like restaurateurs don’t know there is an issue with the napkins.

I realize the size of a napkin is not usually something worthy of a rant. I just think if these restaurants in Baja would be helping the environment and customers if they would provide guests with a better, bigger napkin.

All of this makes me wonder what Mexicans do in their homes. What size napkins are they using? How many do they use in one meal?

Handcrafted pottery is like artwork for all areas of one’s home

Handcrafted pottery is like artwork for all areas of one’s home

Ibarra pottery is all made by hand in La Paz, Mexico. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Imperfections can actually make something even more perfect.

That’s what happens with handcrafted pottery and glassware. Two glasses or bowls may be similar, even seem alike, but look closer and you’ll see each is unique.

Mexican pottery is full of vibrant colors that seem to draw one’s eye to it no matter where it is located—a kitchen, outdoors, on a table as a decorative piece.

Ibarra’s Pottery was founded in 1958 by Julio Ibarra and Juanita Chavez. They met in Mexico City where they were both studying art. They decided to join forces and create pottery together.

In the mid-1980s they moved to La Paz in Baja California Sur to where they had family. In many ways it was like starting all over as the Ibarra art was not locally known.

Julio Ibarra died in 2015, while Juanita Chavez was still working there last year.

In April 2022, Ibarra’s Pottery celebrated what it called its evolution in La Paz from 1987-2022.

Ibarra’s factory and shop is a couple blocks from the malecon in La Paz. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Today, the La Paz shop is run by the founders’ daughter, Vicky Ibarra. A third generation is also becoming potterers.

While they don’t like people to take pictures onsite, the pottery makers post pictures online of the finished work and of employees painting what is essentially a blank canvas. There are even videos of how the clay comes into being.

The store/factory in La Paz is continually turning out new work. Plates, glasses, wall hangings, pitchers, and so much more are handcrafted right there.

If you don’t find what you are looking for or you have an idea for a piece, special orders can be placed.

One of Ibarra’s Facebook posts sums up why handmade art is so wonderful, “When you are buying a handmade piece you must know it might have some small defects and you can’t blame the artisan. The truth is: it makes it unique. Why? Because when you are creating something with your hands no matter how careful you are sometimes it’s impossible to make it exactly like the others.”

A post on Ibarra’s Instagram page says each piece takes about two weeks to complete. All of the Ibarra pieces are lead free. What I have bought can go in the oven and dishwasher, though I haven’t done so.

I love that each is signed on the bottom, so you know it’s an Ibarra. (They carry other works at the store.)

To me, Ibarra pottery is functional art.

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