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Stephanie Chavez first noticed the abandoned piano in Cathedral Park when she got to work Monday morning. Covered with a stained canvas dropcloth and chained to a park bench, it was painfully obvious this was no Steinway. “I don’t know what the story is,” Chavez, who works in a jewelry store across the street, said Friday.
It’s not a story so much as it is an only-in-Santa Fe tale.
The piano is at the center of a dispute between its owner and the Santa Fe Police Department, though the discord appeared to have been amicably settled late Friday with a handshake — and the issuance of a citation.
Left in the downtown park on a rickety, homemade dolly with chipped green paint and sagging tires taken from a wheelbarrow, the piano belongs to busker David Vigil, a local musician who also is an artist with a studio on Canyon Road. Though the instrument is somewhat mobile, Vigil had been leaving the piano behind overnight — first on the Plaza and later at nearby Cathedral Park. Vigil, 64, said moving the piano back and forth is difficult, so he figured he could lock it up much like people lock up their bicycles.
When police told him not to leave it on the Plaza, he did so, assuming stashing it at the less-traveled Cathedral Park would be OK. So, Vigil secured the piano to a park bench with a bicycle lock. “I know it’s at my own risk, but I don’t think anyone is going to steal a piano because it weighs so much,” he said.
True enough, perhaps, but police recently installed a lock of their own. “We warned him a couple of times before that he could not do that,” police spokesman Greg Gurulé said.
“It’s considered defacing city property,” Gurulé said. “He continued to do it and so we wanted to cite him. He didn’t come around to be cited, so we locked it in hopes of getting that citation into his hands a little better.”
The maneuver worked.
Officer Joshua McDermott, who says he’s known around downtown as “Officer Smiley,” cited Vigil for wrongful use of public property. “What’s my fine?” Vigil asked when the officer handed him the citation late Friday afternoon. “You’re actually going to go to court,” McDermott responded. “We’re actually going to talk in front of the judge and get it figured out.” “I’m just going to plead guilty,” Vigil said. “I want to make sure you have your time in court,” the officer responded. “I already know what she’s going to do,” Vigil said, referring to Municipal Court Judge Virginia Vigil. “The judge is going to recuse herself because she’s my sister.”
“Oh! There’s a twist!” the grinning officer said before proceeding to help Vigil push the piano across the street toward the Plaza. Along their route, both men posed for pictures. When McDermott wasn’t looking, Vigil playfully stuck his tongue out.
Vigil said he didn’t blame police for coming down on him, adding “they have to deal with a lot of (expletive).” “They’re just wonderful people — and I’m a great liar,” he said, jokingly. “I think they think they’re just doing their job.”
McDermott, often on the downtown beat, said police had received seven complaints about Vigil’s piano. “It’s a violation of the busker’s ordinance and it’s misuse of public property because the park benches are made for people to come sit,” McDermott explained.
Vigil, who also plays the guitar, said he bought the piano for $120 from a local family who, he said, had left it outside for years in their wood yard on Canyon Road.“I’ve been rebuilding it and restoring it,” he said of the piano, which has at least one or two keys that don’t work.
Plaza food vendor Roque Garcia said the police department should leave Vigil alone. “It’s a long ways to take it all the way to Canyon Road,” Garcia said. “They should let him. He’s not doing anything wrong. He’s a regular, born and raised here in Santa Fe.”
Vigil, who rolled the piano down to the Plaza from his studio on Canyon Road about a week ago, said he’ll try to find private property in the downtown area to store the piano. Ideally, he said, he would want a golf cart to pull it back and forth.
“I’ll figure something out,” he said. “Santa Fe is a big small town.”
Here is the monthly Eldorado Real Estate Report covering the last six months from October 2017 through March 2018.**Low inventory means higher prices. **Listing prices are increasing due to the lack of available homes on the market. Multiple offer situations are back. If you are looking for a home in Eldorado, best to get your financing in place now if you are getting a loan or have your proof of funds ready if you are paying cash. Offers contingent on selling another home are happening, but your leverage will be slightly decreased.If you are considering listing later in the year, now is an ideal time as competition is low.In March:15 Active Eldorado Properties
15 Homes Under Contract
****************As of today, there are only 10 homes currently on the market in Eldorado.**********
– $184 was the average price per square foot in March. Remember this number depends on a wide range of factors – the size of the house, age, quality of the finishes, views, heating, construction, etc. The larger the house, the lower the price per square foot. The smaller the house, the higher the price per square foot. This average has ranged from $159 – $211 in the last six months. Some properties sell for as low as $115 and as high as $294.
****46 were the average days on the market last month. *** The Santa Fe MLS has changed the way Days on the Market are reported. No longer are the days counted in which a property is under contract, which could be 14-65 days typically. Days on the market are stopped the day a seller accepts an offer.
– 98% is the sales price vs. listing price for March. This is the listing price when the property went under contract, not the original listing price, which may have been higher. This has ranged from 97% – 99% for the last six months. The sooner a property goes under contract, the closer to the listing price the seller is likely to receive.
– 459K was the average listing price last month. The average sales price was 394K.
– 1 month of inventory – which means the length of time it would take to sell all the homes listed in Eldorado at the current rate of sales. Six months indicates a healthy real estate market. Eldorado remains a popular and in-demand neighborhood. In the 14 years I have been a Realtor, I have never seen lower inventory.
If you would like to discuss the current state of the Eldorado market, or have questions about this beautiful neighborhood, please let me know.
Number of Homes For Sale vs. Sold vs. Pended (Oct. 2017 – Mar. 2018)
Average Price per SQFT (Sold) (Oct. 2017 – Mar. 2018)
Avg Days On Market & Sold/List Price % (Oct. 2017 – Mar. 2018)
Average Price of For Sale and Sold (Oct. 2017 – Mar. 2018)
Months of Inventory Based on Closed Sales (Oct. 2017 – Mar. 2018)
If your email program is not displaying the chart graphs properly, please click on the following link which will take you to a web page that contains the graphs: Show Chart
*All reports are published April 2018, based on data available at the end of March 2018. All reports presented are based on data supplied by the Santa Fe MLS. Neither the Association nor its MLS guarantees or is in anyway responsible for its accuracy. Data maintained by the Association or its MLS may not reflect all real estate activities in the market. Information deemed reliable but not guaranteed.
Living the Dream: I Retired to Santa Fe
What’s it really like to retire and start fresh in the Land of Enchantment? We asked someone who did it.
Courtesy of Davel5957
Welcome to Living the Dream, a Livability.com series about people who made their big dreams a reality — and the places and communities that made it possible. Do you know someone who’s carved out a unique lifestyle or business in a small town or small to mid-sized city? We’re always looking for great stories. Email our editor for a chance to be featured!
Today we’re featuring Robert Basler, a journalist who, along with his wife Barbara, decided to relocate to their dream city after retirement. Here, Robert shares the story of how they made a nearly spontaneous cross-country move, tips for starting over in a new place, and why Santa Fe dinner parties are the best dinner parties.
Name: Robert Basler
Location: Santa Fe, New Mexico
Journalist. Several newspapers, then three decades with Reuters.
How long have you lived in Santa Fe?
Where did you live before moving to Santa Fe?
Lots of places, but the last three cities were Washington, DC, Hong Kong and New York.
Photo by Robert Basler
Do you remember your first trip to Santa Fe? Did you instantly know this was a place you wanted to live?
It was 1996. We had recently moved back to the States after eight years in Hong Kong, and wanted to show our young son places that were very different from what he was used to in Asia. Santa Fe certainly qualified. But it would be some 15 years before we would decide this was the perfect place for us to live.
Had you always known you wanted to retire somewhere else? What factors did you take into account when choosing where that would be?
We loved DC, but it was not a place to retire. If you’re not in a sexy job, you’re kind of invisible there. We had always assumed we would retire in the East, but when our son finished grad school and moved to Los Angeles, my wife suggested Santa Fe and it just seemed perfect. We visited again in 2011 to celebrate our 40thanniversary and spent a few days pretending we lived here to see what it would be like. One night, watching the mountains and the sunset and the stars from our hotel balcony, I said if we could live here, why would we go anywhere else?
Photo by Robert Basler
Once you decided to move, how did you go about making the dream a reality? Did the process go smoothly?
We found a real estate guy during our 2011 visit and told him we would probably be moving here in four or five years. Then we returned to DC, did the math, decided we could afford retirement, and nine months later we were living in Santa Fe. So yes, it went smoothly.
Photo by Robert Basler
How did you go about getting settled in, meeting new people, and carving out your new routine? Was there anything about Santa Fe in particular that made this process easier or more difficult?
Let’s be honest: to use the clinical term, what we did was totally insane. We packed up our two dogs and two cats, drove cross-country for five days and arrived in a city were we knew not one single soul apart from our real estate dude. Who does that?
Luckily, there are so many transplants here they have created their own informal support system. I think we know maybe two people here who grew up in New Mexico. The rest are from all over the country. Back in DC, your first question when you met someone new was, “What do you do?” In Santa Fe, you’re not supposed to ask that. If people want you to know what they used to do, they’ll tell you. Many don’t, because they are reinventing themselves and don’t want their past to get in the way. You just respect that and move on. Then, when you get home, you Google them.
Tell us what a typical day looks like for you in Santa Fe.
We live in a place honeycombed with wonderful mountain hiking trails, and we use them nearly every day, doing four or five miles on rocky paths. Apart from that, nothing is really typical. I’m on the Board of the Santa Fe Animal Shelter, and that keeps me pretty busy. So does our own pack of pets. We also foster tiny kittens for the Shelter, and at times we’ve had as many as 10 animals in our menagerie. Try that sometime. I do most of the cooking, and that involves shopping for the freshest ingredients every day.
Photo by Robert Basler
Do you have any tips for building community in a new place, especially in retirement?
I guess my only tip is to keep an open mind. Don’t try to plan retirement the way you planned your life. Fifteen months after we moved to Santa Fe I was writing a regular humor column for an alt-weekly newspaper, I was on the Shelter Board and I was studying Spanish. I didn’t plan on any of that, I just let it happen.
What’s something that surprised you about relocating to Santa Fe?
How very, very smart the people are. If you go to a restaurant, the folks at the next table will be having the most interesting conversation you’ve ever heard. Everybody here is approachable. Everybody. A boorish snob wouldn’t last long in Santa Fe. You know who you are.
It’s probably connected, but I’m also impressed by the spirit of adventure here. I was at a dinner party for eight a few days ago and all eight guests had been to Cuba! No, that wasn’t supposed to be a theme, it was just a happy accident.
Another surprise was what a difference the 7,000-plus feet above sea level altitude makes. I love to cook, but many of my East Coast recipes are useless here. I had to take a high-altitude cooking course, and five years later I’m still getting the hang of it.
Photo by Robert Basler
What advice would you give other people who are hoping to retire in a new place? Anything you wish you’d known before you did it?
Do your homework. Before we made our final decision we had a pretty good idea of Santa Fe’s politics, weather, cultural offerings, taxes, housing and medical facilities. We knew Santa Fe has a small town feel with big city amenities, like a symphony, a world-class opera, visiting artists and lecturers and a couple hundred great restaurants.
Photo by Robert Basler
What do you like most about Santa Fe?
Good God, y’all! Do you have a week? People. Sunsets. The “City Different” kind of vibe. Lights on the Plaza at Christmas. The magical walk up iconic Canyon Road on Christmas Eve. The fragrant smell of pinion logs burning in our fireplace. The aroma of fresh chiles being roasted outside during the season. Taking out-of-town visitors hiking at Kasha Katuwe and showing them Meow Wolf and blowing their minds both places. The free outdoor concerts at the Bandstand throughout the summer. Bird-watching at the Audubon Sanctuary. The very real sense of history in a city that was established years before the pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock. The fact that two different downtown buildings have bronze plaques claiming to be the site of the jail where Billy the Kid was incarcerated. And the fact that you would never, ever, ever mistake this dusty little cowboy town for anyplace else on earth. Those are the things I love most.
I just have to ask: where’s the best place in town to get a burrito?
I’m a Harry’s Roadhouse or Tune Up Café kind of guy.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Yes. If you come here, be prepared to stay. You’ve been warned.
Eldorado Tree Pruning Workshop
Feb. 27, 5 – 7 pm Vista Grande Public Library
The ECIA Road Committee is once again sponsoring a tree pruning workshop for residents of Eldorado and the 285 Corridor. Admission is free and no advance sign-up is required. The workshop will be given by Tom Dominguez, the Santa Fe County Agricultural Extension Agent, and will cover pruning techniques, timing, and tools. If time, weather, and daylight permit, a practical demonstration will be given on one of the roadside trees near the Library. Please direct any questions to John Gervers at email@example.com or by phone at 202-236-3940.