Sunday, March 29, 2015

Town Hall Meeting in Loreto Bay

As you may already know, Loreto Bay is a Condominium Community and Homeowners manage the Development through a structure of 12 Sub Regimes within a Master Regime to establish policy and make planning and budget decisions that shapes our community now and into the future.  We employ a Condominium Management company to handle the day to day administration and supervise the staff and contractors we employ to provide the services and maintenance that are required to operate our community of over 600 homes.

While this is a simplification of a fairly complicated management structure that we inherited in part from the way the original Developer set up the Condominium in the first place, and in part as is required by Mexican law, it should be understood that, between the volunteers involved in the neighborhood Sub Regimes and the community wide Master Regime, there are close to 100 Homeowners contributing time and effort in helping to make Loreto Bay the beautiful and well run Community it has become.

While much of this considerable time and effort by these Homeowners goes largely unnoticed by the majority of Residents here, this past week there was a very public example of the sort of work that goes on behind the scenes to manage and plan for a Community this size, when the Master Regime Planning Committee held its first Town Hall Meeting this week in the Community Center here in Loreto Bay.  Although it was going to require my closing the Real Estate Office for a couple of hours, I was looking forward to attending the meeting as an opportunity to understand what was being considered for the future of Loreto Bay.

Not knowing what to expect in the way of turnout, by the time that I arrived at the Community Center about 15 minutes before the scheduled start time, I found that most of the available seats were already taken and by the time the Meeting began the number of Homeowners in attendance had more than doubled to over 120.  While this was an impressive turnout it probably was no more than half the current number of Owners that are here, as many couples were represented by only one person.  But it still surprises me how many people are living here at any given time during the Season, when there are usually only a small percentage of them evident coming and going on the sidewalks and pathways on a day to day basis!  

This 9 member Committee was just formed in January this year to review our facilities and issues and make recommendations for how the Community will continue to evolve and develop.  To prepare for this task, earlier in the year a survey was sent out to all of the Homeowners asking for feedback and to establish what they thought the priorities were for the future of Loreto Bay.  So to begin with, the Committee reported that there had been an over 50% response to this survey – high by standards for this sort of research.

It came as no surprise to me that the number one priority, according to these results, was the issue of vehicle parking within Loreto Bay.  One of the characteristics of this Development that appealed to many of the original Buyers was the “sustainability” of the project.  This was an important part of the “vision” the Developers had at the outset, and it became one of the selling points that appealed to the future Owners of Loreto Bay.  One consequence of this was designing Loreto Bay as a “walking community” where all gas engine vehicles are restricted to parking on the divided main road, or “Paseo Mision de Loreto” (we call it the Paseo for short) that runs mainly north/south through the Community.   Then you walk to your home on the network of many landscaped pathways that feed off the Paseo and connect the many Community Courtyards that the Homes are clustered around.

As the occupancy levels have risen over the years, and the numbers of Homeowners with cars has increased the parking density has continued to grow, particularly in the central part of the larger Founders Neighborhood where over 2/3 of the 600+ homes are located.  While there is always somewhere to park, this congestion can sometimes result in people having to park further from their homes than they would like, causing some inconvenience when you are carrying luggage or a week’s worth of groceries.      

The Planning Committee reported that last month in February, with a community occupancy level of about 43% (which will probably be close to our highest level this Season), there were in fact a small surplus of parking spaces at the peak daytime traffic levels.  However, there were also some recommendations for short term ways to increase the available spaces, including allowing parking on both sides of the south entrance road and permitting parking on left side of the Paseo, where it is wide enough that two vehicles can park without obstructing the road, along with other longer term options.

The second priority from those who had responded to the survey had to do with the Beach that is on the east side of Loreto Bay, where it meets the Sea of Cortez.  To begin with it should be understood that all Beaches in Mexico are public and so we do not “own” the Beach.  However, our proximity to the Beach and the Ocean remains one of the most important features of Loreto Bay and the Planning Committee had established some priorities to improve the access and appearance.

At the south end of the Development, just north of where the INN is located, there is a 275 foot stretch of Beach that had been cleared prior to Loreto Bay being developed and originally it had about 8 shade palapas (umbrella shaped, thatched roofed structures) that have deteriorated over the years and the several tropical storms we have weathered.  Rebuilding these palapas and re-anchoring them into the Beach was seen as the first priority in improving the appearance and utility of the Beach. 

Secondly, increasing the amount of Kayak and various “Board” storage near the Beach was considered to be the next most important facility, as the numbers of Homeowners wanting to enjoy these watersports grows.  It was also recommended that more “wash stations” be added so that saltwater and sand can be hosed off people, pets, and things, as they leave the Beach and move onto the pathways into the Community.  It was also identified that expanding our already extensive landscape maintenance within the Development to include “grooming” the sand and collecting any trash that is left on the Beach by the tide is also going to be recommended going forward.

The third area of interest according to the Survey response was Community Facilities including options for expanding the current Community Center where the meeting was being held.  This is an approximately 1,500 sq. ft. space which we rent from the Investment Group that manages the commercial property within Loreto Bay.  In addition to a significant lending library of books and DVDs donated by Homeowners, and some comfortable seating and wi-fi access, this space is regularly used by a variety of interest groups including Bridge and Mah Jong players as well as Yoga and other fitness activities.  Several interesting options were discussed, starting with some renovations that would improve the existing facilities and make it possible for more than one activity to be underway at a time, to possibly acquiring more rental space and even consideration of earmarking funds for purchasing land and developing a multi-use facility in the future.    

Further down the list of priorities were a Fitness Center – there is one small “for profit” gym I described in a recent posting and a similar fitness room in the Hotel that we may have improved access to in the future, but the consensus was against expanding these facilities as part of our Condominium amenities, leaving it to the marketplace to decide what they want to support.  Likewise, it was decided that there was not sufficient interest in adding more Community swimming pools to the three we currently operate, nor did the idea of developing a Children’s Playground within Loreto Bay receive much support – the feedback being that there were lots of other unique activities for the relatively small (but growing) number of young Visitors that are coming to Loreto Bay.

When the meeting concluded, after a lively Q & A period, I headed back to my Office for the rest of the afternoon and considered the many ideas and suggestions that had been discussed, arising out of the Homeowners Survey.  While I was pleased with most of the information I had gathered at the meeting, what struck me as most important was this planning process that had begun a few short months ago, and how it would begin to shape how the future of how Loreto Bay would look, starting in the near future - and extending well beyond.  And I realized how, from these modest beginnings, our Community would continue to mature and progress into an even more responsive and beautiful place for those of us who are lucky enough to be “Living Loreto”! 

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Faith and Begorrah - St. Patrick's in Loreto!

I’m not sure what it is about St. Patrick’s Day that has the almost universal appeal to bring out the “Irish” in almost any Nationality on March 17th each year – but the power of the “green” seems to affect people here as much, or perhaps even more, than anywhere I have lived before.  Perhaps the answer is that people here are generally up for a good time, with most of the growing ex-pat population here either retired, or visiting on holiday.  Regardless, this year there was the best St. Patrick’s Day celebration I have been to, certainly since I have lived here in Loreto, perhaps ever! 

I have written before about previous parties on the 17th, most recently two years ago when there was a Street Party in Loreto Bay organized by El Cardon Cantina, one of the restaurants here ( ) which is owned by Kieran and Norma, a couple I have also profiled in an earlier posting, shortly after they opened their Loreto Bay location two and a half years ago (

Prior to opening El Cardon in Loreto Bay, they were operating their main restaurant in town called “1697” in reference to the arrival date here of the Jesuit Missionaries and the founding of the original Catholic Mission which is located nearby where their restaurant is located in the Town Square.  Which is a lengthy introduction to the fact that due to Kieran’s Irish heritage, I believe that there is a degree of authenticity, or at least legitimacy, to their festivities honoring the Irish Patron Saint.

But this year there was an additional attraction to the celebration.  Earlier this Season Kieran and Norma launched their own local microbrewery, El Zopilote Brewing Company, featuring three house brews: Tombstone Pale Ale, Rattlesnake IPA and El Bandito Stout and so my choice was clear as to where I would celebrate the “Glorious 17th”.  Since I had neglected to buy an advance ticket to the event I decided that I had better arrive early if I wanted to get into the party, so I headed into town just after 5:00 and found parking nearby the restaurant.

However, for this special night’s festivities, their regular restaurant facility would have been far too small and so they had opened up the large graveled area behind the building to accommodate the expected crowd of temporary Irish for the evening.  When I arrived there were already more than a few tables claimed, but I was able to join a number of Loreto Bay friends sitting to one side of the temporary stage set up at the far end of the property. 

And on the stage, warming up, were the first entertainers for the evening, also becoming a Loreto tradition, Los Beach Dogs, featuring original members Rich (guitar, keyboard and vocals) and Tony (drums) along with Adolfo (bass guitar), and his brother Ruben (lead guitar, who drove half a day from the town where he works as a teacher to make this gig) they were joined by Chucho (alternating on Bass for a few numbers) as well as Tim (another Loreto Bay Homeowner playing a mean “Harp” on several numbers) to round out this special St. Patrick’s line up.       

Due to changing personnel and schedules, this Season the ‘Dogs have had several incarnations, but this night’s line up was great, with Rich handling all the vocals while switching between his acoustic rhythm guitar and a recently added keyboard, including numbers from the familiar repertoire, as well as some new numbers I hadn’t heard from them before.  As they began their first set there was a steady stream of ticket holders arriving for the party as Norma greeted them and Kieran managed the kitchen producing a tasty sampler of “sliders” with fries, the special dish included in the ticket price.  Meanwhile other staff handled the flow of libations, including (of course) the trio of house-brewed beers along with other choices for those with “less authentic” beverage preferences.

As I sat enjoying the concert, the beverages and the company, I realized that it had been a while since I had spent an evening in town, due to a combination of factors including my work schedule, the increased dining options now in Loreto Bay, plus the reluctance to drive back home from town at night after enjoying several libations.  I was also struck with how Loreto has been changing from the somewhat sleepy town I had discovered over 10 years ago, to what has become a thriving ex-pat community which is impacting the culture and the day to day and the nightlife, in many, mostly positive ways – like the sounds of tonight’s concert echoing around the historic Town Square.

While the sold-out crowd included local Loretanos and lots of ex-pat “Townies”, it was my impression that the largest group in attendance had come in from Loreto Bay for the evening and that too made me realize again the impact that our Community is having on Loreto and influencing on how the town is changing.  And so, as I drove back to Loreto Bay, a little before “Baja Midnight”, I thought about how some traditions bridge Nationalities, and how for some of us celebrating an ancient Irish Priest is reason enough to have a party – especially if you’re Irish for the day - and are lucky enough to be “Living Loreto”!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

"Oscar" welcomes CINEXICO to Loreto

There is a new cultural event on the horizon here in Loreto, Cinexico is a Film Festival celebrating Mexican cinema and documentaries, an event that has been over a year in the planning and happens this weekend March 13 – 15th (  To kick off this exciting festival there was an opening party organized by Loreto Bay Volunteers, under the auspices of Amigos de Loreto – an “Oscar Party” a fund-raiser to benefit the Internado School here in Loreto Bay.

Among the many worthy charities benefitting Loreto and the surrounding area, the Internado is the focus of many in the ex-pat community who see an opportunity to make a big difference for children. Currently there are 62 students between 5 years and 20, who travel from the surrounding remote rancheros to stay in a Government run dormitory and attend public schools in Loreto Monday to Friday each week, returning to their families on weekends.

While the Government provides the facility (there are a total of 33 Internados throughout the Baja) and some very basic support and staffing, practically speaking these dormitories depend on community support and donations to provide anything more than the most basic subsistence for the young people who call this home while they attend school.  In the past that local support for the Loreto facility has included food, blankets, sheets, shoes, and backpacks for the kids and ceiling fans, air conditioners, washing machines, refrigerators and even a School Bus for the facility.

To continue to support these worthwhile activities the Loreto Bay Volunteers have organized other fund-raising events in the past, including a dance recital put on by the kids two years ago called “Pueblo Magico” that I wrote about here: , but this Oscar party took these efforts to a whole new level!  
Oscar Night was held at the “Okiee Dokiee Saloon” in Loreto, a large bar/nightclub that the Volunteers had transformed into a facsimile of a Hollywood After Party site with custom made table centers, a sponsor logo board, even an inflatable replica (sort of) of the famous trophy.  On the outdoor patio area at the back of the venue there was a stage set-up with a rear projection screen and more tables.  From the front door a red carpet stretched the length of the building to the back Patio, adding to the “Hollywood” feel of the evening.

I closed my Office a bit early that day to go home and press a shirt for the evening, as the dress code had been advertised as “Baja Glam” (whatever that means!) and I got into town a little before the 5:30 start time.  By the time I arrived there was already a lineup of several dozen people waiting for the doors to open, but since I had been asked to be the photographer for the evening I was able to get in early and take some pictures of the preparations inside.

When the doors opened there was a steady stream of ticket holders
entering through the balloon arch and onto the red carpet.  I was impressed with the fact that practically everyone had responded to the Baja Glam code, with some very fancy outfits on the women (including more high heels than one usually sees here) and many of the men were wearing “Tuxedo T-Shirts”, while what most of the others were wearing was definitely dressier than a normal night out in Loreto!

After arriving, many people purchased bottles of wine on one side of the entrance, while others lined up at the bar on the other side for cocktails and beer.  Then they made their way to their assigned tables and the large room quickly filled.  Greeting people from the stage as they arrived was Dave, a Loreto Bay Homeowner who had been recruited as MC for the evening, and with his background as a former radio host in Canada, he quickly set an upbeat mood for the evening to come.

Soon after most people had settled at their tables and had a drink in hand Dave introduced Barb, a Loreto Bay Volunteer who had worked on the Internado project for some time, who gave a frank and informative presentation on the situation for the resident kids here in Loreto and then reviewed the 20 year history of assistance the ex-pat community has provided.  She went on to explain the priorities they had for their support going forward which focused on three main things: storage lockers for each kid so they had somewhere private to keep their things, funding for a special outing to take all 62 of them out to an adjacent Island for the day including a special tour on the Glass Bottom Boat, and finally investment in the Scholarship Fund that has been operating for several years to and so far has made it possible for the students to continue their education beyond the Grade 6 minimum level funded by the Government. 

An example of the success of this program is the fact that there are currently 23 students receiving this assistance, with one student currently training to become a Dentist!  To conclude her comments Barb made an emotional acknowledgement of Linda, one of the early ex-pat residents in Loreto who has worked for the betterment of the Internado kids for over 20 years and has been an example to the many relative newcomers to this community.

Next it was Dave’s turn to whip up the crowd’s enthusiasm, which he proceeded to do with spectacular success!  He first explained that it was going to cost at least $200 pesos for each locker and he challenged those present to hold up a $200 peso bill and Volunteers would circulate and collect the contributions – the response was amazing!  At practically every one of the dozens of tables for 10 several people had their hands up waving their bills, and not all of them were just $200’s there were $500’s and more being offered.  By the time all were collected it was announced later that over $20,000 pesos had been raised in less than 15 minutes!  The kids were going to be getting more than just some new lockers after this evening!

But that was not the end of the generosity.  Later in the evening Dave assumed the role of Auctioneer, and with the assistance of his wife Lynda, he coaxed top dollars from the crowd for an attractive group of rewards that included: a getaway to the Silverado Resort in Napa Valley CA, a fishing charter with renown local Captain Pancho, 2 return tickets on the Westjet Calgary/Loreto flight, a stay at the Black Rock Resort in Ucluelet Vancouver Island, CFL tickets for 4 Calgary vs Ottawa and 2 cases of La Cetto wine.  As one after another of these desirable items were auctioned off it became clear that many of them were selling for considerably more than their “face value” from the donors, a further demonstration that this crowd had their heart in the right place and they were happy to pay more as a contribution to a good cause.

Meanwhile, during the evening there was a Silent Auction going on in an adjacent room off the stage area with artwork and jewelry offered to the high bidders as well as raffle tickets being sold for more great items including a beautiful handmade quilt by a popular local artist.  But it wasn't fund raising – it was fun as well – with a very professional jazz dance performance by Cathy, a Loreto Bay Homeowner and a salsa presentation by another couple. Along with dancing and listening music performed by a three piece group called Algarabia there was an introduction to the Cinexico Festival and how it came about by Pamela and Mike, Loreto Bay Homeowners who are successful in the film business in the US and they showed some highlights and trailers from the films being shown in the festival.

As I drove home to Loreto Bay following the event (well after “Baja Midnight”, for a change) I was thinking how proud I was to be living in a Community that came out in such impressive numbers for an evening to celebrate the beginning of a new artistic festival in our town and get into the spirit of the occasion.  This was expressed both in the way they dressed up, and had fun with the theme of the event, but more importantly they used the occasion of their having a fun night out to make an important difference in the lives and education of over 60 kids, and that is what makes it special to be “Living Loreto”!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Amuse your Muse in Loreto Bay.

This week the Wine Cellar @ Nopolo was the scene of another musical evening, but this time with a different “Headliner”.  James and his wife Jennifer are from Dallas where he works as a hairdresser and is part of Def Leggend, a professional tribute band for the heavy metal group Def Leppard, while she heads up a call center for a major jewelry retailer.

They were first attracted to the Loreto area about 5 years ago after Jennifer saw the New York Times article that included Loreto on a list of “Places to see”.  They had travelled extensively in Mexico for years but the quieter, less developed nature of Loreto appealed to them so they booked the trip – and Loreto did its magic on them.  Skip ahead several years and they have now purchased an uncompleted home just north of Loreto Bay that they are planning to custom finish.

However, since both James and Jennifer are close to 50 and they will continue to be working for the foreseeable future, Loreto will continue to be a vacation destination for them, even after they complete their home here.  But since spending a couple of weeks a year here over the past several years, this week’s performance at the Wine Cellar was not James’ first here in Loreto Bay, in fact he has played the Wine Cellar before, as well as at another restaurant here and a New Year’s gig at the Inn at Loreto Bay one year.

James grew up as the only musician in a non-musical family, starting to play guitar in elementary school.  He started his first band in Grade 5 and music has been an important part of his life ever since.  He started playing professionally almost 30 years ago and became a hairdresser to keep himself busy between gigs.  His professional career now is mainly focused on his work in the Tribute Band, which he describes as a combination of music and a tightly choreographed acting performance.  His band is successful, performing in many Casinos and Festivals and playing before a crowd of 5,000 the night before their departure to Loreto for this trip.  But James also has an acoustic repertoire that he performs solo, which was the music a standing room crowd at the Wine Cellar enjoyed this week. 

I have written here in previous posts how living in Loreto Bay has encouraged a number of Residents to flourish as musicians, and provided a venue for others who have had some prior professional experience to pursue their love of music here.  But whether these musicians had been professional at one time or not, here in Loreto Bay they can all be considered “Amateur” in the BEST sense of the word.  Because they are performing here only for their love of music – since Foreigners cannot be paid to perform in Mexico without the necessary work visa. 

The performances we enjoy here by ex-pats are officially unpaid gigs, so the musicians don’t run afoul of the Immigration Service, and I suggest that “gratis status” adds a special element to the entertainment.  These people are playing for the love of the music and the joy they get from performing it, as well as the pleasure they receive from the appreciation and support they get from the audiences they entertain.  Removing the remuneration from the performance, I suspect has an effect on the motivation of the performer – they are not playing for the money, but for their love of what they do.

While that difference means one thing for a retired person who is making music part of their lifestyle here, I assume it takes on perhaps even greater significance to someone who is still actively involved as a professional musician and performer.  For the “hobby” musician this environment and community is open, accepting and supportive of their passion and through that support it creates a safe space for their skill to develop and their talent to flourish.  For someone to whom music is a business elsewhere, perhaps playing for free in Loreto Bay gives them an opportunity to get back to the roots of what brought them to music in the first place, and as a “busman’s holiday” it allows them to indulge their muse in a way that their commercial career does not.

However, in either case, we – the audience – clearly receives the benefit and enjoyment from these performances in the ways that only live music can provide.  But, in addition to the simple pleasure of listening to music, there is a further value that enhances the experience for us and that is the sense of community and identity that comes from either knowing the performer as a friend and neighbor, or appreciating the fact that a Visitor feels so much at home here that they are motivated to perform to express their enjoyment at being here, and wanting to feel a part of it by playing for us.

In either case, for these people music is both a form of expression and an avocation, as well as providing a connection between the performer and the audience.  However, for other people that expression may take other forms; there is a thriving artistic community here that takes inspiration from the beauty that surrounds us, others find more physical outlets through yoga, exercise, cycling and golf, all of which activities, and more, can be pursued here.  For some the water is their passion; swimming, snorkeling, kayaking, and paddle boarding, not to mention boating and fishing in one of the best protected marine parks in the world.

So what we have developed here is providing an opportunity for self-expression, personal development, or just recreation, and for a growing number of us who call this place home that may be the best part of “Living Loreto”! 

Sunday, March 1, 2015

A busy week in Loreto Bay!

This past week has been a busy one for me here in Loreto Bay, and so this week’s Blog is going to be a little different.  It has been my practice with these postings to focus on the lifestyle and activities here and in the town of Loreto, and I have mainly avoided writing about my Real Estate business here – not wanting this Blog to become too “self-promotional” in tone.

However, as I mentioned this has been an unusually busy week for me – this is the first time in the over 6 years I have been selling property here in Loreto Bay that I have sold two homes in the same week.  As a result, this past week I have been fully occupied with my Clients and my business and found myself at the end of the week without a Blog topic, so I decided to break with my tradition and write a bit about the Real Estate market here.

For the past several years February has marked the beginning of the busiest quarter of the Season and this year is following that same pattern, with a noticeable increase in the numbers of Visitors here, many of whom are renting homes in Loreto Bay.  Perhaps more significantly, there is a growing number of people for whom this is a return visit, and for some it may be their third or fourth time coming to stay Loreto Bay.

Another related trend I am seeing is often these return visits are for longer periods of time, the first trip might have been for a week or two, and, before they leave, a growing number of people are making reservations for perhaps a month or longer the following year.  This growth in the numbers of Visitors to Loreto and Loreto Bay is of course tied directly to the gradually increasing air access we have begun to see in the past couple of years, including the beginning of the new scheduled service from Calgary by Westjet which I wrote about in the previous posting.

In addition to the increasing numbers of Visitors coming to Loreto Bay there are other factors
affecting this market.  Last Season when we had more flights than we have had in the previous 4 or 5 years and, perhaps not coincidentally, we sold more homes than we had in in those previous years.  So far this Season we are ahead of the pace last year, and so depending on what happened over the next couple of months, we are on track to set another record this Season.

Our Real Estate season here normally runs from October through May, and so last Fall we had a larger number of new Listings replacing the homes we had sold the previous Season.  Generally speaking, among those new Listings were homes with more desirable features like exterior Garden space, Viewing Towers and preferred locations, and many of these new Listings were at somewhat higher prices than would have been the case a few years ago.

Another change in the market here over the past year is that at this time last year we had five listings for Homes priced under $200,000 US – this week we now have two.  What that means is when we sell those two listings the lowest priced house in Loreto Bay will begin with a “2” and not a “1” for the first time in the 7 seasons I have been involved in Real Estate here.  While that may not make a big difference in the purchase price of a home, I would suggest it does make for a significant psychological difference.

But before I give you the wrong impression of breakaway inflation in home prices in Loreto Bay, let me hasten to add that all of the homes that we have currently listed are still priced below their purchase prices, and depending on when the current Owners bought the home, it could be by up to half the price they paid “in the day”.  During the approximately five year sales cycle of the original Developer between 2003 and 2008, home prices increased between 200 and 300% due to “Developer inflation” (at each sales event during that period the price of any unsold property that was carried over to the next event increased in price between 3 and 10%).

So now with the trend established towards gradually increasing prices, coupled with a growing number of homes with more desirable features and an increasing number of new and return Visitors the market conditions here are the strongest I have seen since the resale market began here with the departure of the original Developer.  Having said that, supply and demand is still in balance and it will continues to be a Buyer’s market for the foreseeable future, with the expectation of a gradual increase in prices over time, which will likely draw a steady supply of new and improving Listings to the market.

However, if I were to gaze into my “crystal ball” and make a prediction a little further into the future, I can see one of our new neighbors playing a role that could cause a significant increase in Loreto Bay property values.  Over the past year and a half I have frequently mentioned the investment Sr. Carlos Slim has made in and around Loreto Bay, but for any of you who may have missed that background, Sr. Slim, who is a Mexican citizen, is one of the top two or three wealthiest men in the world, up there with Bill Gates and Warren Buffet.

Among the various assets of the original Developer which Sr. Slim now owns is the parcel of land directly adjacent to the north end of Loreto Bay, for which there was a development plan for about 800 homes – about 30% more than the current number of homes now in Loreto Bay.  While there has not been any public announcements yet as to what the development plans are, or when they may begin, the fact remains that it is not possible to build homes comparable with those in Loreto Bay for the current resale prices.  And so it follows that whenever new construction begins the prices of those new homes will almost certainly be higher than comparable homes for resale in Loreto Bay and that is when I expect we will see a “spike” in our resale prices relative to those new comparables.  

We have all lived somewhere that you could walk down the street and say “I remember when I could have bought that house for . . . .” - in my opinion that day is today in Loreto Bay! 

So in conclusion, I would like to thank you for your indulgence in my taking this space for a bit of “shop talk” this week, and I trust that you have found it of some interest, but for myself, being in the somewhat uncommon position of a Foreigner working here, this is part of my reality of “Living Loreto”! 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Westjet arrives in Loreto!

One of the realities in living in a tourism development area like Loreto, located in a remote part of the
southern Baja, is how dependent we are on air access for economic success.  At one time, since the Loreto Bay Development began over 10 years ago, there were up to four Airlines serving Loreto from multiple points of origin in the US.  Following the economic turmoil between ’08 and ’09 we were reduced to one Airline with as few as 3 flights per week in a mid-size turboprop carrying about 80 passengers.

Beyond the immediate impact that this reduction in the number and size of planes servicing Loreto had on the number of passengers who were able to fly in and out of Loreto, it also changed the type of passengers who were able to travel here.  Because of the existing ex-pat population in and around the town of Loreto and the growing number of Homeowners in Loreto Bay, when the numbers of flights and the size of planes serving Loreto were reduced the people wanting to travel back and forth to their homes here booked their flights long in advance to be sure they would be able to travel when they wanted to.

This resulted in the flights being heavily pre-
booked months in advance, so when other people who wanted to travel to Loreto for a vacation or short term visit tried to book seats closer to their travel date very often they found the flights sold out.  Presumably this would often result in these potential Visitors having to change their plans and travel somewhere else where there were seats available when they wanted to make their bookings.  This reduction in the numbers of tourists able to visit Loreto hit the Hotel and Restaurant businesses hard and the local economy suffered as a result. 

So in recent years as we have seen a gradual increase in the numbers of flights by Alaska/Horizon from the low of 3 per week to now daily service, we have also seen some improvements in the local businesses that were most negatively affected.  The situation has also been positively affected by the addition of some domestic Mexican Airline flights, like the twice a week service from Aereo Calafia that flies here from Tijuana and continues on to the Mainland.

But what we have all been waiting for during the past 4 or 5 years was the addition of new North American scheduled services to Loreto from somewhere other than LAX where the Alaska flights are from.  About a year ago Westjet, a Calgary based Airline that is now the second largest in Canada, announced that they would begin a weekly flight to Loreto direct from Calgary in mid-February this year through until the end of May, and, after a year of anticipation, the inaugural flight arrived at the Loreto Airport this past weekend. 

To put this event into further context, Calgary was one of the largest markets for Home Buyers here during the marketing phase of Loreto Bay, particularly in the early stages in 2004 and 2005 before the focus of the efforts shifted more to the US market.  So in addition to the sizable number of Loreto Bay Homeowners in Calgary, and their families and friends who are potential visitors here, Calgary will act as a convenient hub for travelers from all over western Canada to connect with the new Loreto direct flight and avoid the complications, timing issues and expense of connecting through LAX which often requires an overnight stay.

While this new scheduled service was an important development for Loreto and the surrounding area, it was of particular significance here in Loreto Bay for those of us from Canada and so plans were made for a suitable celebration at the Airport to mark the arrival of the inaugural flight.  But we were not going to be alone – the Hotel and Restaurant Association of Loreto prepared an impressive display of local delicacies and snacks as well as Margaritas and other beverages.  The Baja Sur Tourism Association had colorful gift bags with T-Shirts and other promotional items donated by sponsors.  One of the best local Mariachi Bands was on hand to serenade the arrivals and along with Tourism Officials, the State Governor, and Loreto’s Mayor were in attendance to officially welcome and greet the President of Westjet who personally accompanied the sold-out inaugural flight.

With only one commercial flight arriving and departing from Loreto Airport most days, the welcoming party that assembled during the hour prior to the scheduled arrival of the new Westjet flight overlapped with the earlier departure of the regular Alaska/Horizon flight causing the Airport to be busier than I have ever seen it before!  As it turned out, both the Alaska departure and the Westjet arrival were somewhat delayed, but when the “big” Westjet 737 pulled onto the tarmac outside the arrivals gate a resounding cheer came from the assembled well-wishers – in spite of the fact that no one on board would be aware of what was going on in the terminal.

Disembarking, Immigration and Customs procedures and baggage claims took the usual time to process the sold out flight so it was some time before the first Officials from Westjet emerged into the Airport concourse but the patient welcoming crowd cheered them enthusiastically with signs, balloons and streamers.  After the official introductions between the Politicians and Executives took place, they moved to a temporary podium where Westjet’s President made an impressively fluent speech in Spanish in which he referred to the now 7 destinations in Mexico that they served and that last year they had carried over 1,000,000 passengers to Mexico!

After enthusiastic welcoming speeches by the State Governor and Town Mayor, official gifts were exchanged and the “formal” part of the event was completed.  Meanwhile, the passengers continued to emerge from the Security area in twos and threes after their arrivals had been processed – each group of which were greeted with their own ovation from the waiting welcome committee.

In these days of increasingly jaded commercial Airline travel, this event and the genuine enthusiasm of the assembled resident’s welcome of both the Airline and their Passengers harkened back to a time long ago when air travel was a special and exciting event, one to be celebrated by both those on the ground and those who were travelling!  It also reminded me of a time when the flying experience was not overshadowed by security concerns but was an excitingly special occasion.

For most of us who were there to welcome the first of what we all hope becomes an ongoing service throughout next Season, this was one more milepost in Loreto’s growth and evolution into the prime destination it deserves to be, and perhaps the beginning of new adventures for some of the arriving passengers who may come to share the dream of “Living Loreto”! 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Open Mic returns to Loreto Bay

Just over a year ago the first Open Mic night was held at the Wine Cellar here in Loreto Bay and since then it has become a popular local event, alternating monthly between that venue and the 1697 Restaurant in town during the winter season.  This past weekend it was again turn for the Wine Cellar to host the festivities and, as it had been a while since I had last attended one of these events, I thought it was time to check out another evening of community music.

Anticipating that this would be a popular night out I arrived early for the advertised 6:00 pm start and saw that Will & Cynthia had prepared for a bigger than usual crowd in the Wine Cellar this evening, having added more tables and chairs than their regular layout.  In a corner by the doors to the patio the musicians had set up their PA and amplifier equipment and some footlights and a couple of them were warming up and setting levels as the “early birds” in the audience found seats and claimed tables.

Drink orders were made and delivered and plates of appetizers followed to most tables as more people arrived and the Wine Cellar began to buzz on a Friday night.  Soon Rich, currently the “Lone Dog” here in Loreto Bay (without his “pack” of other musicians that make up Los Beach Dogs, Loreto Bay’s “house band”) was first to take the informal stage area and did a solo instrumental blues guitar piece to open the evening’s entertainment, after which he introduced Michael the first performer who accompanied his own soft vocals on the guitar.

As the evening fell and the sky darkened a steady stream of people filled the available seating and kept the Wine Cellar staff busy filling drink and food orders as the music filled the room.  Following Michael’s set Rich returned to the stage and invited Jill and Evie, who had come from town, to add their voices to the evening.  With their melodic back up on several standards, Rich sounded even better than usual as he sang and played amplified acoustic guitar. 

Meanwhile, outside on the patio there was an added attraction being set up.  Jorge, an artisan jeweler from Loreto, and his wife Brenda had an attractive table-top display of hand-made earrings and necklaces set up and were providing a bit of shopping entertainment to go along with the musical variety.

Next up it was Bill’s opportunity to play some nice solo guitar, and although he apologized for a bit of “Loreto Throat” he did a fine job accompanying himself on several numbers.  After all of the musicians had had their turns at the mic they started into a sing-along set where they sang and played together and the Wine Cellar began to feel like a 60’s Hootenanny (if I am not dating myself!).

But that was the essence of the mood of the evening – most of the people in the room were friends, or at least knew each other by sight from the neighborhood, and when someone had finished their set they would rejoin their table in the audience and support the other musicians.  And while there were conversations going on in the background, everyone’s performance was appreciated with warm applause and encouragement, so it began to feel more like a house party with catering rather than a night out at a bar with entertainment.

I feel that these Open Mic evenings are a perfect fit for Loreto Bay – providing a showcase for the musically talented in our community to perform their love of music, and because of the high levels of talent they have, the rest of us who are their appreciative audience enjoy a night of professional quality, musically varied entertainment. 

While I am sure the Open Mic evenings in town on alternate months are equally popular, and that Loreto Bay is well represented both on and off stage there as well, I expect that these evenings at the Wine Cellar may be more intimate and with a stronger sense of community, as close knit as we are here.  But regardless, a good time was had by all, and as I made my way home again that evening I was again reminded what a special place I've found to be “Living Loreto”.