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CSU’s Todos Santos center criticized by Mexican residents

Todos_Santos_map
Todos Santos is a small town of 5,000 people. The Town supports many marine ecosystems.

A Colorado State University center under construction in a small Mexican coastal community is being scrutinized by community members because of the University’s connection with a developer planning a housing project that could triple the population of the small town.

Todos Santos, located on the Pacific side of the Baja peninsula, is a small town of 5,000 people. About 47 miles from Cabo San Lucas, the town is primarily a fishing village that also supports a sizable community of American expatriates.

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MIRA, a housing developer based out of the Denver company Black Creek, is planning a large housing development called Tres Santos that could potentially triple the population of the city.

Alongside the housing project, the company donated land to CSU. According to CSU Provost Rick Miranda, the donation agreement with MIRA gave CSU access to a few acres of land and buildings constructed by MIRA. In return, CSU will use the land for research, teaching and community outreach.

According to Miranda, MIRA has no control over what CSU plans and will operate separately from developers if they continue the housing project or not.

“We are going to be very independent whether they build anything or not,” Miranda said.

In an email addressed to CSU administration and the Collegian, Susana Mahieux, a co-founder of an environmental board and local, wrote on behalf of residents and raised many concerns about the environmental and economic impacts of the housing development along with CSU’s involvement with the project.

“It is hard to understand how, through your participation, you can support this project, especially given that your course outline includes water conservation, sustainable development and general ecological balance. Tres Santos will negate every principle you propose to teach,” Mahieux wrote.

Leticia Maldonado, a CSU graduate and president of the CSU Latin American Students and Scholars Organization, was sent by CSU to Todos Santos to gather community input earlier this year.

Maldonado said she was surprised by the negative feedback she received from the community and the involvement of MIRA. Maldonado left a meeting with the developers feeling disheartened by their plans.

“I was very disappointed by the type of language that was used,” Maldonado said. “It was clear that there was no cultural competence. I was the only woman of color in a room full of white people talking about the needs of this town and it was really concerning because it didn’t really seem like the people understood what the concerns of the town actually were.”

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Along with meeting the housing developers, Maldonado also met with local researchers and professors from the Autonomous University of Baja California Sur, who were very critical of CSU and the school’s involvement with the potentially damaging housing project.

“There was clear opposition to the project. They said as an institution of higher education, ‘You should know better.’ These companies come and they exploit and extract resources from the town, especially water,” Maldonado said. “They said, ‘You are educators, too, why aren’t you taking this seriously?”

Even without the housing project, Todos Santos already faces severe water problems, according to John McNerney, a resident of Todos Santos and member of the local group that sent the email to CSU administration.

“The idea that they are going to teach us about sustainability is kind of a joke,” McNerney said.

According to McNerney, Todos Santos receives an average rainfall of about 3 to 4 inches per year and most of the town’s drinking water comes from nearby mountain springs.

MIRA filed an environmental impact report that said they would use a certain amount of water per day. According to Maldonado, the amount is more than what Todos Santos uses in a week.

Beyond water scarcity, Maldonado said the beachfront property could potentially affect marine ecosystems and block local fishermen’s access to the beaches.

“I don’t understand how our administration does not see this partnership as a clear contradiction of our institutional mission and values … we are a green university,” Maldonado said. “We want to be down there and research water and marine ecosystems and we have two researchers that are marine biologists and marine ecologists that are looking at us in our faces telling us, ‘This project is going to devastate our marine ecosystem.”

When Maldonado returned to CSU she wrote a report detailing her experience in Todos Santos. On May 9, 2014, Maldonado reported her concerns to the CSU Board of Governors.

CSU-Todos-Santos-Center-Rendering-2
A rendering of the CSU Todos Santos Center. The facility is under development now and is anticipated to be done next year.

According to Miranda, the University is aware of the concerns shared by Maldonado and the Todos Santos community.

“We hear the entire spectrum of commentary and opinion about the development there. Some people are very concerned about it for a variety of reasons … on the other end of the spectrum there are people who are wildly enthusiastic,” Miranda said.

According to Miranda, whenever CSU officials spoke about their missions and goals in the area, they received very warm feedback. However, Miranda does note the housing project is controversial.

“There is no escape from the fact that the housing development is controversial,” Miranda said. “That’s not anything that we are trying to suppress or walk away from. We think the exact expertise CSU brings is going to be useful to the community and the housing development and more broadly to the region.”

The Collegian reached out to representatives from MIRA for comment, but they have not responded.

The CSU facility in Todos Santos is currently under development and is anticipated to finish in the next year.

Collegian Senior Reporter Skyler Leonard can be reached at news@collegian.com.

 

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All The Rocky Mountain Collegian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

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  • L

    Laura LoboJan 8, 2016 at 2:30 pm

    Reply
  • L

    Laura LoboJan 8, 2016 at 2:30 pm

    Reply
  • J

    Jamie SechristOct 20, 2015 at 10:07 am

    This is an information release about the environmental and social impacts that
    Denver-based Black Creek Capital, through its partners and children companies (Black
    Creek Mira, Tres Santos Hub) is having on the local economy and environment
    of Todos Santos, Baja California Sur, Mexico, with its construction of a
    real estate development at the side of the Pacific Ocean.

    Todos Santos, Baja California Sur, Mexico, a small town of 6,000 people an hour
    north of Cabo that for over two decades has attracted artists, bohemians,
    surfers and the like from the world over is under threat from a construction
    development (named “Tres Santos”) that could more than double the town’s
    population and water consumption. Todos Santos has a limited water
    supply and sits nestled in the middle of the Baja desert.

    Tres Santos (www.tressantosbaja.com), a project of Denver-based Black
    Creek Capital (www.blackcreekcapital.com), bills itself as an
    environmentally responsible real estate development that will also benefit
    the local economy and integrate seamlessly with the existing activities and
    communities of the Todos Santos area (fishing, farming, ecotourism, etc).

    This is the company’s vimeo channel which gives an overview of their project
    and progress coming along:

    https://vimeo.com/tressantosbaja/videos

    This video specifically talks about the project’s relationship with the local
    fisherman co-ops:

    https://vimeo.com/136319207

    The hotel is being built by the Bunkhouse Group out of Austin, TX (www.bunkhousegroup.com).

    Testimony of Colorado Native

    https://www.facebook.com/jamie.sechrist/videos/vb.1615008376/10204326181067382/?type=3&theater

    The
    months of August and September have brought a lot of rains to the area and the
    beach shown in their corporate videos above has in large part disappeared
    over the past 60 days. HIGH TIDE, HIGH WAVES CAUSE FURTHER
    MASSIVE EROSION OF SEAWALL at Tres Santos 32-room Boutique “San
    Cristobal” Hotel now under construction in Punta Lobos
    Beach. Fishermen scrambled to pull boats up the beach, away from
    danger, literally pulling their pangas into the weeds to keep them from
    washing away. Mexican Federal Law requires a freely-passable 20 meter
    area between the high tide mark and any construction. This has been
    violated by the developers.

    This is a video of conditions at the site as of yesterday, Sunday Oct 11, 2015:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=owrMMQOii6U

    These
    conditions have worsened even from yesterday, as the area has experienced heavy
    rainfall and the drainage from the construction site has further eroded what
    little space the fishermen have left.

    The developers also said they would benefit the fishermen and the reality is
    quite the contrary, they have made their livelihood practically
    impossible. They said they wouldn’t touch any municipal water because
    they are supposed to install a desal plant, but they broke that promise as
    well and are taking the town’s water supply. They tore down over 4 acres
    of protected red mangrove, an endemic species to the area, to build the
    footprint for this development. They often work under cover of night to
    avoid curious observers.

    The project has also brought along a University Center from
    Colorado State University (http://todossantos.colostate.edu/, https://www.facebook.com/CSUTodosSantos) to bring environmental
    education workshops and programs to the community, but it has been
    revealed that the academics from CSU are forbidden from speaking against
    Tres Santos publicly.

    There
    are several facebook pages and groups talking about the issue, you can find
    many photographs and videos of this beach both before and after the
    environmental devastation caused by Black Creek:

    https://www.facebook.com/TRUTHSantos/

    https://www.facebook.com/SalvemosPuntaLobos/

    https://www.facebook.com/Playa-Punta-Lobos-BCS-624486610949133

    The project’s facebook page

    https://www.facebook.com/TresSantosBaja

    Contacts:

    Tres
    Santos – Ernie Glesner, Budget Director, eglesner@tressantosbaja.com, 011-52-612-145-0632, ext.
    101

    CSU
    Todos santos – Kim Kita, director of Special Projects and Partnerships, kim.kita@colostate.edu, (970) 690-3922

    Black
    Creek – James Mulvihill, CEO, (303) 869-4600

    Bunkhouse
    Group – Liz Lambert (https://twitter.com/thelizlambert)

    Concept
    Guru – Chip Conley, Head of Global Hospitality and Strategy, AirBnB
    (chipconley.com, twitter.com/chipconley)

    Marketing/PR
    Company – Doug Chorpenning, founder, The Wet Paint Group, Centennial, CO, (720)
    272-7031

    Thank you for your attention to this matter and bringing the story back to the Denver
    area. We hope your coverage will help make the company accountable for
    the damage they’ve already caused.

    Reply
  • J

    Jamie SechristOct 20, 2015 at 9:11 am

    This
    is an information release about the environmental and social impacts that
    Denver-based Black Creek Capital, through its partners and children companies (Black
    Creek Mira, Tres Santos Hub) is having on the local economy and environment
    of Todos Santos, Baja California Sur, Mexico, with its construction of a
    real estate development at the side of the Pacific Ocean.

    #‎truthsantos ‪#‎tressantos ‪#‎todossantospueblomagico ‪#‎tresdiablos

    Todos Santos, Baja California Sur, Mexico, a small town of 6,000 people an hour
    north of Cabo that for over two decades has attracted artists, bohemians,
    surfers and the like from the world over is under threat from a construction
    development (named “Tres Santos”) that could more than double the town’s
    population and water consumption. Todos Santos has a limited water
    supply and sits nestled in the middle of the Baja desert.

    Tres Santos (www.tressantosbaja.com), a project of Denver-based Black
    Creek Capital (www.blackcreekcapital.com), bills itself as an
    environmentally responsible real estate development that will also benefit
    the local economy and integrate seamlessly with the existing activities and
    communities of the Todos Santos area (fishing, farming, ecotourism, etc).

    This is the company’s vimeo channel which gives an overview of their project
    and progress coming along:

    https://vimeo.com/tressantosbaja/videos

    This video specifically talks about the project’s relationship with the local
    fisherman co-ops:

    https://vimeo.com/136319207

    The hotel is being built by the Bunkhouse Group out of Austin, TX (www.bunkhousegroup.com).

    The
    months of August and September have brought a lot of rains to the area and the
    beach shown in their corporate videos above has in large part disappeared
    over the past 60 days. HIGH TIDE, HIGH WAVES CAUSE FURTHER
    MASSIVE EROSION OF SEAWALL at Tres Santos 32-room Boutique “San
    Cristobal” Hotel now under construction in Punta Lobos
    Beach. Fishermen scrambled to pull boats up the beach, away from
    danger, literally pulling their pangas into the weeds to keep them from
    washing away. Mexican Federal Law requires a freely-passable 20 meter
    area between the high tide mark and any construction. This has been
    violated by the developers.

    This is a video of conditions at the site as of yesterday, Sunday Oct 11, 2015:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=owrMMQOii6U

    These
    conditions have worsened even from yesterday, as the area has experienced heavy
    rainfall and the drainage from the construction site has further eroded what
    little space the fishermen have left.

    The developers also said they would benefit the fishermen and the reality is
    quite the contrary, they have made their livelihood practically
    impossible. They said they wouldn’t touch any municipal water because
    they are supposed to install a desal plant, but they broke that promise as
    well and are taking the town’s water supply. They tore down over 4 acres
    of protected red mangrove, an endemic species to the area, to build the
    footprint for this development. They often work under cover of night to
    avoid curious observers.

    The project has also brought along a University Center from
    Colorado State University (http://todossantos.colostate.edu/, https://www.facebook.com/CSUTodosSantos) to bring environmental
    education workshops and programs to the community, but it has been
    revealed that the academics from CSU are forbidden from speaking against
    Tres Santos publicly.

    There
    are several facebook pages and groups talking about the issue, you can find
    many photographs and videos of this beach both before and after the
    environmental devastation caused by Black Creek:

    https://www.facebook.com/TRUTHSantos/

    https://www.facebook.com/SalvemosPuntaLobos/

    https://www.facebook.com/Playa-Punta-Lobos-BCS-624486610949133

    The project’s facebook page

    https://www.facebook.com/TresSantosBaja

    Contacts:

    Tres
    Santos – Ernie Glesner, Budget Director, eglesner@tressantosbaja.com, 011-52-612-145-0632, ext.
    101

    CSU
    Todos santos – Kim Kita, director of Special Projects and Partnerships, kim.kita@colostate.edu, (970) 690-3922

    Black
    Creek – James Mulvihill, CEO, (303) 869-4600

    Bunkhouse
    Group – Liz Lambert (https://twitter.com/thelizlambert)

    Concept
    Guru – Chip Conley, Head of Global Hospitality and Strategy, AirBnB
    (chipconley.com, twitter.com/chipconley)

    Marketing/PR
    Company – Doug Chorpenning, founder, The Wet Paint Group, Centennial, CO, (720)
    272-7031

    Thank
    you for your attention to this matter and bringing the story back to the Denver
    area. We hope your coverage will help make the company accountable for
    the damage they’ve already caused.

    Reply
  • D

    don loboOct 14, 2015 at 2:26 am

    Porfirio has been fishing all his life, just as his father
    did, and his father, etc. When we first came to Todos Santos, I used to
    love watching the fishermen coming back to the beach with their catch.
    Approaching the beach at a sharp angle, they would rev their outboard
    engines, and catch a wave just perfectly to glide their lanchas out of
    the water entirely, and onto the smooth sands of Playa Punta Lobos.

    Now that beach has been despoiled by the Tres Santos mega-development.
    Those responsible for that project claim to be selling an
    environmentally conscious, sustainable living arrangement, and they have
    Colorado State University in cahoots with them. This is nothing but a
    lie.

    (CSU, either you have been corrupted by Tres Santos money,
    or you do not know what the hell is going on down here. In either case,
    shame on you, and I hope you can snap out of it and make this right
    somehow.)

    This morning while I was making his portrait, Porfirio
    told me that Tres Santos had trucked in tons of rocks in a vain effort
    to protect their unfeasible, entirely unwise construction project which
    they have pushed directly up against the beach where no SANE person
    would ever even think about building anything.

    In my 23 years here, I have seen that zone entirely under water many times. Bunch of
    idiots. No tienen dos dedos de frente. Eso que ni qué.

    Now those rocks that have no business being anywhere near that beach have
    been carried away by the waves and spread right into the area where
    Porfirio and his compadres need to land their lanchas.

    Porfirio showed me one of his two boats that had its bottom broken open in two
    places by those wayward Tres Santos rocks. Some of his amigos are out of
    business too because they have broken propellers against those same
    rocks, and cannot afford new ones.

    This expropriation of Mexican
    beaches by foreign money, and the forcing of ordinary Mexican citizens
    out of their historic patrimony is a crime against humanity.

    I will do everything in can to discourage anyone from buying anything from
    Tres Santos, or from cooperating in any way with Colorado State
    University.

    Reply
  • 4

    4OceansSep 7, 2015 at 11:47 am

    This project is a disaster. Unbelievable that CSU would allow themselves to be led around by the nose by a reckless developer on this, even after knowing impacts. Deplorable and shameful.

    Reply