Up on Blocks
One hates to make fun of those who have incurred hardship as a result of global financial meltdown…but, well, sometimes you've just got to point and laugh.

In this case I am laughing at the upcoming auction of 24 units at the Zocalo condominium complex. Last year it was the fire sale on The Alameda condos—"the new heart of Santa Fe"—where $310,000 units opened to bids at $199,000 . Now, just as pundits tell us the housing market is ready to rebound, Beverly Hills, Calif.'s Kennedy Wilson Auction Group is set to offer $365,000 units beginning at $99,000. Apparently not even starchitecture (the Zocalo units were designed by Ricardo Legorreta) can save big condo developers from their richly deserved fate, especially in a development with a poor reputation for construction quality. But hey, $90,000? It would be a people's victory if only such developers could see their way to negotiate with foreclosure victims or affordable housing agencies and suck up their losses in a socially mindful way.

But instead, Kennedy Wilson has issued another comedy script/press release. Example:

"It can truthfully be stated that luxury living in historic Santa Fe, a magnet for America's artistic and creative community, has NEVER been more affordable!"

My favorites are the thoughtful quotes from presumable auction experts. Example:

"Zocalo [c]ondominiums offer homebuyers an unbeatable combination of style, comfort and value," according to Rhett Winchell, president of Kennedy Wilson. "Especially value…"

I do feel bad for folks who paid full price for their little slice of Zocalo, but for those looking to pick up a peaceful sanctuary from modern life's hustle and bustle, just minutes from work or play, where spaciousness is more than just an illusion, the Oct. 4 auction could be just the ticket. You don't even have to get of the couch, you can bid from zocaloauction.com. Ha effing ha.

Greenwashing Garbage
Santa Fe's city and county governments last week jointly announced the shared landfill is "going green." At the end of this month, COMANCO Environmental Corporation of Florida begins work on a $1.057 million contract to install 15 gas collection wells in the landfill. The wells will capture methane gas (among the worst of the greenhouse gases) created by the breakdown of organic material and burn it off in a special chamber, thus preventing its release into the atmosphere or its creep through the ground into adjoining properties.

Landfill Manager Randy Watkins says the process effectively manages methane, vanishing 99 percent of it up in a puff of smoke. Of course, basic physics reminds us that gas only ever changes form; it never simply goes away. Add that landfill gas is never pure methane but generally has a high dioxin content, and the practice becomes somewhat controversial and certainly not "green."

Of course, there's no actual movement on the part of the city and county to actually "green" the landfill. There are federal and, in this case, state laws mandating that any landfill that outputs at least 50 megagrams of gas (a megagram is fancy talk for a metric ton) must install a capture system just as Santa Fe is now doing. In other words, our landfill is so polluted and screwed that we have to install this system by law. You can see how that's different from "going green."

Now, certainly capturing and flaring the gas is better than doing nothing at all, but without a system to separate all the toxic chemicals—all the paint and kerosene and rat poison and mineral spirits that people toss in the dump—from the pure methane, we're essentially super-heating volatile organic compounds and chucking them into Santa Fe's famed "air quality."

None of this is the fault of the Santa Fe Solid Waste Management Agency—which does its best to deal with the brunt of our excesses and dumping improprieties—but it lands in its lap to solve.

One way is to move toward using the burned gas to create electricity—energy is being created regardless and it might as well be harnessed. Using turbines, combustion engines or boilers to produce electricity from the burned gas encourages the separation of elements to achieve the most efficient production of power. Watkins says this is the direction in which the landfill overseers plan to move, as soon as they have a handle on the quantity and quality of gas being captured (something you'd think would have been assessed before handing out a million-dollar-plus contract).

But in addition to listening to the Public Service Company of New Mexico whine about other entities producing electricity, we'd have the problem of developing a dependency on feeding the landfill in order to produce power, rather than the benefit of lessening landfill gases by throwing away (and maybe even purchasing) less crap to begin with.

What's happening at the landfill isn't green but, if we look at it right, it could be.