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Halves, Haves and Have Nots

Nowhere is Santa Fe’s disparity more obvious than in the housing market

FeaturesWednesday, August 5, 2015 by Thomas Ragan

Joe Encinas starts to feel a little sick every time he thinks about how his brothers and sisters sold the family home in what is now an upper-crust neighborhood on Santa Fe’s east side.

It was no more than a stone’s throw from Upper Canyon Road, where Camino Cabra meets San Acacio. It sat well above the glitter of the art galleries and just far enough away from the flamenco dancers and the foot-stomping sounds of El Farol.

The two-story, 4,500-square-foot house went for $250,000 in 1999 after his mother, Corrine Encinas, fell behind on the property taxes, which had been increasing in lockstep with the Texans and Californians who started buying up properties in the neighborhood and redeveloping them.

The changing real estate market and the rising cost of living were overwhelming his mother, who’d been a banker for a few years but then later cleaned houses to make ends meet in the absence of her husband, a state penitentary guard who died in 1984.

It finally got to the point where the large Hispanic family could no longer afford the very home they grew up in. In dire straits, the family decided to sell. They took advice from a real estate agent, who convinced them to lower their asking price, claiming there would be no buyers. Six months later, the house sold for $500,000.

Here’s what $1 million looks like on Upper Canyon Road these days.
Anson Stevens-Bollen

Encinas, who is in charge of maintaining the city of Santa Fe’s fleet of vehicles, was brave enough to tell his heart-wrenching story to SFR, something that clearly wasn’t easy for him. The entire affair has left a hole in his heart and a nausea that rises up from his stomach, thinking what could have been versus what is.

“I don’t go up there anymore, except for funerals,” the 52-year-old Encinas says. “It’s too frustrating. All that’s left is the church. The school’s gone, and you can’t see the old house. They’re too many big ones blocking the view.”

Then, when asked how he really feels about what’s happened to the old neighborhood, Encinas, who is the youngest of six children, pauses and then says, “It kind of makes you have bad feelings toward rich people.”

But then he takes it back with a laugh, almost embarrassed to reveal such thoughts out loud.

New wealth comes to town. Neighborhoods change. They’re always touchy subjects in Santa Fe—a city increasingly divided by haves and have nots, and people who only live here half the year, if that.

With an estimated 15,000 visitors daily this summer and virtually all hotels and motels booked up, there’s no question that Santa Fe is a tourist destination first and state capital second. And there’s no doubt that the appeal of the adobe, the sunny skies, the high altitude, the snow in the winter and the nearby national forests all have conspired to make it a top destination to retire or own a second home.

And that, in turn, has contributed to an influx of wealthy people who are willing to pay not necessarily what the property is truly worth, but what is being asked for.

There is a trickle-down effect on the cost of living here, so the verdict is still out on whether Santa Fe’s popularity is to be coveted or condemned. But this much is certain: It’s left a sour taste among those who have a hard enough time making the rent, let alone owning a house.

It’s also driven a wedge along lines of race and class, and nowhere is that more apparent than in the city’s housing stock, with its legions of short-term rentals that are advertised on various websites in an attempt to cash in on the unused luxurious space: thousands and thousands of wasted square feet.

It brings to mind that old George Carlin joke on how he’d love to take all of the country’s golf courses and build houses on them for the homeless, because the homeless aren’t really homeless; they’re “houseless.”

The Santa Fe City Council has struggled with the problems that come with the acquisitions of high-end second homes, palacial beings that sit empty, in contrast to low-cost housing, which is always packed to capacity.

The polar extremes are a common thread running through any tourist town, with its shuttles to ski areas and open-aired busses that carry pleated-shorts-wearing tourists around town, highlighting the city’s history, always a slightly humorous spectacle among those who live here.

But it didn’t always used to be this way. Encinas noticed the froufrou fallout in 1986 when he returned from the Air Force, still in uniform. Houses had been added onto, new ones loomed large where tiny ones once stood, fancy cars and different license plates crowded the place.

“We’d say, ‘Would you look at all these Texans,’” recounts Encinas, who now owns a modest home in La Cienega and commutes to work every day, joining what city housing stats say are 30,000 people who work in the city but don’t live here—roughly 60 percent of the workforce.

And every day on his way to work, Encinas passes by the nation’s 1 percent and the luxurious homes they own.

Exactly how many of Santa Fe’s mansions are second homes is a difficult number to pin down, but the sales of houses above $500,000 represent 20 percent of recent housing sales, and some of them went for between $2 to $3 million, according to the latest statistics by Multiple Listing Service.

For her part, Mari Kempes has scrolled past quite a few of them in her search for a place on Craigslist. The 27-year-old Kempes was desperately looking for a two-bedroom, two-bath that she and her brother could share earlier this spring. But she didn’t like the idea that lots of the owners lived out of state. So Kempes ended up renting from a local homeowner, and she loves it—although she admits she was exhausted by the long search to find the right rental.

"Maybe I have bad luck, maybe I am picky, maybe the market sucks right now for renters."

In a moment of frustration, she posted a message on Facebook, addressing it, “Dear Santa Fe: I refuse to pay $2,500 a month for some dumpy linoleum-riddled adobe that is ‘in a great location.’ I am sick of contacting owners, filling out applications, and stealing away from work to view properties only to be told that the property has been rented all of 11 hours after being listed...Maybe I have bad luck, maybe I am picky, maybe the market sucks right now for renters.”

That’s true. Rentals are going like gangbusters, with occupancy rates at 97 percent, according to the Albuquerque office of CBRE, a real estate firm.

Not only are the units virtually all rented out, but the average cost has increased 4 percent across the board over the last year, notes CBRE’s David Eagle, a senior vice president who’s been personally crunching the numbers for seven years for Santa Fe.

The one-bedroom, one-bath saw an unprecedented 7 percent hike, running about $830 a month on the high end, Eagle says. Of course, that’s just in run-of-the-mill neighborhoods, not in downtown, where the peal of the cathedral’s bells are like barking seals in a seaside setting. There, it would go for $1,200 or more.

“Santa Fe isn’t like Aspen or Vail or Breckenridge,” he says. “Those places are one-trick ponies. They empty out in the summer once the ski season is over.”

Not Santa Fe, he says. The saturated year-round rental market is just another indicator, perhaps, on how homeownership has increasingly moved out of reach for the average working resident. Fact is, the city’s median household income of $50,000 doesn’t match up with the median house price of $300,000, and local wages have only grown 1 percent since 2009.

And no new high-paying jobs are headed this way, at least those capable of turning the economy around on a wide scale. Glassdoor Economic Research ranks Santa Fe as 320 in 327 metro areas as a place to do business, not something you want to advertise if you’re the Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce.

None of this bodes well for the likelihood of increasing homeownership, especially among low wage earners.

“The millennials are suffering the most,” says Gregg Antonsen, who as a senior vice president for Sotheby’s in Santa Fe is in charge of 100 brokers and sees the market dynamics up close. “They were hit the hardest with the recession, and they didn’t get the jobs they expected with their college degrees. We need more jobs that will create a balance. We can’t just be a city that caters to the festivals and markets.”

While the city and nonprofits like Habitat for Humanity and Homewise do the best they can to help first-time home buyers, a ready solution seems to be expansion of the number of rental units.

Yet an antigrowth mentality among some locals has stymied the construction of multiunit apartment complexes, including one recently shot down on Agua Fría Street. The process of finding the land and getting permission to build on it makes Kempes’ search for a two-bed, two-bath look like a cakewalk.

The resulting housing shortage has spawned a relatively new phenomenon along Cerrillos Road: Former motels have been converted to studio apartments to inexpensively shelter those who live on the edge, in an already pricey city where the sales tax keeps going up.

Steve Lynch, a massage therapist by trade but primarily an aspiring stone sculptor, recently moved into what is now the La Villa de Thunderbird Inn.

La Villa doesn’t require the customary first and last month’s rent, and their monthly prices are between $575 and $800, a godsend to the downtrodden. All that’s required is a $200 nonrefundable rental fee.

“There have been times where I felt close to being put out on the street,” says Lynch, who learned how to carve from a Cherokee shaman in Georgia and now shows at El Farol Galeria. “I can remember several times when I would be driving to my massage clients’ homes, hoping they would tip me or pay in cash because I had no food and there was not enough gas to get home if that didn’t happen.

“Sometimes, we all feel like a piece of liver in a pack of wild coyotes.”

It seems this sort of dichotomy will always be at work here, a chasm between those who struggle and figure it’s just the price to live in paradise while the fat cats put up their feet and drink microbrews in their luxury homes. Or rent them out when they’re not there.

Similar lifestyles run rampant in Colorado ski towns, but the only difference is we’re not talking about some master-planned ski community that sits along a major interstate; we’re talking about Santa Fe, the oldest capital city in the country, rich in culture and history, dating back 400 years.

How did things get so dismal or so great? It depends on your view, whether it’s from a pine deck overlooking a bunch of piñón and juniper or from a rundown hovel, with a view of the cars passing on Cerrillos Road.

The very beginning can probably be traced to the great artists who’ve left their imprint on Santa Fe, which has now become the third largest art market in terms of total acquisitions, behind only New York and San Francisco, notes Antonsen, whose firm is known for holding high-end auctions as well as selling high-end homes.

Sculptor Steve Lynch lives in month-to-month lodging at La Villa de Thunderbird.
Thomas Ragan

Will Shuster, the guy who invented the burning of Zozobra, had a role in the migration to Santa Fe. Shuster came here in 1920, found his artistic expression and the cinco pintores rose up around him.

Georgia O’Keeffe added to the artistic mystique tenfold nearly a decade later, putting Santa Fe and Taos on the map by painting New Mexico’s beautiful landscape on canvas.

Just a few months ago, one of O’Keeffe’s paintings sold for $9 million, in keeping with the theme that people will pay extraordinary amounts of money for something possibly worth far less, given the whims of the market and the unpredictable power of supply and demand.

Whatever the case, both Shuster and O’Keeffe were artistic pioneers, and others would follow. Canyon Road would become blocks and blocks of art galleries as the creative floodgates opened. It all offered a glimpse of the high prices to come as Santa Fe became a mecca among wannabes and the real deal.

The intricately built acequias on the city’s east side tell the story of those who were here first, the Hispanic farmers. But in the last two decades, family after family either have been outpriced or have chosen to sell their houses.

Rick Martinez, 62, who had long since bought his home in the Barrio de la Cañada neighborhood, grew up across the street from Acequia Madre Elementary. Just five years ago, his family parted ways permanently with the east side when his brothers and sisters (some pictured above) sold their childhood home in the 500 block of Calle Corvo.

They got over $500,000 for it, although as Martinez tells it, selling a few years earlier could have fetched up to $800,000. That would have meant moving Dad out of the house in the sunset of his life, and that wasn’t an option.

While Martinez’s story isn’t nearly as sad as that of Encinas, he has now gone on to become a housing activist who keeps tabs on the city’s changing neighborhoods.

He’s a part of the Neighborhood Network, an advocacy group that’s a de facto bodyguard for vulnerable pockets of the city, working against steroidal, high-end development that could only lead to another exodus if left unchecked.

But make no mistake about it, he says. All the neighborhoods are changing. They’re changing on the west side, in the Hickox area, along Don Gaspar and Alto streets, and east of St. Francis Drive, and the change is as real as the passage of time.

Not time as in timeshares—which overrunneth as well in this city—but time as in the parents are dying in these large Hispanic families, and their children are now coming to a crossroads: What to do with the family house?

Some siblings, Martinez says, simply don’t command the sorts of salaries that can buy their brothers and sisters out. The prices have soared too high, so they end up selling it and dividing the sale among themselves.

Yet there are success stories of holdouts.

“There are a lot of families who’ve gotten together and come up with plans to make sure they keep the house in the family,” he says.

There’s a price to be paid, whether you rent here, you own here or you’re merely staying here part time. There’s a cost that comes with the triangulated view of the Ortiz, the Jemez and the Sangre de Cristos, and with the New Mexico cuisine: Will it be red or green?

The bipolar housing market swings hard in both directions, sometimes helping, sometimes hurting, depending on where you sit. City officials know they need to do something. But what?

They’ve already tried an inclusionary zoning rule that requires developers to build and sell part of each project at fixed prices to income-qualified buyers. Although those rules are still in play, they’ve been no magic fix, especially in light of a drastic slowdown in construction. In 2009, officials tried to impose a tax on sales of high-end homes, the revenues from which would have been earmarked for housing projects, but voters shot that down, with heavy influence from the real estate lobby.

"Seek solutions to Santa Fe’s housing affordability crisis especially as it pertains to gentrification, inequity and the widening gap between rich and poor."

At its last meeting, the Santa Fe City Council passed a resolution ordering staff to “seek solutions to Santa Fe’s housing affordability crisis especially as it pertains to gentrification, inequity and the widening gap between rich and poor.”

Alexandra Ladd, in charge of special housing projects for the city, is going to get right on that.

It’s a daunting task for a woman who wears an assortment of hats and doubles as a policymaker while keeping an eye on affordable housing programs in the city. Ladd parcels out an estimated $1.8 million a year in federal and city subsidies so that hard-working residents can afford rent or buy a home for the first time.

But so much more needs to be done, so much more money is needed and as many as 6,000 more rentalshould be built soon, she estimates. The goods news is that the city, with 80,000 residents, isn’t expanding, but there’s no great decline; people may move from one neighborhood to another, but nobody’s leaving town.

That she and her overworked staff will find the answer remains to be seen.

“I don’t know if I can do it single-handedly,” Ladd says.

After all, she can’t push some rewind button. There’s no undoing the tectonic shifts that gave rise to the Santa Fe Basin, which beckons the ‘“pow-pow” people; there’s no unmaking of O’Keeffe’s paintings, no unburning of Zozobra and certainly no returning to the insanity and the unrealistic and widescale home loans that led to the recession.

Every once in a while, she’ll field an errant call from some kid who’s taking that “Go west, young man” phrase literally and wants in on one of the highest minimum wages in the country, and she’ll try to discourage him, the mother that she is.

“I’m sort of a wet blanket like that,” she says. “I know that homelessness here can happen in second. It can happen when you car breaks down and you need to fix it. I can happen when your hours are cut back on the job, and that’s the last thing I want in this city.”

The Martinez family grew up on Calle Corvo but can’t afford to live there now.
Rick Martinez

 

Medpot OK? DEA Says No Way

SF cops called in the feds after a cannabis dispensary explosion, and they ripped apart an entire crop

Local NewsWednesday, August 5, 2015 by Peter St. Cyr

When Santa Fe police responded to the scene of an explosion at a Santa Fe medical cannabis dispensary on July 23, they knew right away that they wanted reinforcements to help with the investigation.

But the decision to call in the federal Drug Enforcement Agency was a surprising one.

DEA agents subsequently yanked all the marijuana plants that were growing there and hauled them away for destruction.

Without more information, the seizure seems to be a shift in the understanding that the DEA would turn a blind eye to producers in states that allow medical cannabis, which is still considered a banned substance by the federal government. It also raises questions about how local cops view the legality of the program.

As investigators try to determine more details about what caused the explosion, suspected to have occurred during an extraction process at New MexiCann Natural Medicine’s compound on West San Mateo Lane, attorney Marc Lowry says the management and staff are more concerned about the health and recovery of Nick Montoya, 29, and Aaron Smith, 28, who both received third-degree burns and remain hospitalized.

Yet the loss of the 150 plants—conservatively valued at $750,000—will impact New MexiCann’s fall harvest and ongoing operation; the dispensary reopened Monday.

SFPD Lt. Andrea Dobyns confirms the commander in charge of arson investigations asked then-Chief Eric Garcia’s approval to call in the DEA. She also tells SFR that police did not request investigators from the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, even though that federal agency usually investigates explosions.

“This was a large-scale explosion and tragedy,” says Dobyns, who denies the accusation that the department objects to the state medical cannabis law. “We were concerned with everyone’s safety, and the DEA was asked to secure the scene.”

Local police are reviewing the incident for any zoning infractions, while the DEA is looking into the gas extraction process. Officials with the US Department of Justice and DEA have declined to answer any of SFR’s questions about why they seized the plants.

Lowry says he understands that federal agents are in an “impossible position.”

“The DEA is in uncharted territory as it tries to reconcile federal policy with state-run programs,” he says “Historically, the DEA has always confiscated contraband, and under federal law, all cannabis is contraband, medical or not.”

No civil or criminal charges have been filed, and it’s unknown whether the dispensary is suspected of violating state laws or workplace safety rules. Inspectors from the city fire marshal’s office visited New MexiCann’s facility after the producer filed a certificate of occupancy in January, but Fire Marshal Rey Gonzales Jr. says the gas extraction equipment was not in place during his team’s original site visit. Extraction is used to create a concentrated THC product known as shatter or wax.

Other state-licensed producers tell SFR they plan to provide new plants to New MexiCann so its patients have a consistent supply of medication.

“The timing of this accident is bad. It hurts everybody,” says Rachael Speegle, director of operations at Verdes Foundation, an Albuquerque-area dispensary.

Speegle, who is also a registered nurse with experience in public health policy, says the conflict between federal and state laws needs to be worked out.

“It’s impossible to operate in this country when we still have this divide between the two regulatory bodies,” she says.

Earlier this year, Speegle helped potential new growers apply for producer licenses. She says many of the new groups have been calling her with concerns about the DEA seizure.

“They want to know if they should invest money in this business, because federal agents can seize plants at their whim,” she adds.


Redoing Recycling

Change in materials looks to be just the first of several new things to come

Local NewsWednesday, August 5, 2015 by Elizabeth Miller

Major changes to the local recycling program quietly took place in Santa Fe this summer, expanding the kinds of materials picked up from curbside bins and dropped at rural collection sites to include more types of plastic and paper. Still, officials are hung up on how to make the efforts both functional for residents and economically viable for the agency overseeing the collection.

The new direction came July 16, when the joint city/county Santa Fe Solid Waste Management Agency took the advice of a third-party operations review and decided to outsource the sorting and selling of recyclables.

Now, city and county trucks take recyclables to the Buckman Road Recycling and Transfer Station (BuRRT), where they’re then sent to Friedman Recycling Center in Albuquerque. The agency entered a one-year contract with three optional one-year extensions.

“I see this as a win-win,” says David Friedman, the company’s CEO. “This is going to allow people to expand the breadth of the program and improve the economics of it.”

Friedman has the size advantage when it comes to sorting.

The change could save the regional agency upwards of $200,000 per year, although it forces seven workers to be reassigned. It’s expected to delay future expansions at the Caja del Rio Landfill by putting less trash there. It remains to be seen whether the expanded collections will move the needle on Santa Fe’s weak recycling rate, which hovers at around 9 percent for residential and commercial clients combined.

It also means the massive machines that make up BuRRT’s mixed-materials sorting line are going idle, at least for now. In 2006, the equipment and site renovations cost the agency $3.12 million.

Local officials and Friedman agreed to renegotiate payment rates every six months based on how much the recyclables are worth on the commodities market.

But the deal doesn’t include glass, and the agency says the current way of dealing with the heavy product costs more than it earns. For now, glass should continue to be separated from other recyclables. The material will remain at BuRRT, where another machine crushes it for resale.

Both BuRRT and Friedman rely on the same principle elements of a conveyer belt that, through various means of agitation, shakes certain materials from others. Friedman’s line is significantly larger and includes some modern bells and whistles, among them a series of optical sensors used to identify certain plastics and jet them off the line with a burst of compressed air.

The 89,000-square-foot Friedman center opened in 2013 and already takes goods from municipalities as far away as Roswell and Durango, Colo. In addition to the milk jugs and water bottles that are high-grade plastic #1-2, it also processes plastics #3-7. BuRRT refused those lower-grade materials because sorting them wasn’t effective in terms of cost, time and space. Friedman is able to turn a profit in part because they consolidate recyclables from a number of areas and have 8 acres to use as needed.

“The economies of scale allows [us] to more efficiently collect that material, so therefore we have a lower cost basis,” Friedman says. “It is a relatively low revenue item, but because we’re getting that volume of material from a number of other cities and contracts, we’re able to garner sufficient quantities that we have ready access to markets that perhaps the city of Santa Fe by themselves wouldn’t otherwise have access to.…The other thing is, when the markets are simply not there, which is not very often, we have the ability to store it.”

Meanwhile, the city has other key choices to make, among them what kind of containers residents will use at curbside. Right now, people are supposed to haul two rectangular bins out of their yards: one that contains glass and one with everything else. The city has been offered a $125,000 grant to assist in covering the costs to move from the 14-gallon containers to 96-gallon containers with wheels that can be picked up with automated collection, but it has requested an extension on the deadline to spend that money. Transitioning the program would require an estimated infusion of $1.4 million. Glass would have to remain outside those larger carts, and there’s been talk of shifting to a drop-off-only approach to collecting it.

At the same time, some councilors want to again consider a “pay-as-you-go” system, recommended in the same report that suggested a model like the Friedman contract. That idea would give residents tiered prices for various sizes of garbage bins.

Since the change in collection, Nicholas Schiavo, director of Santa Fe’s Public Utilities Department and acting environmental services director, has asked for feedback on how it’s going.

“The message that’s coming through from staff is, it would be good to go automated. This is a lot of stuff, it’s getting heavy,” Schiavo says.

Likely, there will be some waiting to see what actually happens to recycling habits, given the change in materials accepted, before that proposal moves forward. The national trends have shown that a larger container and a less confusing program trigger broader participation in recycling by 40 to 80 percent, Friedman says. Contamination can also increase, and he reminds people that green waste and food waste, rope-like items such as garden hoses and extension cords, textiles and plastic bags all should stay out of bins.

“Some people believe when you have this dedicated container and you don’t have to guess quite as much on different types of plastic and paper, production’s going to go up, and other people believe that no, no, that’s not necessarily true, as soon as you have this big container, all that’s going to mean is I’m going to throw my trash in there,” Schiavo says. “We need to make sure that we’ve worked through what’s actually going to go down before we make a final decision or before council makes a final decision.”

Members of the Public Utilities Committee have tabled the question of container size and are expected to first resolve the pay-as-you-throw model, which is on the agenda for their Aug. 5 meeting. Changes may also be in store for the city’s approach to commercial recycling and food waste.

There’s also a question of getting the word out. Keep your eyes open for a public information campaign using major points like libraries, senior centers and public events like Santa Fe Bandstand, as well as digital formats like social media. New reminder refrigerator magnets are also in the works.

 

Google Trekker Goes Deep

Gadget helps hikers grab images of Santa Fe’s great outdoors

Local NewsWednesday, August 5, 2015 by Thomas Ragan

Google ain’t God just yet, but its capacity to reach into the four corners of the world, with its powerful satellite images, is certainly unprecedented and unmatched.

We’ve all gone there, right down to the grainy street that we grew up on, courtesy of Google Earth, with its overhead imagery and its street-level views captured by car.

Now, Google’s launched a relatively new technology that offers an in-depth look at the woods, the mountains, the streams, the trails less traveled—the sort of stuff that can only be reached on foot or by mule or with a snowboard.

It’s already helped record the mountainsides in Spain, the raging Colorado River, the hot and very active volcanic lava in Hawaii, the pyramids up close in Egypt and the list goes on, from Japan to Tibet and outward and beyond.

Now come Santa Fe’s wilderness trail network, its monuments, its canyons, its historical preserves. All could soon show up on the Internet as part of Google’s ongoing quest to fill in the blanks and connect the dots on an outdoor global level.

The hands-on version of Google’s Street Trekker looks like an extraterrestrial being, with a towering sphere that can be strapped on like a backpack.

Colorful and with more than a dozen cameras that are capable of filming panoramic views, this apparatus was just loaned to the city’s tourism bureau in mid-July, and they don’t have to return the $250,000 piece of equipment to Google until the third week of August.

A spokesman at Google tells SFR that Santa Fe is one of 200 locations where the Google Trekker has been loaned since late 2013, from tourism boards, nonprofits and universities to research organizations. The company’s team doesn’t have the personnel to complete the picture, so it’s relying on others to do it for them.

The application process is open to just about anybody who wants to participate, and it is just a few clicks away, Google says.

Some of the places that the 40-pound Trekker has already explored, with the help of local hikers, includes the community of Chimayó, Tent Rocks National Monument south of Santa Fe, Pecos National Historical Park, Caja del Rio Trail, Santa Fe Canyon Preserve and the Audubon Center, according to Blake Jackson, marketing coordinator for Tourism Santa Fe.

Up next, he says, the Trekker is heading into the Santa Fe National Forest’s Pecos Wildrness Area and up Santa Fe Baldy, the rounded 12,600-foot peak that’s a landmark for outdoor-inclined locals.

Tim Rogers, the trails program manager for Santa Fe Conservation Trust, was among the first to heft this high-tech puppy last week, and he has nothing but good experiences to report from having used it on some of the premier trails that make up the Dale Ball network.

“It was a lot of fun, a complete blast,” says Rogers, 52, who took it to the Sierra del Norte trailhead south of Hyde Park Road last week, spending about four hours out there. “All you really need to do is watch for lower hanging branches. Other than that, you’re good to go.”

For Rogers, the Trekker was the perfect tool to gauge the condition of the trail system, which the trust is responsible for maintaining, through a contract with the city.

From the city’s standpoint, the images will only add to its popularity, according to John Feins, public relations manager for Tourism Santa Fe.

“Nature is one of our treasures here, and there’s a lot more here than people realize when they visit,” says Feins.

And it’s just as important to make sure that everybody uses the Trekker correctly and accordingly before Aug. 21, the cutoff date when it’s supposed to be sent back to Google’s headquarters.

There’s no guarantee which Santa Fe area trails will ultimately be featured. Feins says the city and Google first want to make sure the images reproduce successfully before they go online and become a part of cyberspace that cannot be retracted.

“We don’t want to get anybody’s hopes up just yet,” says Feins. “This is a process that’s going to take some patience, but we’re confident that in the end, we’re going to make the cut.”


7 Days

08.05.15

7 DaysWednesday, August 5, 2015 by SFR
1

BEST OF SANTA FE PARTY ROCKS THE RAILYARD

Our staff expects to catch up on sleep sometime after Indian Market.

2

THE PRICE IS RIGHT TO FILM TWO SHOWS IN NM NEXT MONTH

Will those be Santa Fe prices or everywhere else prices?

3

COUNCILOR PATTI BUSHEE TELLS MAYOR TO “MAN UP” IN DEVELOPMENT VOTE

Proving that the battle for who wears the pants at City Hall is ongoing.

4

WET WEATHER BRINGS BUMPER PIñóN CROP

And weeds. Lots and lots of weeds.

5

POLICE CHIEF RETIRES AT AGE 43

On the job for just 13 months. We hardly knew ya.

6

JUNCTION TURNS INTO BOXCAR

Before that it was the Station and before that it was...who can keep track?

7

COUNTY WORKER ARRESTED FOR SELLING PUBLIC PROPERTY

We thought that fad went out of style with Sheriff Solano back in 2010.


Street View

08.05.15

Street ViewWednesday, August 5, 2015 by SFR
Maybe this driver parked at the Albertsons on Zafarano will look twice next time.


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

Baa Baa Smart Sheep!

'Shaun the Sheep' is delightful

YayWednesday, August 5, 2015 by David Riedel

If only every children's movie were Shaun the Sheep. Since my son was born in May, I've been basking in the joys of parenthood—early morning cuddles, his emerging personality and smiles from him as he rapidly grows up—and dreading the lows. You know the lows: the nights he won't sleep and the mountains of baby barf.


But there is one thing that sends a shiver up my spine like nothing else: children's entertainment. I'm already trying to counteract any shitty taste in music he picks up by raising him on a steady diet of Frank Zappa, Q-Tip, Lee “Scratch” Perry, Keith Jarrett, Slayer and Van Halen.


Movies are another story. I dread—dread—sitting through Frozen a billion times before he's 5. For some of my friends, it’s a never-ending nightmare. I’d rather avoid it.


That brings me back to Shaun the Sheep, a movie with as much imagination, smarts, charm and tenderness as any gargantuan Disney affair (or worse, DreamWorks affair). And Shaun, despite falling into some of the controlled hysteria inherent in animated kids movies, is a quiet film, and it manages to tell more story in 85 minutes than most films clocking in at 120.


Shaun is a sheep (surprise!) who works on a farm with his other sheep pals. They’re owned by The Farmer, who once treated them all like family (complete with an opening montage to prove it) but who has since fallen into a rut. He works all the time, seven days a week. Therefore, the sheep work all the time. They’re exhausted.


One day, Shaun, the cleverest of a clever group, sees a bus roll by with an advertisement for a chocolate bar called “Day Off.” He and the other sheep take it as inspiration to have a little vacation for themselves.


First, they conspire to have The Farmer nap all day—it involves them jumping over a fence multiple times—and to keep Bitzer the dog (who looks a lot like Gromit from Wallace & Gromit) from herding them. With the dog and The Farmer occupied, the sheep mix drinks, watch DVDs and generally relax.


The plan goes off, but with a hitch. The Farmer ends up in a runaway camper van with a nasty bump on the head that results in amnesia. Shaun decides he’ll catch a bus to the Big City to find The Farmer and save the day (and get them all fed).


Naturally, that doesn’t go according to plan. The Farmer winds up with a second career, and Shaun, Bitzer and the flock are chased by an overzealous animal catcher.


Does it all end happily? Shaun the Sheep is an Aardman movie, so there should be no surprises. But the lack of surprises isn’t detrimental. In fact, there’s something soothing about knowing how a movie is going to play out from the first moment you see that familiar clay stop-motion. Plus, there are a million sight gags, with about half of them aimed at the adults attending with their little ones in tow (including a not-scary nod to The Silence of the Lambs). Shaun the Sheep is delightful. Expect it on lots of “Best of” lists this year.


 


SHAUN THE SHEEP

Directed by Mark Burton and Richard Starzak

With Shaun, Bitzer and The Farmer

Violet Crown Cinema
PG
85 min.



Behind the Voice

A filmmaker looks for answers in 'Do I Sound Gay?'

OkWednesday, August 5, 2015 by David Riedel

Whether writer/director and subject David Thorpe sounds gay isn’t so interesting. What is interesting is the cultural stigma—sometimes real, sometimes only perceived—surrounding what, after watching Do I Sound Gay?, could be described as the gay voice.

 

Thorpe, in an effort to sound more masculine—or less gay, or one of the many other ways he describes it—enlists a couple of speech therapists. Along the way, he talks with other gay men about what it means to be gay and how much one’s voice plays a role in self-identity. One of the many surprising revelations is the fact that writer David Sedaris reveals he’s always secretly thrilled when someone doesn’t realize he’s gay just by hearing his voice.

 

The inherent self-loathing behind feelings like that are the most compelling (and heartbreaking) moments in Do I Sound Gay?, and many of the interview subjects admit to deep-rooted shame over their voices. It’s a sad byproduct of coming up in a time when, despite much advancement for gay rights in the U.S., there’s still a fear of assault by some ass-backward jerk who doesn’t approve of your lifestyle. Do I Sound Gay? doesn’t get very deep, but it does highlight a lesser-known struggle inside the gay community.


 

DO I SOUND GAY?

Directed by David Thorpe

Jean Cocteau Cinema

NR
77 min.


A Magic Mountain

That’s anything but cold

OperaWednesday, August 5, 2015 by John Stege

Perched on its hill north of town, the Santa Fe Opera doesn’t shy away from nouveau. Since the shop opened in 1957, we’ve blithely come to expect world premieres (14 so far) and American premieres (43 so far) from our hometown team. Ovations, too. This reporter remembers plenty of those, ranging from the obligatory to the appreciative. But none to match the stomping, yelling whoop-dee-doo that greeted—most deservedly—last Saturday night’s premiere of Cold Mountain, Jennifer Higdon’s first but, we hope, not last operatic effort. This show ranks as the SFO’s finest American outing since its unforgettable Bicentennial production, The Mother of Us All. But first—attend, please, to some background.

Next time you’re in Charleston, stop by Washington Square Park—leafy, floriferous and embellished with plenty of commemorative ornaments, largely about The War, as many Southerners still describe it. There’s the obligatory marble of our first president, and an imposing replica of his DC obelisk, here honoring Confederate soldiers who fought in the Washington Light Infantry. There’s a memorial to Confederate General PGT Beauregard and, more to the point, a bronze bust of Henry Timrod, best known as the Poet Laureate of the Confederacy.

Inscribed upon the pedestal, words from his flowery 1867 Ode: “Sleep sweetly in your humble graves/Sleep, martyrs of a fallen cause.” Tender and honorable sentiments indeed. But furlongs distant from the shell-shocked war memories of WP Inman, hero of both Charles Frazier’s 1997 novel, Cold Mountain, and Higdon’s spanking-new opera.

Contrast Timrod with the insistent refrain of the opera’s haunting Chorus of the Dead (soldiers, sons, civilians): “Buried…Buried and forgotten,” a choral phrase repeated six times in Gene Scheer’s fine libretto. Cold Mountain doesn’t especially set out to be an “Anthem for Doomed Youth,” in Wilfred Owen’s phrase. But it is.

"Higdon’s all-American orchestrations persuade rather than insist."

Just as it partakes of a genre that the Greeks dubbed nostoi, tales of homecoming, whether featuring Odysseus or Agamemnon or the Prodigal Son or Leopold Bloom. Or Inman, the wounded and defeated (“I’m just a hut of bones”) Confederate deserter who’s determined to find his way back home in an epic, deadly trek from a Raleigh hospital to Cold Mountain and his beloved Ada Monroe.

Because it’s also a love story, first and last. Even though Ada, minister’s daughter and Charleston-bred blossom of delicate uselessness, and Inman, initially shy and tongue-tied country boy, had met only two or three times before The War and his enlistment. But recall the equally tongue-tied hero, Orlando, of As You Like It, and that play’s Marlovian observation, “Whoever loved that loved not at first sight?” That’s Inman.

Because of and despite Inman’s valley-of-death war horrors and death-fraught journey, because of and despite Ada’s struggle to survive and maintain her Black Cove Farm, their love finds consummation at last in a lightning-flash embrace. Ultimately, that’s what this complex show is all about.

And what draws that ovation. Higdon and Scheer make Frazier’s novel sing. Higdon’s all-American orchestrations persuade rather than insist. You’ll hear echoes of Copland’s plein-air instrumentation, Virgil Thomson’s plain-as-Dick’s-hatband harmonies and, especially, Samuel Barber’s writing for the voice: clarity, tonality, humanity. Words come first. Music enhances and enlarges the text via fluid accompanied recitative that connects affecting arias with impressive ensembles.

Not to ignore the work’s violence. Cold Mountain is about weaponry and death as well as redemptive love. Gunshots punctuate the action; you lose count of corpses; the orchestra roars its anger. Scheer’s sensitive libretto, like the novel, places the humanity of Inman, Ada, and Ada’s rough-hewn farm partner, Ruby Thewes, within a murderous world of fear and betrayal. Teague, the mocking, icy enemy of life, almost gets the last word.

SFO gives the work its grand luxe treatment—no stronger cast could be found. The role of Inman seems made for local hero Nathan Gunn, which it sort-of was. He embodies the tormented hero with pathetic energy and painful sympathy. Mezzo Isabel Leonard sings Ada, a soaring, intimately understood portrait of a lady. Their duets under the stars of Orion define and fulfill an improbable romance. Emily Fons, also a mezzo, is the rough-edged, tough Ruby. Her aria, “My Only Teacher,” touches our hearts.

As Teague, the implacable leader of the Home Guard, Jay Hunter Morris radiates cold enmity. Among the large cast, Kevin Burdette, Anthony Michaels-Moore and Roger Honeywell especially distinguish themselves, as do the many apprentice artists in lesser roles. And not to forget Deborah Nansteel’s runaway slave, Lucinda, in a critical scene with Inman.

Miguel Harth-Bedoya’s orchestra projects Higdon’s powerful score with passionate intensity, Susanne Sheston leads the fine choruses, and the production team, under director Leonard Foglia, offers a stage picture that knocks you back. A tangle of beams and planks from scenic designer Robert Brill frames the action, assisted by Brian Nason’s intricate lighting plan and Elaine J McCarthy’s frankly brilliant projection designs. David C Woolard provides appropriate costuming.

Ultimately in this more-than-memorable Cold Mountain, Higdon and Scheer, with Frazier, pay homage to the tenacity of the human spirit. I think of the closing lines of Beckett’s The Unnamable: “You must go on. I can’t go on. I’ll go on.”


Cold Mountain
8 pm Wednesday, Aug. 5;
Friday, Aug. 14; Monday, Aug. 17 & 24;
Saturday, Aug. 22. $31-$300
Santa Fe Opera House
301 Opera Drive,
986-5900


Intersected

New exhibit explores Native American traditional/contemporary crossroads

PicksWednesday, August 5, 2015 by Enrique Limón

“Why not now?” Peyton Wright owner John Wright Schaefer responds when asked why present The Indigenous Modern Intersection now.

The exhibit, opening this Friday at the downtown gallery, compiles striking pieces from Fritz Scholder, TC Cannon, John Nieto and Kevin Red Star.

The show is grounded in an exploration by Native American artists that surged during the 1960s—a simultaneous time of war and space exploration—revolving around the concepts of oppression, misconception and a reaffirmation of cultural heritage. The push brought with it the birth of a new style at the intersection of modern and traditional, one that didn’t aim to present an idealized view of tribal life, but rather held up a mirror to contemporary tropes.

“They are the tracks in the snow in the path behind them,” Wright Schaefer says about the foursome of artists that comprise the exhibit.

Scholder, whose piece “Indian Portrait (Mohawk), 1975” can be seen at left, was an advanced painting and contemporary art history instructor during the early days of the Institute of American Indian Arts. Among his laundry list of accolades is winning a NM Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts and being named a Salon d’Automne lifetime member. Scholder’s student at IAIA, Cannon, is also responsible for iconic imagery. Shortly after graduating, he enlisted in the Army and served as a paratrooper in Vietnam. Still stationed, he was included in a traveling exhibition that put him on the map. Sadly, he perished in a car accident at the age of 31, five months before his first solo show.

The gallerist is quick to point out the four artists’ long-term impact, asserting, “in several disciplines for regional and national artists, they are the grass under their feet so to speak.”


The Indigenous Modernist Intersection
5-7 pm Friday, Aug. 7.
Peyton Wright Gallery
237 E Palace Ave.,
989-9888


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