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The Children are the Champions!

Hal Clark

The Children of San Felipe are the real winners in the TECATE 3rd Annual El Dorado Ranch Charity & Celebrity Golf Classic. The three day event was topped off in fiesta-like fashion with a lavish awards banquet on Saturday night October 28, 2007 at the Pavilion Restaurant in La Ventana del Mar at Las Caras de Mexico Campo de Golf in San Felipe. Ceremonial checks were presented by Pat Butler and Jesus Olmos to two deserving charities. One in the amount of $10,000 US went to the San Felipe Scholorship Fund to benefit the children of San Felipe for their University and College Educations. Another $5,000 US to Casa de Paco, a hospice serving the those who are suffering from terminally ill diseases in the communities of Mexicali and San Felipe. Mr. Butler was quick to point out to the gala crowd of celebrities and esteemed guests that these amounts merely represent the minimums and when the final accounting is done the amounts are expected to grow.

There were numerous winners in various categories of competition among the teams comprised of major sponsors and celebrities the winners of the lowest team scores were: Low Gross Team Scores; 1st Place score of 55, the team of Don Cavanaugh, Scott Ferguson, Larry Bonneville, Pam Teegaurden; 2nd Place score of 60 the Medical Group team of Dave Bondurant, Cris Creswell, Lyle Fritchey, Greg Griffin; 3rd Place score of 62 Team Chevrolet, Elizabeth Keys, Jorge Trevino, Mario Hernandez, Aleksei. The Low Net Scores with First Place capturing the coveted Governors Trophy were: 1st Place Low Net score of 53 Team US Airconditioning/Metcro, David Gonzales, Frank Villareal and two unnamed stars; 2nd Place Low Net score of 54 Team InterceramicJaime Olmos, Rene Bejarano, Erick Acosta, Fernando de las Casas; 3rd Place Low Net score of 55 Team Distrubuidora Superior – Roberto Quinos, Marco A Gutierrez, Pablo, Felipe.
Accolades from the organizers go to all companies and individuals involved in this annual charity extravaganza – The Universal Golf Foundation, La Ventana del Mar, Las Caras de Mexico, El Dorado Ranch; Major Sponsors – Tecate, Z-Gas, Interceramic,R-Mac, US Airconditioning/Metcro, Cocinas Institucionales, Forsgren/Gardner, CasaBlanca, Cemex, Monex, La Sombra Elegancia, Medical Group, Perla del Mar, Chevrolet, Impulsa, San Felipe Storage, Distrubuidora Superior, Mi Casita, Nissan, Ford, California Realty, Cabo Baja, Santander Private Banking, Honda, CristaPuro, and all the many other sponsors and contributors. Of course a celebrity event must have celebrities and indeed they came to San Felipe with all of the zeal and enthusiasm that we associate with stars and athletes. They included Patrika Darbo, Brian Goodell, Ron Hale, Effran Herrera, Roland Kickenger, Kim Kouwabunpat, Bradley Lockerman, Kyle Lowder, Arianne Zuker, Larry Worman, Paula Trickey, Karri Turner, Billy Warlock, and Billy Erickson.

Very special thank yous go out to Sharry Appleyard, Director of Golf at Las Caras de Mexico, her entire staff and all of the volunteers from the community of San Felipe for the donation of their precious time and energy to this worthy event.

Warm & Cozy: An Artists Retreat

It’s said “the home is where the heart is” and in the case of this artist’s retreat it couldn’t be truer. This beautiful home is as warm and comforting as the owner and builder Melody Ashley. But this isn’t just any retreat; this gorgeous house is built from old tires. It was just three years ago next month that she started the project. She first started by building the block structure and the property wall from tires she’s collected around the San Felipe area.

Melody was inspired by the actor Dennis Weaver and the huge home in Colorado he built from tires some years appeared in Architectural Digest and spurred interest in the 1970’s. She loves the look and insulation value and the fact that it cleans up the environment.

Melody found that in Mexico, over 40 million tires (llantas) are deemed unusable annually and according to Grupo Reforma Servicio Informativo of Mexico, in Mexicalli alone, the state capital of Baja Norte, there are over 10 million tires stocked piled as waste. As a very environmentally conscious person, this was a great motivator.

The Master Bedroom unit was started 17 months ago and is built entirely of tires and since then she has built several more homes of tires and has many new projects in the works. If you want to see an environmentally sound and beautiful home, then visit Melody and see the organic beauty of this incredible artist retreat of tires. The home is approximately 5 miles north of San Felipe on the Westside of the highway, just three blocks behind the radio tower and Moto 2000

Building In Mexico: Choose the right building material

Mexican contractors now offer custom home buyers many options for building materials. To help prospective new home owners narrow the choices, we’ve compiled this primer.

Adobe, one of the worlds’ oldest building materials, has recently been reintroduced to the San Felipe market. Adobe is praised for its ability to remain warm in winter and cool in summer. Adobe blocks are comprised of a combination of clay and sand. Due to its earthen composition, adobe is unique among building materials in its ability to passively cool. Thermal mass and natural evaporative cooling allow the interior of an adobe building to drop well below ambient temperatures on hot days (without additional mechanical cooling), while remaining warm during the cold days. These qualities make adobe well suited to solar homes and those who wish to reduce energy consumption with an environmentally friendly material. Homes built from adobe are highly fire and insect resistant and offer excellent sound absorption and acoustics.

Concrete block, also referred to as CMU (concrete masonry unit) is perhaps the most common building material in san Felipe today. These blocks are laid up in a running bond with steel reinforcement and concrete poured into the blocks at predetermined intervals. CMU construction is popular because it is inexpensive and familiar to local builders. Alone, concrete is not very energy efficient, however, rigid foam insulation is often applied to the exterior to add insulation and increase the efficiency. Concrete block is also resistant to fire and insects, although acoustics are generally poor. Noise travels through concrete block walls quite easily.

Insulated Concrete Forms (ICFs) are a formwork system assembled much like a giant set of Legos. After stacking, the ICF foam blocks are filled with concrete and steel reinforcement. Visitors from the cooler parts of the U.S. may recognize ICFs as the material used to build basement walls and foundations. ICFs are sold under several brand names; Rastra, Nudura, and Ice Block are available in San Felipe. These products offer good insulation and are resistant to insects. After plastering, these products also provide adequate fire protection. Rastra offers additional fire protection by incorporating cement into the composition of its foam. ICFs buffer exterior noise well, although, interior spaces may echo due the “drum” effect of hard plaster over foam.

Insulated Concrete Panels (ICPs) are sold in San Felipe as Tri-D Panel. This product is a rigid foam panel with steel mesh on both sides. The mesh sheets are connected through the foam with steel wire. This assembly is erected on site and plastered inside and out with cement. Insulation can be very good, but varies based on the thickness of the foam in the panel. ICPs can be used for walls and roofs. They are quick to erect and have good resistance to fire and insects.

Ladrillo is a multicolor fired clay brick. They are used as in-fill between reinforced concrete columns called castillos. Ladrillo provides little energy efficiency, but can be insulated with rigid foam much like concrete blocks. These bricks are resistant to insects and fire while being inexpensive.

Straw-bale construction uses bales of straw, an agricultural waste material. The bales are stacked and pined together, then plastered. Straw-bale homes have high insulation values, are resistant to insects and fire, and have pleasant acoustics. Recently, straw-bale home building in San Felipe has been in decline due to increasing costs of transporting the bales and the labor intensive nature of plastering the uneven surface.

Deciding on a building material requires careful consideration of the benefits of each material. Ultimately, the best choice is the material that meets your unique needs. A consultation with your architect or designer may be the best way to determine the most appropriate material for your project.

About the author,
Jonathon E. Spinner is the President of Adobe Block Works,
Inc., San Felipe’s original supplier of genuine adobe blocks
and custom adobe homes. He can be reached by email at

Bruce Parkman - The Man Behind Playa de Oro

BRUCE: For me, it goes back to 1988 and the National Penn Company and El Dorado Ranch, I had one of these deeds of license, and I came down here to find out what it was. At the time, the national Penn Company still owned El Dorado. They were just starting their program, they didn’t have their pool built, and they were just talking about what they were doing.

MEXICO LIVING: When did Playa de Oro become a reality after that?

BRUCE: All my life I’ve been involved in real estate; buying, selling and developing। So real estate has always had an interest for me and as I looked around San Felipe, you could not buy as a non-national at that time; it was limited as to what you could own. Then in December of 1993, the Mexican government changed he law so that non-nationals could own Mexican corporation and real estate through the Fideicomiso (bank trust) process. In January 1994 I formed the first Mexican corporation owned by non-nations in the San Felipe area and opened a real estate company. We ran the real estate company until 1999. During our first year; 1994 and 1995, we had a huge demand for property, but there was no property. There was such a limited inventory of safe and secure property that you could buy.

MEXICO LIVING: Who own the property at the time?

BRUCE: Most of the property was own by Mexican national [Ejido], and we would lease it from them or it was large, large parcels। If someone wanted a small parcel, no one had a sub-division। El Dorado had their lots on the mountainside of the highway and at that time were a lease situation। Nevertheless, we had people that wanted to buy. The only thing we could sell in those days was the San Francisco development, the Hacienda development and some lots in town. So I thought if we had a good sub-division the American people would buy it if we could make it safe and secure for them.
This property of Playa de Oro came about as I was driving down the highway one day and there was a FOR SALE on the side of the highway and it was owned by Bancomer the Bank. So I’m thinking if Bancomer owns it, they had to repossess it from somebody and if they repossessed it, they had to cleanse the title. About a year later, I bought the property and all the predictions turned out true; the title was cleared and we started the sub-division process.

MEXICO LIVING: In addition to the first real estate brokerage in San Felipe, you became the first non-national landowner?

BRUCE: Yes, probably one of the first.

MEXICO LIVING: At that time was El Dorado still leasing their property?

BRUCE: Yes, they were still leasing at that time. I think Pat Butler took over in 1995 or 1996.

MEXICO LIVING: A couple years later?

BRUCE: Yes. That was about when Pat entered the picture, and when he entered the picture, he started working on getting the titles or the land; prior to that it was all leased.

MEXICO LIVING: You were pioneering and didn’t know it.

BRUCE: We found out something very interesting a couple of years ago. We had a man here from the real estate control department in Mexico City. We were talking to him as he was here looking at various properties and he had a map of all the lots on the north side of San Felipe. Playa de Oro was the only property that showed all the individual lots, all the others were just long narrow pieces of land. So I asked him why Play de Oro was the only to show all these lots and he said that Playa de Oro was well know in Mexico City, because it was the only development 100% owned by a non-national and is legally approved to transfer title to non-nationals – in all of Mexico.

MEXICO LIVING: Wow, you must have been feeling proud about that time.

BRUCE: Yes. So, then as we moved forward in the process and got our First American Title insurance, we were again the first development in all of Mexico to have title insurance on the entire project. There was title insurance, but it was a lot here, lot there, but not on the entire project. So that was a novel idea and as it turned out my initial intuitions were correct, the American people wanted exactly what we were offering.

MEXICO LIVING: I’ve seen many development signs up and down the highway for very long time, but only a few with light construction or no construction at beyond their entrance. However, you have many homes and as many as 10 different homes being built right now on this development alone. How do you account for that? What makes you different?

BRUCE: There are several things that make us a little different; one is we’re focused on a project and we put our sales money back into our project. What happens with other developers is the money goes somewhere else, or goes to buy more land or other items. In addition, many developers think you can shortcut. There are no shortcuts. They says things like “they know so and so” or “I’m connected here” or “I know the guy at the electric company”, “I know the Mayor,” and that and fifty pesos get you a cup of coffee [laughter].
For example, on the electricity; you see the power line running down the highway and you think you can just attach to the power line and you have power to your project. That is not that way. You have to have an engineered plan of your project, showing in detail what you’re going to use and how much KVA you’re going to use. How are all your wires laid out? How are your transformers laid out? Then all that has to be approved by the electric company, the county and the state before you can even go forward.
Once you’re approved for your electric, then you do your installation and go to the electric company and tell them you want to power your sub-division. At that point, the electric company has two charges; they have what they call a connection fee and are huge and then they have what I call “the privilege tax” which is even bigger [laughter].
For us to make the connection to the power line to our entire underground system costs us around $800,000 US. We have about two million in electrical including the underground, wiring etc. Then once it’s all in and it’s all done, we had to sign it all over the electric company. Other developers just don’t understand that.
What’s interesting is when you follow the law in Mexico things work. I have assembled a team of attorneys, engineers and architects; people I feel comfortable that I could work with. But you never know if they’re doing what you want them to do [laugher]. As it turns out, going back to the guy from Mexico City I mentioned earlier, obviously my attorneys, engineers and architects did everything correct because there was the proof [only development with map of individual lots].

MEXICO LIVING: Is this project completed?

BRUCE: No, we have about 18 lots left and about 20 lots we need to get electricity. Then we have to decide on some sort of surface for the street. The original intent was to put some sort of dust proofing sealant. Nothing oil-based or asphalt, because during the rains all the water and oils run down the arroyo and into the sea and we can’t have that. We’ve been very environmentally conscious here and want to protect Baja, so were looking at options.
We’re going to work with the homeowners association; there have been a few homeowners with ideas too. Plus we want to finish our entrance and security gate.

MEXICO LIVING: Yes, it looks like it’s going to be very nice. So what other projects do you have?

BRUCE: We have Playa San Rafael just a half mile north of Playa de Oro, which is very similar except we made the lots bigger. Seems people wanted bigger lots, so that’s what we’ve done, made bigger lots. That project is just in the final stages of recording all the final sub-division documents and once that’s done, we’ll start the development process. We have 330 plus lots over there and we’ve sold about 60 in the pre-sale deal.

The markets we’re looking at there are the US citizen that just wants a little place for the weekend or maybe stay for week or so। Give them a garage to keep their toys in, and keep the pricing below $150,000 for land and home.