Que Pasa In Baja?

Germans interested in our wine. A group of Bavarian businessmen visited the wine valley last week in order to analyze the production potential of the area and the possibilities of collaborating with local wineries on different projects.

Specifically, local wineries were invited by the German company Nuremberg Messe to participate in upcoming beverage fairs from the Bavarian region that will include a section of international wines this year.

The executives visited several local wineries, including Roganto and Decantos, and also had a chance to enjoy the wine museum.

Baja safe for tourists. But very dangerous for criminals, at least that’s what our state tourism honcho, Oscar Escobedo, is preaching around Baja. He also stated that Baja has a lower crime rate among tourists than the state of California in the US. When asked about the spiking murder rates, he was quick to give the now official response “the majority of those cases are from folks in illicit activities.”

Off-road museum still no go. The controversial off-road museum in Ensenada still hasn’t been able to break ground, even though the state government says that the project is funded and the construction project done.

The state is saying that the project needs to be executed and managed by the local business groups, focusing on making the museum self-sustainable from ticket sales or trinkets sold at its gift shop.

The museum has been controversial because a big part of the community in Ensenada is against the project. The biggest issue is that the building would be just next to CEARTE, the local art museum, in a piece of land that was initially destined to build classrooms for art students.

Meter wars go on. Ensenada doesn’t make up its mind regarding the placement of parking meters around downtown; first the council approved the proposal to put up the meters, and now, after a contract has already been signed with a private company, the city is saying it wants to back out of the deal because of the enormous backlash they got from the citizens of Ensenada.

At this point, it’s cheaper to just install the parking meters and let the contract run its 18-year course than to pay the millions of pesos the company will demand if the council prohibits its operation; but of course, there is a political cost of approving such an unpopular move that no one wants to pay.

Baja Speaks English. That is the name of an initiative presented by congressman Carlos Torres, with the support of educative authorities and business groups, for concrete actions to take Baja all the way to the number one in the list of states with higher percentages of bilingual folks.

“Today, there is a language that can open doors to our kids and young boys and girls. A tool that allows us to even the opportunities between the privileged and the ones that have had less opportunities”, said Torres.

Baja California is the 57th region in the world with the most people that are able to speak a foreign language; Mexico as a country is 14th on the list.

Torres stated that a person who is fluent in English has the opportunity to earn 30% more than his non-bilingual counterparts.

The program will consist of a special set of benefits for companies that offer English class scholarships for its workers, and also by providing these benefits to English-language schools.

Hell breaks loose in San Felipe. After the Navy “accidentally” shot a Totoaba poacher in San Felipe, several fishermen protested violently at the Naval base and the protection agency office by burning cars, pangas, and buildings. Two more people were shot when protestors started throwing Molotov cocktails at the naval base buildings.

Fishing for Totoaba has been illegal in San Felipe for several years now because of its protected species status, and also because the area is declared as a protected space in an effort to save the Vaquita porpoise.

Better think twice about that beach bonfire. Rosarito officials from ZOFEMAT (the ones in charge of the federal zone at the beach), stated that they will be coordinating with the local police to crack down on beach fires; they are saying the activity is now prohibited because of the high level of contamination that the fires leave on the beach.

They also said that 110 new trash cans are being installed in local beaches so tourists can easily take their trash to the can and not leave it in the sand.

We’re going to be rich! A new initiative by state congressman Alejandro Arregui will allow citizens to collect damages when something bad happens because of the condition of the road.

If the law is passed, you will be able to sue the local government if you bust a tire, or your suspension when you fall in one of those enormous potholes that abound around here.

If that doesn’t seem far fetched, Arregui also proposed that the government has to take into consideration the amount of money “not earned” because of the time lost due to the accident, and says that it all has to be resolved in a maximum of 30 days by city or state officials.

If this initiative passes, our cities will go broke in 5 minutes, probably 2 for Ensenada!

Luxury Living In the Heart of Tijuana

Tijuana has been historically overlooked by expats moving to Baja who until recently favored almost exclusively beachfront properties. With Tijuana’s rapid business growth and its newly-found vocation as one of the country’s hottest gastronomy hubs, that trend is changing; and now, every day we’re seeing more and more Americans choosing to live in Tijuana to take advantage of its big city feel and especially its closeness to the United States.

Dalias by Hacienda offers a guarded, double-gated community nestled inside one of the most sought-after, and safest communities in Tijuana: Hacienda Agua Caliente. Well-known for its park, and beautifully kept gardens, Hacienda has been able to improve the quality of living of its residents since it opened more than 20 years ago.

Residents here don’t have to worry about the inconsistency on city services as Hacienda provides its residents with its own trash pickup service, street cleaning, public lighting, sewage maintenance, and water pumping as well as gardening of common areas.

Designed by the award-winning “Anonimous” (sic) architectural firm from Mexico City, every home in Dalias makes perfect use of each foot of space.

Two basic models are being offered: Glow and Golden, although variations of each can be chosen. The Glow model features 2,950 sq/ft of construction, two-story, 3-bedroom homes with 3-½ bathrooms, while the Golden model offers 3,800 sq/ft of living space, also offering 3 bedrooms but with bigger spaces, 4 complete bathrooms plus 2 half-bathrooms and a gorgeous game room on the third floor. Both models have  fully-equipped service rooms on the lower floor and spacious outdoor patios and carports.

The way these houses have been perfectly designed in a way that takes advantage of natural light in every corner is impressive, and gives each property a special positive feeling.

Its location is unmatchable, being just 15 minutes from malls, the border, Caliente stadium, and  Campestre Golf Club. Dalias is right in the middle of everything good going on in Tijuana.

Houses range from $340,000 to $560,000 depending on the model, lot size, and finishes you choose. With less than a year on the market and only 28 properties left, the remaining properties are not expected to last long.

In-house direct financing is available from 30% down, with the rest to be paid in 10 years; qualified individuals can also get a loan from local banks that could be paid in 20 or more years, with a much lower monthly payment.

If you’re up for an interesting living space, right in the middle of one of the fastest growing cities in Mexico, Dalias is definitely the place for you.

To learn more, please visit their website at www.haciendaaguacaliente.com or call them at (664) 397-7621. Mention the code GNHAC01 when you call; that will get you a free $100 USD Starbucks card if you qualify for an appointment.

Que Pasa In Baja?

Hurraaay, we’re getting parking meters! Said no one ever, especially the citizens of Ensenada, who are pretty pissed about a new ordinance passed by city council that will allow a private company “Iberparking S.A. de C.V.” to install the meters in downtown Ensenada.

The city will get 30% of all income generated by the 3,500 meters that are going to be installed downtown, while the other 70% goes to Iberparking. The parking fee will be 10 pesos per hour (about 55 cents US).

Most business groups have already stated their displeasure at the new ordinance, saying that at only 30% of income it’s a bad deal for the city and a potential problem for their businesses.

The reality is that the city is strapped for cash, looking at every option to make an extra penny without having to spend one and this looks like a good option for them. Not only will they get income from the meters themselves but also from the parking tickets generated from people parked at expired meters.

State Congress representatives for the city of Ensenada have already stated their displeasure with the new ordinance and are planning to create a commission to analyze the deal and find some way to revoke it.

Money for infrastructure. Although Ensenada was publicly recognized last year as part of the Tijuana, Tecate, Rosarito and Ensenada metropolitan zone, it wasn’t until last week that it was declared part of it in the federal law.

This will allow the city to access a piece of the 180 million USD in funds available for metropolitan zones in Mexico this year. The fund has allowed cities like Tijuana and Mexicali to fund major infrastructure projects.

It’s now up to the state government to integrate a local metropolitan development council to submit projects to get the funds. First on the list, road repairs.

Wait a minute! Just a couple of days after the Citizens Council for Public Security stated that Tijuana was the most violent city in the world, based on its murder rate, our state governor Kiko Vega came to the rescue stating that “no way TJ is that!”.

Governor Vega said that Tijuana has seen steadily lower rates in vehicle theft, commerce theft, violent robberies, and kidnapping.

He minimized the murder rate stating, “Violence should be measured based on the total of crimes and not only by one”. He also said that 90% of the murders in the city are directly related to drug trafficking, so it doesn’t count. Well, maybe those weren’t his exact words, but that was the idea.

So that’s what it was. After a big backlash by the local chambers of commerce regarding the change in the start place of the Baja 500 off-road race from downtown Ensenada to the Estero Beach Hotel (owned by Ensenada’s mayor’s family), Score officials stated that it was all an honest mistake because they were wrongly informed that the local elections would be in July, and by the time they found out they were actually in June, exactly on the last day of the race, it was already too late to make any changes in the calendar and they had to change the venue to avoid any disruptions in the election process.

In order to keep the local businesses happy, and get the $30,000 USD that they get from the local tourism board, Score has agreed to have their Tech and contingency event in downtown Ensenada on May 30th.

Monkeys announced in the Valley. The Jersey Zoo and Kids Park in the Guadalupe Valley announced that its currently building a new attraction called the monkey island, and although they don’t yet have an opening date, they say the island will hold from 12 to 20 monkeys that visitors will be able to watch from a distance.

The zoo already hosts about 250 animals and it has become an interesting attraction for locals and tourists alike. The entrance fee is $50 pesos per person plus $30 pesos for parking, if you want to use the pools inside your entrance fee goes up to $130 pesos. The park is open Wednesday through Sunday from 9:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m.. Keep the beers in the car as they won’t allow any alcoholic beverages inside the park.

Lower taxes working for Baja. It looks like the lower taxes for the border zone is working, as the Metropolitan Center for Economic Information (CEMDI) stated that sales had increased for the month of January in a whopping 25% compared to the same month last year.

Although the tax break isn’t for everyone, most major retailers were quick to reduce their taxes, reducing final consumer prices by about 8%.

CEMDI also stated that Baja California lowered its inflation rate by -1.52%, making it the biggest decrease in inflation in the entire country.

New mayor guaranteed for Rosarito. Mirna Rincon, current Rosarito Mayor, lost the nomination for the PAN party to Maria Ana Medina Perez in the internal election of the party this past March 3rd.

With 312 votes in favor, Ana Medina is now the confirmed candidate for Rosarito Mayor in the coming elections.

Hang in there. Spring  Break has started for US schools and at least 2,500 students are expected to visit Rosarito during the school break. Yes, we know it’s not super nice to have all those people drunk in our streets, shouting and singing, but remember, we’ve all been there!

Dinora Soto, head of the tourism and conventions committee for the city of Rosarito, stated that “For me Spring Break is an indicator that foreigners still trust Baja California and especially Rosarito. This weekend we will receive lots of students and whoever accompanies them and we already have 4 major concerts scheduled.”

Dinora also stated that this is the third year that spring breakers have come back to Rosarito, after several years of not having any major groups here in town. “Some of these young people come to our city with their whole families, and this means to us that Rosarito is still an attractive destination, and that is important for us”, she concluded.

Houses in San Antonio Barely Standing Still

Home owners in the ocean front community of San Antonio del Mar have been worrying about the integrity of their homes for a couple of years now.

Neighbors on the oceanfront part of Isla Street have seen the back street of their cliff homes being swept off by the sea for several years now; around 40 feet of land in total has fallen into the sea, but recent rains did the most damage, eroding most of the land up to the edge of the structures, jeopardizing the houses.

Click here to open a 360 image that shows the erosion

We talked to Marvin Standsberry, owner of the house most affected currently. He told us that he bought his dream oceanfront property back in 2002. At that time, he says, he didn’t have any idea of the ordeal he was getting into. “I had probably 40 feet of land behind my house separating my property and the 20-foot drop to the beach at that time, it was plenty of land, so I never thought it was going to get this bad. Now my house is just inches from the cliff, we just don’t think the house is going to make it through another rain season”.

It wasn’t until 2004 when Marvin noticed that the rainwater drainage channel that was built right next to his house had begun to crumble. He took some pictures and went on to report it to San Antonio’s Homeowners Association, but no action was taken. He did it again and again with no response.

This photo was taken in 2016, when the house still had a backyard.

As the land below the drainage channel started to wash out to sea with the rains, the channel that had no support below completely crumbled up to its last remaining part. Marvin was quick to report this to the HOA and city authorities, including the civil protection office, the water company and urban control, but once again, nobody offered any assistance, and just pointed in each other’s directions.

With the rainwater channel destroyed, things have started to get out of control; now every rain takes huge chunks of land behind the homes since all the water that passes through the channel just goes everywhere, washing away everything in its path. To make things even worse, the channel not only receives rainwater but also treated gray water that is sent to the ocean 24/7, eroding the land even more.

In his opinion, the HOA should get involved to repair the rainwater channel that could benefit (or affect) the whole community. “How can I be expected to pay my dues, if they won’t help when I need them?”

HOA fees in San Antonio are $50 dollars every month for houses and $25 for vacant lots and has over 600 properties, although it is well known that not all of the property owners pay their dues.

At the very least, he says he would like to have the HOA on his side in order to pressure the city into doing the repairs.

 

With more rains expected in the upcoming days, he and his wife Susana are worried that their very lives could be in danger, even after the local civil protection office said a couple weeks ago that at that moment the house didn’t seem to have any structural damage. He is sure that their assessment would probably be different by now, since this last week the floor and walls have started to crack.

Marvin said he has already hired legal counsel in order to figure out who is responsible for repairing the rainwater channel in order to stop the land erosion that is threatening to wash away his dream of a peaceful retirement by the ocean.

Que Pasa In Baja?

Baja, open for spring breakers. Our state tourism honcho, Oscar Escobedo, is promoting Baja as a destination for spring breakers this coming season. Escobedo has already appeared in the Good Morning San Diego TV show and on KGTV news promoting us.

Baja has been slowly recovering as a spring break destination in the last couple of years, after the security crisis about 11 years ago, completely wiped us off the destinations list.

“Security is a priority subject for us, that’s why, while working with authorities on both sides of the border, we can assure our visitors that trust and tranquility have prospered in our territory that, although divided by a border, operates as a sole region”, stated Escobedo.

The state official went on to comment that 84% of the foreign visitors in our state come from California, generating an increase of tourism during 2018 without any precedent, stating that over 27.5 million tourists visited us during last year, leaving an economic benefit for the region of more than 6 billion USD.

Ensenada Carnival in trouble. Last week, the Ensenada chamber of commerce gave a press conference, in which they stated that they were starting a formal legal and lobbying battle against the carnival, unless  they change the location from the boulevard.

Business owners have long complained when the carnival is on the boulevard, because they lose almost all their business during the carnival days, as streets are closed for circulation. Also, traffic gets crazy since the boulevard is one of the main streets to get in and out of Ensenada.

Jorge Menchaca, head of the local chamber of commerce, and Jorge Cortes, president of the business council, assured that the carnival affects about 200 local businesses greatly when it’s done on the boulevard.

They are proposing to change the location to Playa Hermosa, where it has been done a couple times before and affects a lot less businesses, although it has gotten a lot less people when it is done in this location.

The city of Ensenada is between a rock and a hard place regarding this, as they have already received the 1 million pesos payment from the event organizers, who have already promoted the carnival heavily in most of the media in this location. If the city decides to change the location at this point, it will surely piss off organizers, who in turn could sue the city for breach of contract.

Two new hotels open in Ensenada. City Express announced that it has started operating its two, brand new  hotels in Ensenada, adding 261 rooms to the local room inventory.

“With the opening of these two properties, we will contribute to the development of the tourism industry in Ensenada, with hotel infrastructure. At the same time, we are offering travelers another lodging option, backed up by a recognized national hotel chain,” said Monica Narro, head of public relations for the hotel chain.

The company will offer two different types of hotels: City Express Plus, located in the Viento property in El Sauzal, with 134 higher-end, ocean view rooms, and their City Express property on Boulevard Costero, offering more affordable hotel rooms.

City Express offers a total of 1,342 hotel rooms in Baja in it’s 11 locations, distributed in Mexicali, Tijuana, Rosarito and now Ensenada.

Snow birds flock to Algodones. Tourism officials from Mexicali said that more than 281 thousand snow birds visited the city of Algodones in Mexicali, nicknamed “molar city” because it has more dental offices per capita than any other city in the world, during 2018 generating an economic benefit for the area of 40 million dollars.

Snowbirds are people from Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana in the US, and British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan in Canada, that fly over to warmer climates.

In this case most of these are warming up in the sea of Cortez, and they take advantage of the lower dental service prices in Algodones, which are normally 50% to 70% less than in their home countries.

No desalination plant for Rosarito. It looks like the new desalination plant that was going to be created in Rosarito by Consolidated Water is not going to be built after all.

Luis Moreno, state congressman from the “Transformemos” party, said that the cancellation of the plant is imminent since the state government was not able to give the assurances needed for the company.

The time limit for the state government to offer these assurances, which were an increased water price from the water agency, along with some tax breaks and funds to pay for the water, was December 31st last year.

State congress did not approve the changes needed, although the state government was supporting the controversial project that was also opposed by local environmental groups and many citizens.

Consolidated Water is still hoping that the state government rescues the project, which seems far-fetched, considering the majority of the state congress is now held by parties opposing the plant.

From Cleaning Crime Scenes in the US to Roasting Coffee in TJ

One of the wonderful things about Baja is the people that live here and the stories they have to tell. I am especially fascinated by the young expats who have decided to leave their home countries and immerse themselves in their local communities, just like regular locals.

Benjamin Davis is originally from Seattle, but we could say that he is a “Tijuanense,” because by now as he has been around here for 15 years. He is happily married to Cynthia, a Tijuana native, with whom he has two children, Rhys and Samantha, both born in Mexico.

 

His story starts in Seattle, where he ran a janitorial business that serviced, among other clients, funeral homes. At that point he only did regular cleaning until he was approached by one of the owners of a funerary asking if he could provide cleaning services where someone had died; he was hesitant at first, but after seeing what those kinds of services charged, he went all in.

For 3 years he was cleaning it all with his bio-recovery service (a better name for cleaning after the dead), crime scenes, suicides and natural deaths. Although I immediately thought crime scenes were the hardest part of the job, he tells me the hardest were actually natural deaths, where the dead person was not found until a couple days after dying, leaving an especially hard to clean trail of bodily fluids behind.

In two days of hard work, he was making more money than his dad made in 2 months. “At those times, you could almost charge whatever you wanted for the service, as there were not a lot of providers for the service,” says Ben.

Business was booming, but he says he didn’t feel complete inside, he wanted something else from life. He had been sponsoring a child to go to school in Tijuana through a local Christian non-profit, so one day he decided to give them a call and ask if they needed any more help. They happily accepted.

That’s when he loaded his pickup truck and drove 1,300 miles to get to Tijuana. He started helping kids anyway he could until he founded Didaque ministries in 2009, focused on running the same private elementary school he was supporting from back in Seattle.

Four months ago, Ben decided to embark on a new venture, one that reflected two of his passions: Mexico and good coffee. That’s how he decided to open Ben Tostador de Café (Coffee Roasters), where he focuses on selling in-house roasted coffee beans from the Pluma region of Oaxaca and Veracruz, although he also offers espresso beverages and brewed coffee in his cozy Playas de Tijuana location.

He gets all his green coffee in small shipments directly from the growing regions.

Coffee prices are more than reasonable at 50 pesos for half a pound (actually 250 grams) of Veracruz coffee or 65 pesos for the Pluma, Oaxaca variety.

Drop by his store at Ave. Baja California Sur #688 in the Costa Hermosa section of Playas de Tijuana. He is open Monday to Friday from 6:00 am to 12:00 pm, and then from 2:00 to 8:00 pm, Saturdays from 3:00 to 9:00 pm. He has a Google Maps link in his website, www.cafeben.com.

If you want to help Ben support Tijuana kids in need, visit Didaque’s website at www.didaque.org, They are a fully registered 501(c)3 non-profit corporation in the US, making your donations tax-deductible.

Que Pasa In Baja?

Ensenada city workers going back to work. After a couple weeks of being on a sit-down strike, Mayor Novelo was finally able to convince them to go back to work by promising to pay the remainder of their Christmas bonuses before January 21st.

City workers are pretty pissed off, since the city has had problems paying their salaries, and now their Christmas bonuses, which for them amounts to an extra 2 months’ salary. By law, the Christmas bonus has to be equal to at least 15 days.

When he took control of the city, Mayor Novelo announced that the city was broke; since then, we have seen the effects of it. There are almost no streets in the city without potholes, and trash pickup services have been reduced to almost once a month now.

City workers don’t believe it, though; they say it’s not so much the lack of funds, but rather the inability to properly manage the situations that are affecting the city.

It has been a tough term for Mayor Novelo. He hasn’t been able to catch a break, and most people are pretty unhappy with the crises that the city is experiencing. This is probably the reason  he announced last year that he would not be running for another term.

The amount the city owes its workforce in Christmas bonuses alone is about $3.8 million USD, and this administration alone has already asked for about $11.3 million USD in loans to cover other expenses. This give you an idea how seriously the fiscal situation is for Ensenada.

AMLO comes to Baja. Our brand-new president visited Tijuana this past Sunday in order to announce the newly created free zone for the northern border along with our state governor Kiko Vega.

The president is scheduling visits to different parts of the country on weekends in order to have time during the week to attend to his presidential duties in his office in Mexico City.

He is famous now for travelling on commercial planes and even choosing the cheapest flights for his travel.

Migrants safe from police. Alma Migrante, a local non-profit group that helps immigrants know their rights, has won a trial making it illegal for local police to send immigrants guilty of committing administrative infractions to be sent to the National Migration Institute (or INM in Spanish) in order to be deported.

Representatives from Alma Migrante are stating that immigrants can only be sent for deportation if they commit a crime more serious than a minor infraction.

Although the line could be a little blurry sometimes between the two, an easy way to understand it is that an infraction would require you to pay a fine, but a crime would require jail time.

Snow is here! The civil protection office in the city of Ensenada has announced that both of our local sierras, Juarez and San Pedro Martir, have snow and are open for visits.

As always, they are recommended to drive there in a car in good condition, preferably 4×4, and bring warm clothes and supplies, especially gas and high calorie food, in case you get stranded up there.

San Pedro Martir, which always has more snow than Juarez but is also a farther away, is only open from 7:00 am to 4:00 pm every day, and is not available for overnight stays.

Jaime Nieto, head of the office, stated that the roads are not in the best shape right now, and emphasized the need for a car in good condition if you want to visit.

We’re getting more cruise ships. During 2018 a total of 270 cruise ships docked in Ensenada, carrying more than 650,000 tourists. About 70% of those tourists descended from the ship to visit the city, and they spent an average $54 dollars per person.

Tourism officials are stating that its very likely that we will get even more cruise ships this year, since some cruise liners have already booked more dates for this year. January alone has 26 arrivals in total.

Bring your own bags. Rosarito and Ensenada decided last year to eliminate plastic bags in retail shops and the new measure has been in effect since the first of the year. Steep fines were announced for offending businesses, but at least Rosarito has said that they will not issue fines until April of this year.

It is possible for you to not even notice the change if your favorite store decided to switch to paper or biodegradable plastic bags (which are almost indistinguishable from normal plastic bags). This will still be legal and an option for businesses if they want to keep offering customers this benefit.

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