Power Outages & Squatters

ISSUE #198: July 21-26, 2008


Power Outages & Squatters


When I started Residencias Los Jardines, I started writing a weekly news letter —determined to tell all the good, bad, and the ugly. I knew some readers would be interested in the construction process. I expected others might be interested in the lifestyle of two people who had decided to live outside the box. For others, the adventures of lita, the parrot and the cat took on an entertainment saga all its own.

Residencias Los Jardines is finished. We periodically have resales and rental availability. Some readers may be interested in this information.

More and more, the content will be dominated by events of our new project, "El Dorado" for short. While the future is always uncertain, I again aim to tell it like it happens —the good, the bad, and the ugly, and that is what follows.

In an effort to make the format more interesting and visually appealing and to field inquiries re. El Dorado, the news letter is now being distributed by Jan Kozak, Marketing Manager, Hacienda El Dorado. I will remain the author.


Sales: Still working on two custom designs and thinking about the building for lot 14. 

Optional Upgrades: We have approved the budget for the development of a new section on our website. This section will enable our purchasers "shope around" and select optional upgrades for the unit(s) they have purchased at Hacienda El Dorado. The work on this section is expected to commence August 1 and its delivery is currently set for the end of the month of August.


Squatters and Encroachment: On Wednesday, a meeting was arranged with the surveyor, our lawyer, engineer, and site superintendent. We explained to our neighbor we wanted to locate his back lot line according to his survey. Initially he said "yes" then changed his mind and wouldn't allow the surveyor on his property. That was the end of that effort. My assessment is that he probably knows or suspects he's encroached. Regardless, the lawyer tells me if he's been there, uncontested for ??? years, (he probably has), he has squatter rights. This probably happened because the former owner didn't actively monitor his property line; the quebrada was used as a defacto lot line--any land on the other side wasn't deemed valuable. Now that we have buried the quebrada and even though we can't build on it, it is still useful. It makes no difference that the government requires a 10 meter setback from the quebrada for buildings--this is a case of different standards for different people--surprise, surprise. For us to pursue this legally, it's likely to be a 6 year battle with uncertain results.

We decided to try and resolve it in a "neighborly" way. I arranged a meeting with the neighbor on Friday. I explained that while we didn't need this land (and we don't), we would prefer to have it and since the house was not substantial and was falling down (which he acknowledged) we offered a financial solution (from our perspective, we're buying back our own land). He didn't have a price in mind but didn't like what I offered. Before he walked completely out of the office, my two CR "smoozers" settled him down. It was left that he would think about it and we'd speak again on Monday.

Personally, I doubt we will agree either in principle or on a price. We can't build on the land and has only marginal utility to us. We may loose one or two parking spots near 11B but we can replace those by using what is now "visitor" parking. It's not the end of the world for us but we need to give this a try.

Quandary: We have a magnificent tree located near lot 14. For whatever reason, it did not leaf this season. We altered the soil around it but did not disturb its roots but we may have affected its water supply by tubing the quebrada. The branches are alive--full of sap with tiny leaf buds--but the tree has been that way for 4 months now. I don't know whether to assume it won't make it and design a house with that assumption or assume it will pull out of it's state of suspended animation and survive.

Fence: We've selected the subcontractor for the chain link fence. We buy the materials, the subcontractor installs it. The engineer specified columns of 3" X 3" galvanized steel tubing. It doesn't currently exist in CR and may not be in the country for 3+ months. I asked him to specify an alternative and suggested 2" diameter thick walled galvanized pipe.....since I see all types of fences built with this. He agreed. We are now trying to acquire this replacement.


This week, this section will not focus on one particular place or destination. Rather, we have prepared a short photo documentary featuring construction projects underway in our area. A number of new corporate complexes, residential developments and infrastructure projects are now being implemented -- a trend that has triggered a development explosion in Santa Ana some five years ago. The expected consequences and implications? More and better employment opportunities, improved infrastructure and accessibility, new investment opportunities (accompanied by many more income generating possibilities), a wider range of better servicies and new amenities, and a lot more...

Coincidentally, Scott Oliver published an article related to this topic on his website WeLoveCostaRica.com. Check it out.
July 26, 2008
Investing In Real Estate in Costa Rica - The Capital San Jose is the Most Dynamic Area
(WeLoveCostaRica.com) Like any investment, we need to remember that it's not smart to simply throw a dart at the Wall Street Journal and pick a stock to buy.

There are two residential developments currently under construction right next to Residencias Los Jardines on one end of our street also called Calle Miramonte. At the entrance of Calle Miramonte, a small office complex is being built right now as well.

Almeria, a residential development by Grupo Kirebe on Calle Miramonte.

Almeria, a residential development by Grupo Kirebe on Calle Miramonte.

Via Nova, a residential development by Grupo Kirebe on Calle Miramonte.

A small office center being built at the entrance of the street leading to Residencias Los Jardines.


Lindora is probably the fastest growing area of Santa Ana (if not in the entire Central Valley), which is now home to some 15 different banks, restaurants, bars, beauty salons and spas, fashion boutiques, gas stations, coffee houses, grocery stores, commercial centars, dental clinics and the Forum I and Forum II corporate centers that host hundreds of multinational corporations, law firms, financial and investment groups.

Until recently we were unsure what was going on on this construction site adjacent to the Forum I business park...

...until the Citigroup's logo appeared on the face of this new, large, impressive building... Citigroup acquired Banco Cuscatlan's banking operations throughout Central America and has thus contributed to the further consolidation of the banking and financial sectors in the region.

So, should we conclude this is to become the Citigroup's headquarters?

Right behind the new Citigroup building, you can see the yellow Bolsa Nacional de Valores (National Stock Exchange) building.

The construction of the Holiday Inn Express across the street from Forum II is underway...

Grupo Genesis continues with the construction of three more corporate towers at the Forum II business park.

Here you can see one of the three towers at Forum II up close...

About 100 m north from Forum II, a new lot is being prepared, quite likely for yet another commercial center...


About 3 minute drive from the site of Hacienda El Dorado in Rio Oro de Santa Ana, a new commercial center is being announced with the inauguration date set for November 2008. We will make sure to keep you updated on the progress of this project.


Driving from Lindora towards the Red Cross of Santa Ana, on your right han side right before reaching the new Mas x Menos on your left hand side, another what seems like an office building is taking its final shape...


The San Jose - Caldera Highway is a major infrastructure project conceived of some 20 years ago. Politics has always gone into the way of this major highway project though and never got completed. The Arias administration seems to consider this project to be of crucial importance for the country as it is expected to cut down the travel time between the capital of San Jose and the closest beaches by 1 hour. Coincidentally, the beginning of the highway is about 5 minutes drive from both Residencias Los Jardines and Hacienda El Dorado. The city of Santa Ana and the town of Ciudad Colon are likely to benefit substantially from the fact of being located at the entrance of this highway.

The first phase of the San Jose - Caldera Highway consists of expanding the current highway from San Jose to Ciudad Colon from current 2 lanes in both directions to 3 lanes. Here you can see the machinery carving out the space necessary for the additional lanes.

Photo of preparations for the beginning of the San Jose - Caldera Highway at the entrance to Ciudad Colon.

Photo of preparations for the beginning of the San Jose - Caldera Highway at the entrance to Ciudad Colon.

Photo of preparations for the beginning of the San Jose - Caldera Highway at the entrance to Ciudad Colon.

Photo of preparations for the beginning of the San Jose - Caldera Highway at the entrance to Ciudad Colon.

Photo of preparations for the beginning of the San Jose - Caldera Highway at the entrance to Ciudad Colon.

Photo of preparations for the beginning of the San Jose - Caldera Highway at the entrance to Ciudad Colon.

Photo of preparations for the beginning of the San Jose - Caldera Highway at the entrance to Ciudad Colon.

This is supposed to be the exit from the San Jose - Caldera Highway to Ciudad Colon.

This is supposed to be the exit from the San Jose - Caldera Highway to Ciudad Colon.


On the way from Escazu to Santa Ana, you get to pass through a place called Guachipelin de Escazu. Here you can see photos of a new large business and commercial center called Multipark offering hundreds of new commercial locales and office spaces. Where will all those employees live? Santa Ana is on the other side of the hill you can see on the photo, and taking the highway, you can get to Santa Ana faster than to most other locations in Escazu.



Website Upgrade / Marketing: Photos of Residencias Los Jardines, the Santa Ana area and some of the houses are available on line at:

Staff Changes

The new gardener showed up Friday and we are asking the old gardener to train him. When we gave him his two week's notice, we explained that there was nothing wrong with his work but his attendance record was unacceptable. From his composure, I think he knew it was coming. Personally, I'm not happy about this because it now means 4 mo. of closer supervision that I would otherwise have to do on an experienced gardener.

Our new office manager has another week of full time assistance and then she will be flying solo with only occasional assistance on specific issues. She's demonstrated great tact in working with people; this was an important consideration in hiring her. Certainly from that aspect, we made a good decision and everything else seems o.k. as well. She will gain confidence as she learns to fly solo.

Video: Jan has interviewed four companies. We are waiting for quotes. Initial ball park figures from two were $10-15K; Since I paid $3,500 for my now out-of-date video done in Canada, I felt these figures were way off especially since this work involves mainly labor. The last ball park quote we got was $3,500. That narrows down who we will probably be talking with further . This is not a high priority with me as I don't think many people make decisions from the video. My observation is that if web sites don't have a lot to show, you add "life style" images and info. on CR and not much specific content. We have Los Jardines--29 units inside and outside and gardens to show. We don't need a lot of filler, feel good imagery....(marketing people will probably disagree with me).

Rentals: Again we made a strategic mistake--guess we don't learn very fast. We could have leased 119 on Monday but we had made a commitment to hold it for viewing for a client coming the next day. The Tuesday person came, made no commitment, and our Monday client is now gone. When will we learn that $$ talks, BS walks? Guess we need to stop making commitments.

Power Outages and Problems:
We experienced two significant (5 hrs. and 7 hrs) power outages this week--Monday and Wednesday. Monday night around 10pm, a car plowed into a power pole and brought it down (my guess is the driver was drunk and/or going too fast given the location and angle the power pole was hit). The Wednesday event happened about 2:30 in the afternoon. A wild electrical, rain, and wind storm blew through. One of the first lightening bolts blew out a transformer. This means our water pumps are now out of service. Heavy rains followed with wind gusts of probably 50 mph. We survived flooding but only because the storm backed off. This is the first time power has gone out that I remember during a rain storm- but I always recognized it as a weakness for which we had no fall back. The problem with reliance on pumps is that they can always fail when you need them. We will investigate emergency power for the pumps, gate, domestic water supply, and garden / security lighting.

The newbies didn't know how to handle the outages. The oldies either shrugged it off or chatted and drank away the event. I was on gate duty, flood duty, and nervous-nelly duty.

Garden Waste: We have experienced increasing difficulty in dumping surplus garden waste. While we compost as much as we can use, we have surplus waste as well as some very fibrous materials (eg. palm leaves) do not decompose rapidly. Over the years we've had various people with trucks who dumped it somewhere. More recently we had to use our own truck and people. The nearby land fill we went to has now been closed by the City. We now have to go to a land fill in Alajuela and pay $50 per load which seams substantial for a clean, compostable, biodegradable, natural product. But that's the way it is.

Units for Sale/Lease:

Unit 114 - For Sale

Total Area (Sq Ft): 1290
Total area (Sq M): 120
Bedrooms: 2
Bathrooms: 2
Floor(s): Single Floor
Type:  Attached
Furnished: Yes
This 1,290 sf. (plus covered parking for one car and two lockers 67 sf.) single story, semi detached house, with garden terrace, two bedrooms is a beautiful executive style home. This home consists of two large bedrooms one with six piece en-suite bathroom with additional access to separate full shower. Each bedroom has large closets with extensive built-ins for personal organization. The vaulted living room and bathroom ceilings provide a feeling of grandeur while allowing the warmer air to rise and exit through the ceiling ventilating system. There are four TVs (one in each bedroom, one in the living room and one in breakfast / dinning room.) This is a beautiful well appointed home.

Read More

Unit 124 - For Rent

Total Area (Sq Ft): 662
Total area (Sq M): 61
Bedrooms: 1
Floor(s): 2nd Floor
Type: Semi-Detached
Furnished: Yes
This 662 sf, + covered parking for one car, is a one bedroom home on the 2nd floor overlooking the large pool. It is ideal for a single person or couple.

Read More

Unit #107 - For Sale/Rent

Total Area (Sq Ft): 1716
Total area (Sq M): 158
Bedrooms: 2
Bathrooms: 2.5
Floor(s): 2 Story
Type: Detached
Furnished: Yes



This 1,716 sf. (plus parking for one car) two story, detached house, with three terraces, two bedrooms (one on each floor) and upstairs master suite is a beautiful home. This home consists of two VERY large bedrooms (one on each floor) with en-suite bathrooms and a powder room, each with large closets with extensive built-ins for personal organization. The vaulted living room and ground floor bedroom ceilings as well as the master bedroom on the 2nd floor, provide a feeling of grandeur while allowing the warmer air to rise and exit through the ceiling ventilating system. There are three TVs (one in each bedroom and one in the living room.) This is a beautiful home. There is a rough-in for a dishwasher in the kitchen area.

Read More


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July 26, 2008 - RECOMMENDED
Investing In Real Estate in Costa Rica - The Capital San Jose is the Most Dynamic Area
(WeLoveCostaRica.com) Like any investment, we need to remember that it's not smart to simply throw a dart at the Wall Street Journal and pick a stock to buy.

July 24, 2008
Terms of Trade
(La Nacion) Costa Rica has been of the countries most affected by the changes in the prices of internationally-traded products recorded in recent years.

July 24, 2008
Fuel Prices Skyrocket
(La Nacion) The Costa Rican Petroleum Refinery (RECOPE in Spanish) repeatedly requests increases in fuels from the Regulatory Authority, as a result of the upward trend of oil in the international market.

July 24, 2008
Devaluation Increases
(La Nacion) The rate of exchange between the currency of Costa Rica, the colon, and the US dollar has kept on increasing in recent days.

July 24, 2008
Improved Rating
(La Nacion) Amidst Costa Rica’s economic straits, at least some good news surfaced, when Standard and Poor’s improved the credit rating in foreign currency and changed the perspective for the Government of Costa Rica from stable to positive.

July 24, 2008
Costa Rica - Panama Joint Effort
(La Nacion) Panama and Costa Rica will sell joint tourist packages in Europe. The initiative was disclosed by the ministers of tourism Carlos Benavides and Ruben Blades.

July 24, 2008
$90-Million for Forests
(La Nacion) In the next few years, Costa Rica will invest $90 million in the protection of forests. Minister of the Environment Roberto Dobles said that the National Forest Financing Fund (FONAFIFO in Spanish) will manage the funds through the payment of environmental services.

July 24, 2008
Shark Tagging
(La Nacion) In an effort for the survival of three types of sharks, scientists tagged and placed acoustic devices and satellite-guided gadgets on a number of them.

July 24, 2008
Chinese Quarter
(La Nacion) The mayor of San José Johnny Araya said that because of the high traffic in the Paseo de los Estudiantes area, the city council decided to establish the planned Chinese Quarter on 11th street, between 2nd and 14th avenues.

July 24, 2008
University Purchase
(La Nacion) United States firm Laureate Education bought two private Costa Rican colleges: Universidad Latina and Universidad Americana, therefore taking to three the higher-learning centers it runs here, since it has had controlling shares of Universidad Interamericana since 2003.

July 24, 2008
A New Cold War in the Caribbean?
(The Time) Ever since the Monroe Doctrine, the United States has seen the Caribbean in the way that the Romans viewed the Mediterranean — Mare Nostrum, Our Sea. From the Spanish-American War through the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Central American dirty wars of the Reagan era, Washington was always quick to flex its muscle over the rum-soaked waters that stretch from Florida to Venezuela. The bad news: It ain't our sea anymore, gringos.

July 23, 2008
INS Insurance Monopoly at an End
(Inside Costa Rica) With the signature of Costa Rican president, Oscar Arias, the insurance monopoly held by the Instituto Nacional de Seguros (INS), has ended, allowing Costa Ricans to make a choice once the competition enters the market.

July 21, 2008
Costa Rica's Economy Growing but Slowing Down - RECOMMENDED
(The Tico Times/EFE) Despite strong growth during the first four months of the year, the Costa Rican economy is slowing down, according to the Central Bank.

July 21, 2008
HDTV In Costa Rica In Five Years, Experts Say
(Inside Costa Rica) April 7, 2009 is the date set for the end of all full power analog (NTSC) TV transmissions in the U.S., the same occurring in Europe in 2009. However, it won't be for another five years before digital television transmission will replace analog in Costa Rica, according to the experts.

July 21, 2008
Massage Parlours Are Really Front For Prostitution
(Inside Costa Rica) There are more than 100 massage parlours, more than half located in San José, that provide sexual services to clients taking advantage of lax municipal codes and enforcements. Many advertise in the local newspapers and do little to hide what they really are offering.

July 21, 2008
New Study Ranks Costa Rica High Schools by Performance
(Costa Rica Pages) No matter his country of residence, every parent is concerned with his child’s education. Reflecting the needs of both Costa Rican parents and their expatriate counterparts, a recent study gathered information on all Costa Rica schools, ranking public, private and semi-private institutions accordingly. For many, the results were surprising.

July 20, 2008
Against the Odds: Nery Brenes
(BBC) Nery Brenes struggled for years to get the funding to race professionally The BBC's Against the Odds series profiles athletes heading to the Olympics despite huge obstacles.


Weather: Lots of overcast, gray mornings / days. We haven't been getting the sun as much this green season as in past years but we haven't been having hard afternoon rains as well.

Power outages, staff training, unit turnover, and squatter encroachment, and various people leaving didn't leave time for more than 3 good shared meals.

We did find time to drive to Puriscal and taxi three people who hadn't been there before. I wanted to pick up some of their fantastic cigars--mild, fresh because they are made there, and inexpensive for the quality. We also had to have chicharones as well since Puriscal is famous for this dish.

Note: Over the past two plus months, I witnessed and was one of the players on Life's stage, a retired person trying to find his way in life after work. He had a number of relationship issues to deal with and had to re-define himself and put the pieces of his life back together. I think he's now on his way but his adventure in CR didn't provide the solution he thought it would. CR can be a magical place and can provide new opportunities but one has to have their issues sorted out--I've never seen miracles here--people bring their problems with them and they have to solve them. I've never seen a successful "retirement" (whatever that means) whether in CR or elsewhere, which involves doing "nothing". In addition, anyone moving here should not expect CR to be like ??? Florida, New York, Toronto, etc.......it isn't and I hope it never will be.

Fishing: On Sunday I agreed to take Lita fishing. She had been bugging me for several months. Outside of Cartago up in the cooler hills are private trout ponds. We went. A hour's drive and during which we got lost several times but eventually found our goal. We watched to learn the process. Got some line and a hook along with bait. Soon Lita was in full swing--first feeding the fish and then snagging them. After two nice 14-15 inchers, we were finished. They were cleaned, given to the kitchen to cook, and we feasted. Catching something was never a guess; having a good time was and she did as well as a nice meal. This is a family place for Ticos; everyone was having a good time.
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