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3 Questions

with Laura Gonzales-Meredith

3 QuestionsTuesday, January 27, 2015 by Emily Zak

On Wednesday’s “Caves, Cribs and Cathouses: How Frontier Prostitution Helped Build the West,” Laura Gonzales-Meredith speaks about prostitution during the 19th century at the St. Francis Auditorium. A former worker at Fort Union National Monument, she now teaches history at Luna Community College in Las Vegas.

Tell me about your work on frontier prostitution.
This particular project is work that I’ve done on my master’s thesis. It started probably about nine years ago when I was working at Fort Union National Monument. I came across, with a colleague of mine, some articles in the archives regarding some prostitutes who had been publicly humiliated and run out of the fort at Fort Union. I just remember getting really intrigued by the story and the fact that it wasn’t being told.

What interested you about these sex workers?
These women led such fascinating and misunderstood lives. I think in society we have this common interpretation about them, and it generally tends to be negative—we fault them for their choices and decisions—or we romanticize their lives. It’s interested me to get to know them on a more personal level. They’re a little hard to pinpoint, and they’re all just so different.

What are breakthroughs you’ve had in your research?
I just started to see these women’s lives were influential in the growth of the West. In a lot of these small, primitive frontier towns, they’re dominated by male communities, and those communities can be pretty rough around the edges. And time and time again, these women are the ones that bring that element of civilization to it. They’re often the ones that stay back when there’s an epidemic of influenza or smallpox or something, so they’re acting as nurses. Madams are acting as surrogate mothers to these women who have been abandoned in the West or have lost their family for some reason…They’re making all of these contributions toward society, and yet in this society there’s not a place for them, and they get shunned.

High Flying, Adored

Make way for The Art of Flying

PicksTuesday, January 27, 2015 by Alex De Vore

From a home studio hidden within an aging barn outside Taos, David Costanza and Anne Speroni craft immense and ethereally lo-fi soundscapes as The Art of Flying.

With Costanza and Speroni at the core of the process and an ever-rotating cast of world-class musicians providing backup, a deftly prolific knack for poetic songwriting meets gorgeous musicianship.

A patchwork mélange emerges, culled from the highest high-points of rock ’n’ roll history with a Brit-pop slant and neo-psychedelic edge. Over the course of six records and one 10-inch LP, The Art of Flying has delved into and expanded upon the legendary foundations handed down from the likes of Leonard Cohen, Pink Floyd or even Bob Dylan, while driving their style forward via hints of shoegaze heroes like Belle and Sebastian or lyrical masterminds like Billy Bragg. This is music that isn’t afraid to take its time and slowly build toward more beautiful harmonies or subtly wistful melodies.

The pair has traveled the world over building experience along with musical prowess and, since their inception in 1998, steadily improved upon their painstaking formula with each newly recorded iteration. Their hard work and apparent encyclopedic awareness of the bits and pieces that make folky rock and psychedelia mesh well has culminated in the best of the bunch, the charmingly under-produced I’m Already Crying.

Don’t let that descriptor “under-produced” fool you, however, because this album is exactly where it needs to be and the lack of soulless bells or whistles lends itself perfectly to the heartfelt nature of the 10 brilliant tracks. Words like “essential” have been used by critics in the past, and you’d be hard-fought to think up a better word for how much you need to hear this band.



The Art of Flying
7-9 pm Monday, Feb. 2. $12-$20
Jean Cocteau Cinema
418 Montezuma Ave.,
466-5528

Street View

01.28.15

Street ViewTuesday, January 27, 2015 by SFR
Wait! No parking ticket for this guy?


Send your best shots to streetview@sfreporter.com or share with #SFRStreetview for a chance to win free movie passes to the CCA Cinematheque.

7 Days

01.28.15

7 DaysTuesday, January 27, 2015 by SFR
1

CAIRO MUSEUM RUINS KING TUT BEARD WITH GLUE

Project was headed by the same folks who did the Burro Alley tail repair.

2

ELDORADO RESIDENTS COMPLAIN ABOUT SOLAR PANELS

Henpecking one’s neighbors is the local pastime, after all.

3

JUDGE TELLS TOMMY RODELLA TO WORK ON ARROGANCE

Surely he’ll have time during his next decade of prison weightlifting.

4

ROBBER DRIVES STOLEN SMART CAR TO PECOS HOLDUP

Because blending in is essential for the successful stickup.

5

REIES LóPEZ TIJERINA DIES

Taking with him the hope that a small band of angry men can stop the federal government.

6

DEA BUSTS RUFINA REPAIR SHOP

Agents report they had “a lot of drugs” and few tools.

7

THE PANTRY RESTAURANT GETS NATIONAL ACCOLADES

Great. Now the line will be even longer this weekend.

Dirty Ol’ New York City

'A Most Violent Year' has elements of a great movie but falls short

OkTuesday, January 27, 2015 by David Riedel

JC Chandor makes solid movies. His feature debut, Margin Call, is the best movie about the 2008 financial crisis because it humanizes the bankers responsible for bringing the economy to its knees while simultaneously making them look like opportunistic assholes.

 

Chandor’s second feature, All is Lost, features Robert Redford in one of his best roles, as a lone sailor aboard a sinking boat in the Indian Ocean trying to survive calamity after calamity. Redford’s nearly wordless performance is perfect, and Chandor wrings from him the right balance of actor and movie star. The pacing is excellent and the happy ending well earned.

 

Now Chandor branches into darker territory. A Most Violent Year is set in New York City in 1981, one of the city’s grimmest years, crime-wise. Abel Morales (Oscar Isaac—this guy is the real thing) is a mostly honest businessman trying to take his oil supply business from rinky-dink-plus to on-the-verge-of-international. As the movie opens, he puts down a 40 percent deposit on a riverside property that will allow him to greatly expand.

 

Abel has 30 days to come up with the rest of the money, and needless to say, things don’t go as planned. His delivery trucks keep getting hijacked on New York’s rough city streets; a federal prosecutor (a soft-spoken but forceful David Oyelowo) is about to indict him; and his wife/accountant Anna (Jessica Chastain) is the daughter of a Mafioso who wants to deal with every problem the business has through illegal means.

 

Sounds like the set-up for a great crime story, right? If only. Chandor makes the bold choice of letting the words in A Most Violent Year speak louder than the actions. Sometimes it works; when Abel calls together all the other oil barons in the city to ask them to quit stealing from him, the scene feels a lot like Vito Corleone’s warning to the heads of the five families in The Godfather.

 

But there are places where the movie falls apart. There’s a constant threat of physical violence—this is dirty ol’ New York City, after all—that rarely comes to fruition. One can admire Chandor’s restraint, but it feels as if, like his main character, he’s taking the high road for the sake of taking the high road. It’s feasible that Chandor is suggesting the threat of violence is even worse than violence itself. In its own way, A Most Violent Year shows the fallout on the human psyche of terroristic threats.

 

Unfortunately, that leaves much of the movie flat. There are raised voices here and there, but there’s such a veneer of control and cool—Abel is largely unflappable—that it leaves the ending in little doubt.

 

Plus, Chastain's character is problematic. It’s not that Chastain isn’t believable as the tough Brooklyn-bred Mafia kid. It’s just that her role is underwritten enough that it becomes cliché. How many times can she tell Abel he needs to be a man before it sounds like a stock phrase Chandor lifted from a different gangster story? Problems aside, A Most Violent Year is highly watchable; it’s just that when you’re done, you may not feel like you’ve been told the whole story.

 

A MOST VIOLENT YEAR

Directed by JC Chandor

With Isaac, Chastain and Albert Brooks

UA DeVargas 6

R

125 min.

Small Bites

Eat at Midtown Bistro and El Farol

Small BitesTuesday, January 27, 2015 by SFR
Joy Godfrey

Midtown Bistro

Brunch, a much-debated topic among stand-up comedians and no one else, is great, and Midtown Bistro knows how to do it right. Don’t let the elegant, understated décor fool you into thinking that you’ll be subjected to thin streaks of food, artfully clarified of all substance. The Bistro offers elegant interpretations of the classics that will leave you happy, full and ready to hibernate. Take the waffle ($12) option for example, where every element is perfectly balanced, from the fluffy, flavorful waffle, so much better than that IHOP nonsense, to the tweak of heaping it not only with bacon and syrup, but also cottage cheese and dried fruits. There are plenty of brunch staples like the omelet and steak and eggs ($11-$16). Then there are the more unusual options like the gluten-free (...really?) calamari appetizer ($9). The coffee ($2) is a little weak, the mimosas ($8) are just right, the service is superb and there’s no reason to miss out on this excellent fare.

-Ian MacMillan

901 W San Mateo Road, Ste. A, 820-3121
Lunch and dinner Monday-Saturday; brunch Sunday.
midtownbistrosf.com


Joy Godfrey

El Farol

Sitting on the front porch, perched in a tall chair and soaking in the sights of Canyon Road while noshing on plate after plate of flavorful tapas at El Farol is undoubtedly one of the quintessential authentic Santa Fe moments. Whether you’re visiting for the first time or the tenth, or you’re a local craving a night out, having a meal at the place that bills itself as the city’s oldest restaurant and cantina is worth it. Choosing just five tapas to start, however, can be a difficult task, so asking your knowledgeable waiter to make suggestions about the myriad choices is helpful. But for lunch with a friend, the five for $38 deal is spectacular. The flash-fried avocado with pico de gallo and lime yogurt is remarkable, and the gambas al ajillo, four sautéed garlic shrimp in a spicy red sauce, are finger licking. There’s also Spanish goat cheese and chorizo, and flamenco and other nightly entertainment to boot.

-Julie Ann Grimm

808 Canyon Road, 983-9912
Lunch and dinner daily.
elfarolsf.com



Hungry for more?

For more reviews like this, pick up our 2015 Restaurant Guide or check it out online.

NM Moderne

New exhibit at the O’Keeffe celebrates state-made and inspired art

Arts ValveTuesday, January 27, 2015 by Enrique Limón

You’d think that the staff at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum would be still in a celebratory mood after last November’s record-breaking sale of the iconic painter’s “Jimson Weed, White Flower No. 1,” perhaps driving up in their Bentleys to line the gallery walls with gold leaf. But, as the museum’s Cody Hartley is swift to point out, it’s business as usual at the Johnson Street cultural institution.

“That money will all be set aside for future art acquisitions, so I’m actively looking at the market. We’d like to fill some gaps in our collection and start expanding our holdings,” Hartley tells SFR. “It’s exciting. I’m working with dealers, talking to collectors, finding out what’s out there and what would make sense for us to add to our collection.”

Not resting on laurels, on Friday, the museum is set to unveil Modernism Made in New Mexico, an sublime patchwork of 15 artists who, like O’Keeffe, were deeply inspired by New Mexico, its people, traditions and jaw-dropping vistas.

Thomas Hart Benton’s “Train on Desert,” oil on canvas board
©TH Benton and RP Benton Testamentary Trusts/UMB Bank Trustee

“Some of these we have ownership stakes in and some are just loans,” Hartley says of the museum namesake’s works that fleck the exhibit. He’s standing in the gallery where the pieces are gingerly being set up by gloved hand, flashes of provenance peering as the paintings are handled.

“The point is made visible,” Hartley, the former assistant curator of paintings at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, says of the flow from one painting to the next. “You’ve got someone like O’Keeffe to the left and Raymond Jonson on the right doing really radical, new things.”

Rediscovering renowned talents and presenting their New Mexico-inspired works, which at time stray from the rest of their oeuvre, Hartley says, was key.

“It’s pretty fascinating,” he remarks, as a John Marin goes up. “One of the observations is how New Mexico really changes what artists do. It changes the way they work, and not just their subject matter—not just painting New Mexico scenes and subjects—but also the way they paint, the rejection of the more traditional, representational, romantic ideals of the past is gone and you’ve got something increasingly abstract and flat.

O’Keeffe’s 1940 “Bear Lake, New Mexico,” oil on canvas.
© Georgia O’Keeffe Museum
“They’re getting rid of this notion of depth and perspective,” he continues, his words echoed in pieces like “Train on the Desert” by Thomas Hart Benton and O’Keeffe’s own “Black Place, Grey and Pink.”

Exploring how the state influenced this radical new direction is an overarching theme. It also plays into the notion that New Mexico is known for trapping these creative types who arrive here and never leave. “Someone like John Sloan, Jonson and O’Keeffe, of course, move here permanently and make [the state] a significant part of their lives. But then you have others, Marin for example, that visit for a summer or two, get it out of their system and don’t come back.”

The state, he notes, had a lasting effect on the likes of Marsden Hartley, whose sweeping, post-visit pastel landscapes are in the show. “He is the most modern artist that comes to New Mexico when he arrives in 1918. He doesn’t actually paint that much while he was here. It’s the subsequent decade that he starts painting these recollections of New Mexico, so it’s been working in his mind this whole time and takes a while for it to come out in painted expression.”

The move to kick off what is sure to be a banner year with the sui generis group exhibit, the director of curatorial affairs explains, was a well-thought-out one, given they’re focusing on modernism “in a significant way” in 2015.

Later, on a quick coffee break, away for the sound of hammers on nails and hydraulic scissor lifts being raised, Hartley would reflect on the timelessness associated with the so-called Mother of American Modernism.

“I think she’s got incredible durability. Her method of painting struck this perfect balance between being very easily read, it’s very legible, but at the same time, it’s got this amazing complexity to it, so it pulls you in and rewards time and close-looking.”


Modernism Made in New Mexico
Starting Friday, Jan. 30
and on display through April 30
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum
217 Johnson St.,
946-1000

Wingin’ It

Because hot sauce is for Super Sunday, suckers

Food WritingTuesday, January 27, 2015 by Rob DeWalt

When I was a much younger lad, the voracious consumption of Buffalo-style hot wings was one of the few ways I thought I could assert my burgeoning manhood in front of those I wished to impress. You see, lifting weights was out of the question the minute I discovered they could actually be heavy, and lumbersexuals hadn’t been invented yet. Even if they had been, the only “beard” I was capable of producing back then was a shy goth girl named Stephanie.

I’m still a wing fan, I have given up on manhood and I have learned to tame the heat-seeking beast within for the sake of what is left of my stomach lining. I will, on occasion, hit up The Ranch House for some of chef Josh Baum’s lusty smoked mango-chile wings, stop by Cowgirl BBQ for a plateful of extremely habanero-forward Wings of Fire (more of a gimmick than a yummy gimme, honestly) or feast on a few of Second Street Brewery’s green chile-garlic flapper joints. Beyond that, I prefer the DIY wing approach.

Apparently there is a national sporting event coming up in a few days that often calls for the hearty shoving of chicken wings into one’s beer-massaged gullet. But they don’t have to be acid reflux-inducing gut bombs, people. In an effort to bring the oil content to a less frightening level, allow me to share three of my favorite variations that are roasted, not deep-fried. Two of the recipes—Asian coffee wings and chokecherry-chile wings—call for roasting plain wings before adding a powerful flavor denouement, while the Tandoori seasoned wings require a little (or a lot of) marinating time before cooking.

 

For the pre-roasted wing recipes:

(serves 3-5 as a snack)

24 large chicken wing pieces (wingettes and drumettes), skin-on

2 tablespoons vegetable oil or peanut oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Defrost chicken pieces if necessary. Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Line two baking sheets with aluminum foil or parchment paper. Pat wing pieces very dry with paper towels. In a bowl, toss wing pieces with oil to coat evenly. Space 12 wing pieces evenly on each baking sheet, meaty side up. Score each wing top three times with a sharp knife. (This will help the wings grab the basting sauces and facilitate more even cooking.) Roast wings on the middle oven rack until almost cooked through, about 20 minutes. Remove wings, baste well with sauces, and return to oven to roast for another eight to 10 minutes (times vary). Pour any remaining sauces over wings after plating. Serve with crudité and your favorite complementary dips, if desired.


Chokecherry Chile Basting Sauce:

1 teaspoon vegetable oil

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

¼ cup yellow onion, thinly sliced

2-3 tablespoons Dixon Caribe or other crushed red New Mexico chile flakes

3 tablespoons white wine

1 cup chokecherry jam (available from Pat Montoya’s Family Orchard stand and Santa Fe Farmers Market) or other cherry jam

Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Sweat onions and garlic with chile flakes in medium-hot oil for four minutes. Add wine to saucepan; reduce liquid for three minutes. Add jam to pan, reduce heat to low and cook until jam is completely dissolved. Baste wings toward the end of roasting.


Asian Coffee Basting Sauce:

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 teaspoon dark sesame oil

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1/8 cup yellow onion, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon fresh ginger, finely chopped

½ cup sweet rice cooking seasoning (aji-mirin)

2 ½ cups strong coffee (day-old is fine)

¼ cup tamari or soy sauce

½ cup black treacle (dark molasses)

½ cup light brown sugar

1 piece star anise

1 makrut lime leaf (optional, for astringency and aroma)

1 tablespoon Szechuan peppercorn, ground (optional, for spiciness)

Heat oil to medium-high in a large saucepan. Sauté garlic, onions and ginger for four minutes. Deglaze with aji-mirin. Add remaining ingredients and reduce, stirring occasionally, until slightly sticky to the touch when cooled on the back of a wooden spoon, up to 30 minutes (times vary). Baste wings toward the end of roasting.


Tandoori Seasoned Wings With Cucumber-Mint Sauce:

(serves 3-5 as a snack)

¼ cup dried red chile pods (chile de árbol works well)

2 tablespoons whole coriander seeds

1 teaspoon whole cardamom pods

1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds

1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns

½ teaspoon whole cloves

1 tsp whole fenugreek seeds

1 stick whole cinnamon stick

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

¼ teaspoon ground turmeric

1 ½ teaspoons minced fresh ginger

1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic

2/3 cup sweet paprika (or enough to achieve your desired color)

1-2 tablespoons cayenne pepper (optional)

2 cups whole or lowfat plain yogurt

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

24 large chicken wing pieces (wingettes and drumettes), skin-on

Salt and pepper to taste

Lightly toast the first eight ingredients in a medium sauté pan, shaking the pan constantly, until the aroma is prominent, about five minutes. Cool completely. Grind cooled mixture in a spice blender. Add the chile/spice mixture to a large, resealable freezer bag with remaining wet and dry ingredients, mixing well. Score wing pieces on meaty side with a sharp knife. Add scored wing pieces to bag, coat evenly with marinade, seal bag and marinate two to eight hours in fridge. Roast wings on parchment-lined baking sheet on middle rack at 475 degrees until cooked through, about 30 minutes. May also be cooked outdoors on a medium-hot grill if turned frequently. Serve with cucumber-mint sauce.


Cucumber Mint Sauce:

(makes about 2 cups)

1 cup plain yogurt

½ cup cucumber, peeled and finely chopped

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

¼ cup finely chopped fresh mint or 3 tablespoons crumbled dried mint

Salt and pepper to taste

Blend all ingredients in a nonreactive bowl, cover and refrigerate at least two hours. Serve cold.

Whose House?

The rise and rise of Santa Fe house shows

Music FeaturesTuesday, January 27, 2015 by Alex De Vore

The concept of the house show carries with it a tremendously long and rich history dating back to forever the hell ago when the wealthy would invite performers into their front rooms and parlors to sing, dance and generally entertain. Granted, while venues, bars and other such public spaces usually tend to be the performer’s first choice, there’s a proud tradition of folks both young and old who decide to open their homes, basements and/or garages to the masses to produce/promote DIY musical events for little reason beyond that it’s awesome. Santa Fe itself has boasted no small number of house show spaces from the legendary (and sadly defunct) Alamo and Castle Rock Skull—though the latter was technically a storage unit—to new and exciting domiciles like Radical Abacus.

“I think that house venues tend to start out more exclusive, so once you hear about it and start going you feel a little special,” Megan Burns, formerly of homespun venue Meg’s House says. “It’s like getting into a club or a secret society.”

Meg’s House was founded in the basement of, well, Meg’s house and filled an important void following the demise of the original Warehouse 21. There, the tenants played host to both touring and local bands and would often create memorable, one-of-a-kind experiences. And nary a violent or legal issue arose because, according to Burns, “Even the biggest wasteoids respect that it’s someone’s house and are kinder to the space and the people.”

So cool, in fact, was the space that arts collective Meow Wolf can easily trace its roots back to the minimally excellent happenings inside that basement. These days, Meg’s House is home to The Pig Pitt, unofficial HQ for up-and-coming metal act Sleeptaker.

“House shows are so cool because it’s like music for the right reasons,” tenant/Sleeptaker guitarist Alex Monasterio says. “It’s not for money, it’s for the sake of playing, and the room has been full every time we’ve played.”

That’s a lot more than most venues around here can say, and it’s actually pretty neat that one house has facilitated two completely unrelated musical spaces.

But anyway, the list goes on! Just a short drive from The Pig Pitt you’ll find the Pink Haüs, a small garage space run by Santa Fe University of Art and Design student/musician Caitlin Brothers.

“The best house shows I’ve ever been to have all been in Santa Fe,” Brothers says. “Something about that sort of musical/social environment just vibes here, [and] the response gets better all the time…generally I can expect a decent crowd even on weeknights, and people have been more generous with the donations lately, so I’ve been able to give touring bands a lot more than I used to.”

A little bit further down the road in the burgeoning Siler Road area sits Radical Abacus, a massive warehouse space that’s actually attached to none other than the recently SFR-approved Dave Cave. Each serves different cross-sections of young music lovers, with the Dave Cave acting as host to the most brutal of metal bands while the relatively new Radical Abacus tends to err on the rock/indie/experimental side of things.

“Lots of people look around here and claim nothing is going on, but if you look into it and communicate, there really probably is something going on,” David Ahern-Seronde of the Dave Cave says. “It’s necessary to have house shows to keep the scene alive.”

But if these places are so important, why aren’t we printing addresses and phone numbers? Well, to put it simply, it would suck if these places were ruined for all by a small minority of jerks. Additionally, the ultimate legality of house shows is a murky area, and the last thing we need is to make things harder for these people who would welcome bands and fans with such open arms. The best thing one can do if they really want to be in the know is to start following these bands and people online. Hell, do a little detective work. And should you find these places and decide to get involved, do us all a favor and be cool…it’ll totally be worth it.

Horror Stories

Working toward landlord accountability and renters’ rights

FeaturesTuesday, January 27, 2015 by Darryl Lorenzo Wellington

It’s the leaky apartment whose roof collapsed. The kitchen equipped with a refrigerator, stove and air conditioner, none of which work. The bugs. The drafty windows. The clogged pipes.

Some shortcomings with rental properties are blatant violations of health codes and state laws that regulate landlords. Other landlord shenanigans are protected by the law, as when a tenant signs a month-to-month lease and the rent inexplicably rises a month later. And three months later, it rises again. Legal? Yes. But should it be?

“Imagine if on your first day at a job you said, ‘I want my first month’s check. I want my last paycheck. I want a damage deposit in case I’m injured.’ The employer would laugh at you. But that’s exactly what many landlords want,” says Tomás Rivera, executive director of Chainbreaker Collective. “We need policies that give some power back to renters.”

Chainbreaker is known for its activism on transportation, and now the nonprofit is encouraging Santa Feans to rethink rental policies it considers “predatory.”

“We’ve been organizing a series of meetings to discuss drafting a local renters’ bill of rights,” says Rivera. At a September house party, about 20 participants exchanged bad-landlord narratives. One common accusation was that landlords and property managers falsify reasons to “steal” deposits at certain motels and trailer parks occupied by those who speak limited English.

"There may be legal protections already in place. But they’re not being enforced."

In January of this year, Rivera spoke at another gathering, where he stressed that “housing is a human right,” and more than a dozen others recounted problems with bad plumbing, inefficient heating and unreturned deposits. One participant reported being evicted because she called authorities to investigate a bad irrigation system. She believed she had no choice but to leave, as she was on a month-to-month lease.

Rivera outlines the principles guiding a community-based petition that he hopes will lead to city law. They include: housing affordability, accessibility, quality, sustainability and permanence, and community control—a vision of a society in which residents have a say in housing costs and longevity. While community control might be too utopian, questions from the house-party groups centered on existing legal rights.

“We’ve heard stories from people who have lived in their homes for 20 years, but they’re evicted for one missed payment, [and] from people being evicted for having kids, for being pregnant, for complaining about cockroaches or windows so loose you can fit your hand through the cracks,” Rivera says. The groups unanimously wondered whether these eviction scenarios were legal.

New Mexicans with month-to-month leases can be evicted without cause. But federal law prohibits housing discrimination against children. Discrimination law is complex, however, and loopholes muddy it more. An apartment with major gaps and leaks violates state housing codes. But what does that mean in practice?

Rivera says one big problem for renters is that getting help sometimes requires hiring a lawyer and taking a risk.

“There may be legal protections already in place,” he says. “But they’re not being enforced.”

Everyone knows someone with a bad-landlord story. No statistics can reliably attest to how often they’re the biased gripes of oversensitive or troublesome tenants or legitimate cases of abusive property owners or managers. Yet, it’s indisputable that in landlord-tenant relations, the renter is the party in the more vulnerable position with the most to lose.

The power imbalance is exacerbated by rising rents that have led to what has been called the “renters’ crisis” on the heels of the housing bust. Some studies have concluded that an estimated 50 percent of American renters can be defined as “cost-burdened,” which means they spend 30 percent or more of their monthly income on rent.

And the number of renters has been on the rise since 2005, their swelling numbers transforming several major American cities into renter-majorities.

Although rents have climbed since 2002, incomes during that period have decreased, thereby driving up demand for public housing. Nevertheless, 10,000 units of public housing are lost annually through demolitions or dispositions, according to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, reflecting a gap between federal policy and the new reality. In 2009, the federal government spent $230 billion in programs for homeowners (mostly assisting higher-end homeowners) but only $60 billion in public housing and programs to ease burdens for renters, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Those trends are mirrored in Santa Fe’s own 2012 Housing Needs Assessment report, which predicted that as many as 3,000 low-income city residents would not be able to find affordable rental homes.

The biggest mismatch in market supply and demand, the report states, is for the city’s very-low-income-renter households that make up one-third of the city’s renter population. This group earns less than 30 percent of the city’s area median income, meaning that any rent greater than about $500 per month, including utilities, is out of reach. Only 10 percent of the city’s rental units have rents in this range.

A subsequent report called the 2014-15 Action Plan took a more optimistic tone, boasting the city had “met or exceeded” goals in affordable housing, largely because of one project. The Housing Trust transformed an old Cerrillos Road motel into apartments and built new units to total 60 affordable rentals for low-income earners and people transitioning out of homelessness.

Yet it’s clear that does not fully address the need in Santa Fe. Sharron Welsh, who manages Stage Coach apartments and Village Sage affordable housing projects for the Housing Trust, witnessed the impact of the 2008 renters’ crisis. The trust formerly prioritized helping low-income people purchase homes, but the tide turned that year, she says.

“Perhaps home ownership wasn’t a panacea for low-income people anymore,” she says. “We switched our emphasis.”

In her 20 years at the Housing Trust, the nonprofit has built about 700 affordable units, Welsh says, making just “a dent” in demand.

But Rivera cites a study by the advocacy group Right to the City, whose conclusions were more dire than the local housing reports.

“What I found really scary was that about a third of Santa Feans who are already cost-burdened actually pay half their income toward housing,” says Rivera.

While rents are much higher in New York and San Francisco, Rivera says, “Santa Fe rents are disproportionate to what they should be for a city this size. That we’re even in the same league [as those larger cities] is absurd.”

Fifty-two statutes detail New Mexico housing law—and each has plenty of subclauses. They’re collectively known as the Uniform Owner-Resident Relations Act. Parsing conflicts usually involves interpreting several complicated provisions in concert.

Such was the case for a woman we’ll call Christine—she didn’t want her real name published. She rented a two-bedroom apartment near downtown in May 2014. Having relocated from Brooklyn to Santa Fe to expand her textile artist business, she felt fortunate to find a space with sufficient square footage to double as a home and studio. The rent was $1,325 a month, with a large deposit of a month’s rent plus $1,000.

Above: Tomás Rivera, executive director for Chainbreaker, leads house meeting on renters’ rights. Below: Gloria Westbrook in one of many Santa Feans who says the city needs better protection for vulnerable renters.
Anson Stevens-Bollen

“Maybe I should have seen a red flag when the landlord put on the lease that I’d be responsible for his legal fees if we had a dispute,” Christine admits.

Two days after moving in, a summer monsoon brought rains, and her studio space flooded. Christine didn’t notice at first because the room was full of moving boxes, which were absorbing the water. By that evening her supplies were ruined. The landlord claimed no flooding had ever happened in the past. It happened again a week later.

By that time, Christine had discovered shoddy doors and windows. The back door wouldn’t completely shut; the lock was broken. A window in the main house was sealed shut, leaving her no way to ventilate the space except for an open door (two conditions a reporter observed last summer).

Christine never saw dripping or identified the source of the leak. The landlord sent roofers two weeks later, and they taped plastic bags over the chimney top.

The next rain dislodged the bags. Water spread into the apartment again. Three months after moving in and signing a year’s lease, Christine decided she had a lemon.

She sat down to send her landlord a certified letter making her case for opting out of the lease. That was when she noticed the landlord had not provided a physical address—only a post office box. “I kept leaving messages asking for a [physical] address. [The landlord] ignored me. ”

Christine believed she shouldn’t be legally obligated to find a replacement tenant, as the lease required, for such an inferior living space. She wondered if the law would support her or the landlord in her accusations of negligence. Would she really have to pay for her landlord’s lawyer if legal action ensued? Christine had begun looking for a new apartment and believed the landlord should owe her for her moving expenses and her flood-damaged property. And, of course, her deposit money.

Christine was familiar with the hackneyed caveat emptor advice given to prospective tenants. She could have tried making arrangements to check the electricity, doors and windows before moving in. She could have refused to sign a lease as it was written. But prospective tenants often feel pressured when they’re between apartments—between signing the lease as is and homelessness.

“I was freaking out. I didn’t know what to do,” she says. That’s when Christine called Susan Turetsky.

Turetsky has been the voice on the other end of the New Mexico Landlord-Tenant Hotline for 19 years. She provides consultations to landlords and tenants from her one-room office. If the office were an apartment, it would be classified as an “efficiency.” She’s the hotline’s sole employee.

Courtesy of ChainBreaker

“The Landlord-Tenant Hotline is a 501(c)3 nonprofit, and I’m an executive director who has nobody to direct,” chuckles Turetsky, who has a teaching background and is a licensed mediator.

Other legal services in New Mexico, such as Law Access and New Mexico Legal Aid, offer free advice, but neither specialize in landlord-tenant law and may not have landlord-tenant law specialists on hand.

“They both end up telling clients to call me,” sighs Turetsky, whose expertise on landlord-tenant law is generally acknowledged statewide. Sometimes, she says, lawyers and local judges come to her for help.

To Turetsky’s chagrin, she’s no longer the director of a free service. Three years ago, the hotline lost funding when the city cut it from the budget. Now Turetsky charges landlords $50 and tenants $30 for her help. “The most frequent question from landlords is what to do when a tenant isn’t paying the rent, how to evict, how to dispose of items left behind. From tenants, ‘I can’t pay my rent, so what can I do?’ Or, ‘My landlord won’t do anything about XYZ.’ ”

Turetsky averaged 60 calls a day when the service was free. Now she averages about 15. “I get a lot of hang-ups. It kills me when I know a person needs help. But I have to pay my bills.”

She offers all visitors a standard caveat: “I am not a lawyer. I offer information, interpretations and opinions on the 52 statues.”

But she draws on years of experience to provide a basic primer in landlord-tenant rights. (See page 15 for her tips on evictions, breaches-of-lease agreements and security deposits.) While Turetsky warns that she can’t assure what a judge will decide, she provides paperwork, including which ordinances the parties should show a judge, if necessary. She also provides information about legally supported actions.

In Christine’s case, Turetsky told her that her landlord’s failure to provide a physical mailing address was grounds enough to terminate the lease. She also learned about her right to abate one-third of her daily rent.

After she located a business address (never a home mailing address) for her landlord, she mailed him notice that she would be moving out the following month, August. She included a notice of abatement. Her landlord responded by demanding she pay the full rent. Christine lived in the apartment the first two weeks of August, then moved out and mailed a check that abated a third of her rent for her last two weeks.

Shortly thereafter she received a letter from her ex-landlord’s law firm stating the landlord’s intent to retain her full deposit. Security deposits are always refundable, but Christine’s $1,325 was prepaid rent. Prepaid rent isn’t always refundable when the tenant leaves before the end date on the lease.

The letter didn’t state whether or not the apartment remained vacant, but it asserted that Christine owed the remainder of a year’s rent—$13,250—and might owe “expected attorney’s fees.” As for the water damage that Christine had documented in photographs, the letter stated, “You may also be liable for damage resulting from your apparent dumping of large amounts of water on the floor in your effort to make it appear as if there was some kind of leak in the house.” Her security deposit, according to the letter, was consumed by the costs of cleaning ($410), house calls ($360) and a new screen door ($156).

Christine was flabbergasted by her ex-landlord’s “bullying” and deposit theft. “This has been very stressful,” she says. “I’m lucky I had the money to move out of there. I can see why someone who had a legal right to abate the rent might be hesitant to do it.” Christine is considering further legal action.SFR contacted attorneys for her ex-landlord, but they did not respond. A trade organization of 700 residential landlords, the Apartment Association of New Mexico, was also encouraged to contribute insights on landlord-tenant issues. No property managers in the business of market-rate rentals agreed to be interviewed.

Tomás Rivera wants Chainbreaker to do more than commiserate with renters like Christine when their rights have been violated. He wants to improve their power position.

“We’re not looking for…a silver bullet,” he says. “But we’re beginning a dialogue. We’re asking the Santa Fe community: Do we believe an elderly woman should be evicted because she’s two weeks late on rent or she complains that she’s trapped with cockroaches? I believe Santa Fe is better than that.”

Susan Turetsky is a one-woman show at the New Mexico Landlord-Tenant Hotline.
Anson Stevens-Bollen

Rivera envisions community action that would be supported by Santa Fe’s substantial pool of stressed renters. He also believes Santa Feans will rally to address gentrification, which has compounded the renters’ crisis since 2008.

High rents remap a city, he says, and Santa Fe’s labor pool is moving to adapt to this. The lucky ones find housing in the Southside, but some move as far away as Española. The Airport Road corridor is the fastest-growing area of the city. It’s also where 40 percent of Santa Fe’s youth now live. Gentrification is driving displacement in Rivera’s own neighborhood, Hopewell Mann.

The organization believes new laws could also help here.

Just-cause eviction and rent control are the measures most commonly associated with renters’ rights movements. While tenants now can be evicted without cause, the just-cause principal would force landlords to show why a tenant should be removed. Valid causes include nonpayment of rent, but the burden of proof shifts to the landlord, who cannot evict at a whim.

Rent control laws, currently prohibited in New Mexico, have been enacted in a few major cities throughout the country, such as New York City, Washington DC, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Oakland and other cities in California. The rules allow rents to rise, but they usually only permit modest spikes that are linked to other economic indicators.

The justification for the measures has often been to preserve the longstanding culture of a place by keeping historically significant communities intact. Yet rent control laws are bitterly contentious and often full of loopholes. San Francisco enacted rent control in the late 1970s, yet today the city has the second-highest rents in the nation. Supporters of rent control say it succeeded in preserving neighborhoods and overall cultural diversity.

For her part, Turetsky believes the community needs to reconsider basic principles in housing. She recommends landlord licensing.

New affordable apartments such as the Stage Coach on Cerrillos Road are making a dent in the local renters’ crisis, but not a big one.
Anson Stevens-Bollen

“When a tenant takes possession of a property, that property should be in good, safe working order. Building and electrical inspectors should be brought in to inspect the property at least every two years,” she says. “These landlords are running a business. I believe they should be registered with a licensing department.”

Turetsky has encouraged the idea over the years, but it hasn’t generated great enthusiasm. Licensing is not unusual, however, and exists in many cities. Turetsky believes a licensing procedure that involves apartment inspections could “solve half the issues that make people call the hotline. Landlord licensing can be sponsored by the city or state. It prevents slumlording. You don’t have a house in a neighborhood that’s in good condition and another that’s in disrepair. It’s good for property values. It benefits landlords and tenants too.”

In Santa Fe, public housing must undergo regular minimal housing code inspections. Otherwise, there is no landlord licensing. Certainly the idea could help resolve problems like Christine’s before they occur. Turetsky believes in it, she explains, “because I’ve heard too many horror stories.”

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