Friday, May 10, 2013


Congratulations to all of the members of the BNSF SCIG Team! Your hard work of nine years has achieved a major milestone.

It has been a privilege to watch you work. You addressed legitimate neighborhood concerns with honesty and patience. You treated deceitful and misleading, self serving pseudo-environmentalists with courtesy despite their repeated penchant for misstatements.

What an incredible team of personnel you assembled to achieve this objective.

Most of all, you have brought a proposal for the most modern and  environmentally responsible intermodal rail yard to fruition. When built, it will keep the Ports of Los Angeles / Long Beach competitive into the future.

Your project will also bring cleaner air to my neighborhood, and much needed jobs.

Thank you,

Mike Ford
SCIG Project Area Resident

On May 8, 2013, the Los Angeles City Council voted to approve SCIG and bring cleaner air, more jobs and less traffic to Southern California! Thank you to all of our supporters who helped make this happen! Let's get to work!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

A Word of Caution to My Fellow Appraisers!

I was shocked when I opened my most recent edition of Working RE and found the following advertisement.  I urge my professional peers to consider the following BEFORE using these types of  time saving "services".

  • The USPAP requirement for protecting client confidentiality
  • The form fields identified as being 'data fields' are also areas that the appraiser is required to analyze!
  • The subject section is more than data.  It is information that each and everyone of us are required to verify and consider in terms of its potential impact on the assignment we are undertaking.  When the subject is located in an unincorporated area that shares the nearby large incorporated city's mailing address, is the appraiser even going to be aware of it?  Will readers have the necessary explanations.  There are far more issues in this section than I can cover here.
  • Who is going to verify the exact nature of the actual ownership interest(s) that exist, versus an assumed fee interest?
  • Will this 'service' be providing neighborhood boundaries?  What training do they have in that area?  Do they know the difference between physical neighborhood bounds, and competitive market areas?  It is the appraisers job to analyze and report the neighborhood characteristics, NOT some "data recorders"!
  • Appraisers themselves have some demonstrated difficulty in understanding the meaning of so called land use zones as reported in commercial reporting services that report as follows: LC A1 (which really simply A1) or LA RE-15 (which is Residential Estate 15,000 SF minimum sites size); or will we continue to see idiotic entries such as RBR3 rather than the correct MDR for City of Redondo Beach Medium Density Residential uses?  Are these 'data fillers' going to explain the former is an unincorporated Los Angeles County zone, while the latter is a Los Angles City zone?  Are they simply going to record the stated zone per the commercial "public records" source (NDC, RealQuest, DataQuick, FARES, etc.), or are they actually going to look it up in the County or City land use zoning maps and correct / update the 'source' data?  That IS an appraisers responsibility.
The success of appraiser controlled and directed data entry programs (such as DataMaster) makes them legitimate time saving tools, provided  the appraiser understands the need to carefully review and override incorrect or inapplicable entries.

That is NOT the same thing as transmitting your file to an outside service!  If contract information is provided to such a service, the appraiser has specifically violated USPAP by disclosing non public information to third parties.

The very fact that a client or borrower is contemplating a transaction that requires an appraisal is no ones business other than that client or property owner!

I submit, that unless the appraiser has disclosed in advance that they transmit non public as well as public sourced borrowers personal information to third party service providers; AND obtained the clients & borrowers specific advance authorization to do so, that they are in violation of USPAP.

What guarantees do the appraisers, property owners and lender-clients have that the fact of a refinance or sale related appraisal, will not be sold as a lead-list to competitors?  Will appraisals performed for divorce or other litigation purposes be used to develop lead-lists for attorneys? 

Too ALL my peers, I remind you that YOU are held solely responsible for insuring the confidentiality of your privileged client and borrower information.  You alone are responsible for report contents, including verification of all data reported.

I would be very nervous to have my name used as a reference within this ad, or on the providers website. You could advertise just as easily that you "are too lazy to perform the work you have been contracted to perform yourself, and that you further do not fully understand the requirements of USPAP "

With the original introduction of HVCC into the appraisal profession, and prevalence of appraisal management companies interceding as third party appraiser processors for clients, there is already a breakdown in the integrity of the appraisal process, and degradation in appraisal report quality and reliability.

The recent lawsuits by the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) that oversees Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSEs) such as FNMA and Freddie Mac, involved poor to egregiously poor appraisals for 75% to 97% of the appraisals they reviewed.

Both lawsuits involved high volume, appraisal management, and or discount service providers (Lenders Services and CoreLogic).  The identified losses amounted to hundreds of millions of dollars.

Lenders Services subsidiary LSI has a nationwide reputation for low fees, and appraisers claiming to perform numerous appraisals each and every day.  Some actually think and claim these are USPAP compliant appraisals.  The only people that believe those claims are non appraisers, or rank amateurs!

Let me reiterate: Despite the periodic claims of USPAP-ignorant and or egotistical appraisers, it is not possible  to routinely perform even two complete appraisals per eight hour day from start to finish.  Claims of doing three to four a day are simply unintended admissions of grossly substandard work.  Even allowing for separate day preparation and appointment setting, and separate day field inspection and report writing, the total time will almost always exceed six to eight hours.  That is IF the appraiser has actually performed the required analyses; investigated market data and used it to derive adjustments and adjustment amounts, rather than using rote methods and amounts.

New appraisers: Your goal should be to become the best appraiser you can.  It should never be to claim the ability to do two or three appraisals a day.  THAT sets you up to become a failure, and advertises incompetence.  Insist on adequate turn around times.  Decline work that is required back in forty-eight hours.  It is not enough time to reliably know that you are going to be able to provide a good product.  Ignore the braggarts that routinely make unrealistic claims.

Experienced appraisers:  For years we have largely ignored those who make unrealistic claims in our profession.  We believed they would eventually be identified by the lenders, and weeded out.  That used to be true, but with AMCs there is increased willingness to accept substandard quality across the board.  Diminished quality is becoming the norm with substandard fees and too fast turn times.

It is time to start calling those out who make such false claims, as well as those 'services' that facilitate them!

Read the following carefully, then review what you know to be required for each section of an appraisal and report.  Even assuming you could comply with USPAP doing this, is it time-effective, or is this adding yet another time consuming administrative step that takes longer than if you did did the work yourself?

Circulation 80,000 | Advertise | Subscribe
Published by OREP, E&O Insurance Experts | Jan. 5, 2012

Appraisal Report Data Entry Service
$14.99 Per Report
Don't spend your valuable time doing data entry. Just upload your files to us and we will put the data into the report to your exact specifications.
Overnight Response You save time and money while you sleep and we do your data entry. In the morning you can download your report file with the data entered. You will be notified by email when the report is complete
UAD Compliant Reports! We have all of the latest software versions and our staff is trained in UAD.
Report Areas we will fill in:
·         Subject section
·         Contract section
·         Neighborhood section
·         Site section or Project Site section (as applicable)
·         Improvements or Unit Improvements section (as applicable)
·         Project Information section (as applicable)
·         Comparable Sales Grid section
·         Prior Sales/Transfer information for Subject and Comparables section
·         PUD Information section (as applicable)
·         1004MC Form
·         Sketch!!! Register Now and get them for Free Forever! ($5 value)
Order Rating and 2 Way Messaging Communicate with your Data Entry Professional with the online messaging interface. Rate your completed orders for quality.
Online Dashboard for Order Management Your online dashboard allows you to manage your orders, profile, and update your standard instructions and data entry templates with a state-of-the-art web 2.0 interface.
Supported Formats:
·         WinTOTAL
·         ClickFORMS
·         ACI Software
Customer Quote:
"... I was dreading each day because I knew I got back to the office after a full day of inspections I still had an entire work day ahead of me... Appraiser Aide has been my salvation. Being able to focus on the field work and customer service while confident that the data entry would be completed accurately overnight has allowed me to go from struggling to meet turn-time demands to exceeding expectations."
- Trevor P, Real Value Appraisals
Additional Links:

Call us anytime at 1-888-665-1121
© 2011 Appraiser Aide™. All rights reserved.

   " (End Quote)
I hold Working RE in  very high regard.  They do not necessarily analyze the impact of every ad they run, for compliance within that profession (though they are affiliated with errors and omissions insurance providers).  My criticism is directed solely at the so called service provider offering to inject themselves into the appraisal process, where they have no business being involved.  That providers website FAQs are copied below:
New Quote:
" Frequently Asked Questions

    Do you perform UAD compliant data entry?
  • Yes, performs UAD compliant data entry. If UAD has slowed you down just let us do the job for you and you'll save even more time on UAD appraisals.
  • How much of the appraisal do you complete?
  • We complete all data entry that is provided to us.
  • What do I need to send you?
  • All information you would normally need to complete the appraisal is needed to enter the data. Any information that is not provided will not be included in the appraisal. Also we do require you send a template of the product type ensuring that we meet your standards.
  • Do I need to send a template with each order?
  • No, we will maintain a database of your templates to use for future appraisals.
  • What services do you provide?
  • We are able to complete data entry for all single family, condo, and drive-by appraisals.
  • What sections of the report will you fill in for me?
  • We will fill out these sections of the report as applicable.
    • Subject section
    • Contract section
    • Neighborhood section
    • Site section or Project Site section (as applicable)
    • Improvements or Unit Improvements section (as applicable)
    • Project Information section (as applicable)
    • Comparable Sales Grid section
    • Prior Sales/Transfer information for Subject and Comparables section
    • PUD Information section (as applicable)
    • 1004MC Form
  • How do I send the data?
  • When placing an order online you may upload all of the files that contain the data including pdf, jpg, xls, and txt files.
  • How do I use your service?
  • After registering, we ask that you log in and complete the "Instructions and Reports" area in your dashboard providing us with your general instructions and report examples, then you may order data entry for your appraisals with our online online form uploading a (zap, clk, or aci) file and your associated data files.
  • What is your turn time?
  • All orders received prior to Midnight (PST) (except Hi.) will be processed overnight. Orders placed on Saturday will be available for download on Monday morning.
    No Holidays! No sick days! 6 days a week!
  • How do I make payment?
  • At the end of each month you will receive an invoice for all completed reports for that month, you may send us a check or pay online for the amount due.
  • How will I receive the completed order?
  • You will receive an email the next morning indicating the order was completed. Just log in to your Appraiser Aide Dashboard and download the completed report.
  • Does this comply with USPAP?
  • Yes, we follow the all applicable USPAP guidelines.
  • Do you take Holidays?
  • Yes, the 2011 holiday schedule is Wednesday, Oct 5, Friday Oct 14, and Tuesday Oct 25. As we will have minimal staffing, please allow an extra day for processing for orders placed on these days. You may indicate "URGENT" in the Additional Notes field of the order form and we will try to fulfill it overnight."
" (End Quote)
I dispute the providers claim of USPAP compliance.  Not too long ago, another 'too good to be true' service was making claims of USPP compliance that were false.  Anyone remember ZAIO?

NOTE: No one named Trevor P. shows up in the California Office of Real Estate Appraisers online license search.  "Real value Appraisals" does show up with a different persons (female) name but has a disconnected telephone number listed. 

Sunday, December 4, 2011

A Macro View of Current Economic Conditions

The following post is a temporary change in direction from recent posts.  It is posted as a reminder to all of us not to fall in to the trap of thinking the economy is "recovering", or that we are out of danger.

I don't normally follow Chinese finances that closely, but this one coupled with another about Europe are of particular interest.  Especially the opinion that we are in greater danger now, than in 2008.  The wording is not mine. The articles were not copyrighted, and are quoted in their entirety.

December 4, 2011 11:11pm.  As you read this, ask whether you are doing everything that you can to create new jobs, and or to increase sustainable, non tax originated revenues.


By Zhou Xin and Nick Edwards
BEIJING (Reuters) - China's services sector cooled in November to its weakest growth in three months, an HSBC purchasing managers' index showed on Monday, the latest data portraying an economy slowing quickly and in need of policy support.
The index fell to 52.5, a sharp decline given that October's reading was 54.1 -- the highest in four months -- though the index remains above the 50 level that separates expansion from contraction in the sector.
Expectations for new business dropped to their lowest level in three months too, but remained firmly above 50.

"With price pressures easing further, Beijing can and should use policies that are targeted on small businesses and service sectors to keep GDP growth at above 8 percent for the coming year," Qu Hongbin, HSBC's chief China economist, said in a statement.

China's official PMI for its non-manufacturing sector, released on Saturday, fell to 49.7 in November from 57.7 in October, the China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing said.

The readings mirror similar weakness in the country's giant manufacturing sector and underline expectations that Beijing will ease monetary policy further to cushion the blows of the global economy.

PMI data in the past week has shown that both domestic and export orders are weakening, helping explain the central bank's decision last week to cut bank reserve requirements for the first time in three years.

The move to free up cash was a signal that the central bank was shifting toward loosening monetary policy to support the economy, which is widely expected to grow next year at less than 9 percent for the first time in a decade, economists said.
Some economists are reluctant to read too much significance into the services indexes given their volatility, lack of seasonal adjustments, simple calculation methodology and their consequently weaker predictive power.

For instance the reading of 49.7 in China's official services PMI for November was an 8 point plunge from October, but smaller than the 9.5 point average since 2007, the starting point for this series, said Tim Condon, head of Asian economic research at ING in Singapore.

Past performance suggests that half that decline will be recovered in December, leaving the index in the mid-50s, though that is well below the near-60 level it has been at for most of the last 18 months and a clear sign of a slowing economy.

"The weakness in the manufacturing sector is spreading to the non-manufacturing economy. We think the policy fine-tuning also will spread," ING's Condon said.
Manufacturing dominates the Chinese economy and made up some 58 percent of activity in 2010. Services accounted for around 38 percent in 2010, losing some share in recent years to manufacturing which benefited from government stimulus programs to help the economy through the global financial crisis.

Factories elsewhere are also feeling the force of the global economic slowdown. A global PMI released last Thursday by JPMorgan, with research and supply management organizations, fell to 49.6, suggesting a contraction in global manufacturing.

Chinese officials have expressed growing alarm at the slide in the global economy as Europe struggles to produce a decisive solution to its debt crisis. China's economic growth has eased for three straight quarters to 9.1 percent in the July-September period.

Vice Finance Minister Zhu Guangyao said last week that the world economy faced a worse crisis now than during 2008 and that stimulating growth should be a priority.

Vice Premier Wang Qishan in November said a chronic global recession was certain.
Most analysts say the central bank has room for further cuts in banks' reserve requirements to release cash into the economy given than inflation is less of a concern. Consumer inflation fell back in October to 5.5 percent from a three-year high in July of 6.5 percent.

Before last week's 50 basis point cut in the ratio from a record 21.5 percent for big banks to 21 percent, a Reuters survey had shown analysts expected 200 basis points of cuts in 2012.

Some analysts have now increased their expectations. Kevin Lai, a senior economist at Daiwa Capital Markets in Hong Kong, said he expects 200 basis points of cuts in addition to last week's reduction.

Few analysts expect the central bank to start cutting interest rates anytime soon though. Rates are already below inflation levels, so a cut could encourage savers to pull money out of the banking system in search of higher returns elsewhere and so crimp bank lending.
(Editing by Ken Wills and Neil Fullick) "

The following is also quoted in it's entirety (copied) - red colored fonts added to direct the readers attention to specific comments.

Factories stall worldwide, U.S. jobless claims rise

By Ross Finley and Emily Kaiser

LONDON/SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Manufacturing activity is contracting across Europe and most of Asia, data showed on Thursday, and a Chinese official declared that the world economy faces a worse situation than in 2008 when Lehman Brothers collapsed.

Factory activity shrank even further in the euro zone, reinforcing the view that the debt-strapped region is in recession, while British manufacturing contracted at the fastest pace in two years, raising the risk that the UK economy may suffer the same fate.
This has been the case for much of the developed world for several months, with the exception of pockets of better news from the United States. But the slowdown now appears to be spreading to economic powerhouses of the developing world.

Adding to the gloom, new U.S. claims for unemployment benefits rose unexpectedly last week, popping above 400,000 for the first time in over a month and reinforcing the view that the battered labor market was healing only slowly.

China's official purchasing managers' index (PMI) showed factory activity shrank in November for the first time in nearly three years, while a similar PMI showed Indian factory growth slowed close to stall speed.

Both China and Brazil eased monetary policy on Wednesday. It came alongside coordinated action from the world's biggest central banks to try to prevent another credit crunch by lowering the cost of dollar swaplines.

"The big picture here is this is an unwinding of a 20-year debt bubble," said Peter Dixon, global financial economist at Commerzbank. "It's going to be painful, and it's going to be nasty. What policymakers are aiming for is a smoothing of the path."
But those policymakers appear to be getting more worried.

Zhu Guangyao, China's advance coordinator to the Group of 20 talks and also a vice finance minister, said heavily indebted countries had limited scope to act now, which will make it harder to sustain global growth as the European debt saga drags on.
"The current crisis, to some extent, is more serious and challenging than the international financial crisis following the fall of Lehman Brothers," Zhu said.
"It's keenly important for countries around the world to work together in the sprit of 'co-operating in the same boat'," he added.

After the Lehman bankruptcy, G20 countries committed trillions of dollars to boosting growth and backstopping banks, and central banks cut interest rates to record lows.
But rates are still near zero in the United States, Japan and Britain, and public finances have deteriorated around the world, leaving less policy space to counter a European downdraft.


Fast-growing emerging markets such as China, Brazil and India led the recovery in 2009, and they are still growing far more rapidly than most developed economies. But they are not immune to weak demand from Europe or the United States.

China's official purchasing managers' index for November fell to 49, dipping below the 50 mark that separates growth from contraction for the first time in nearly three years.
The index of new export orders tumbled to the lowest level since February 2009, perhaps not surprisingly given that Europe is one of China's biggest trading partners.
The final euro zone manufacturing PMI was confirmed at 46.4, its weakest level in two years, with factory activity in both of its biggest economies, Germany and France, weakening.

The UK factory PMI fell to 47.6 in November, its lowest since June 2009, further evidence that Britain's economy is in dangerous territory.
"The manufacturing engine has run out of steam," said Rob Dobson, senior economist at Markit, which compiles the surveys.

Similar factory data for the U.S. are expected later on Thursday, coming on the heels of a Federal Reserve report on Wednesday that said there was moderate growth in recent weeks but that hiring and housing market activity remained anemic.

The weaker-than-expected China PMI reading came one day after Beijing lowered banks' reserve requirements by 50 basis points to try to ease credit strains.
"It's time to start reflating China's economy," said Qu Hongbin, co-head of Asian economics research at HSBC.

An HSBC PMI on China also showed manufacturing activity shrank in November as new orders fell. The index dropped to 47.7 from 51 in October.
He predicted China's central bank would cut another 1.5 percentage points off of reserve requirements by mid-2012, and said the European debt crisis along with China's weakening property market would "only add to downside pressure on growth".
Reserve requirements for big banks stand at 21 percent.

Just a few months ago, inflation was the primary concern for most of Asia's economies. But Europe is the top export destination for many countries including China, so when its crisis intensified, Asia's growth prospects dimmed.

South Korea's factory activity shrank for a fourth consecutive month. Its November exports rose faster than expected, although many economists think that won't last because export orders weakened.

In Indonesia, year-on-year export growth slowed in October to 16.7 percent, well below economists' forecast for 22.7 percent and barely one-third of the growth rate recorded in September.

India bucked the trend, reporting a pick-up in export orders, although its overall PMI dipped on weak domestic demand.

(Additional reporting by Jane Lanhee Lee in Yiwu, Yoo Choonsik in Seoul, Aileen Wang and Kevin Yao in Beijing, Yati Himatsingka in Bangalore, Jonathan Cable and Susan Fenton in London; Editing by Jeremy Gaunt)

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Map of CFASE Suggested Alternate SCIG Sites

The Coalition for a Safe Environment; an affiiate of EastYard Communities for Environmental Justice, under the The Impact Project umbrella has identifed three (3) alternaitve sites inside the port, for hte SCIG project.  See the map below. Icons appearing like Blue Line light rail systems car-fronts mark these spots.

Please keep in mind that the Port of Los Angeles, Southern California Intermodal gateway (SCIG) is located within the governmental jurisdiction of the City of Los Angeles.

  1. Low-center of picture; POLA Pier 500 is a future land fill project.  Neither diesel powered, MagLev(tm), LSM or LIM powered trains operate well underwater.  Suggesting an underwater site for a project that is already five years (almost six) into the process of obtaining approvals, after spending millions of dollars on planning, and studies, is completely unreasonable.  This is obstructionism, not an environmentally sound, helpful alternative.  The site, even if existing today, would be unsuitable for a SCIG.  It is at the furthest reach of the Port! SCIG is a container sorting & consolidation yard.  Not all containers coming off ships are going to the same geographic parts of the country.  Even if dock side tracks existed, there is still a need for the containers to be taken to a near-dock SCIG!  Then there is also the issue of whether the environmental extortionists, will also be opposing the land fill itself.
  2. The Pier S site under development is located adjacent to where the old Terminal Island Marina was located.  It is an area of significant past subsidence.  The site is comprised of extensive fill soil and may or may not be suitable for heavy rail use.  More importantly, IT IS LOCATED IN THE CITY OF LONG BEACH!  The Port of Los Angeles has no authority to grant an approval for a location in Long Beach.  The City of Long Beach has not invited the applicants to use the Pier S site for a SCIG, nor is there any reason to believe they would approve such a use even if it were a practical site (which it is not).  Being located on Terminal Island, the same issues exist as would exist if the site were built on Berth 500 (assuming that site was above water)- it is too far into the harbor to be practical.  Linkage is inadequate.
  3. The "Toyota Site"  like # 2 above, is a Long Beach jurisdictional location.  It is not physically suited to existing use ( imported car storage), plus the SCIG.  It would require construction of several car parking structures - and a City willing to negotiate or impose it's will on existing tenants, for a project that it may or may not want!
The suggested alternative sites are no realistic efforts at finding a viable or reasonable solution.  They are as ridiculous on both the surface as they appear to be, and more so after careful consideration.

They also fail to demonstrate an understanding of what a near dock intermodal facility is, or is supposed to do.

With the only site within the jurisdiction of the Port of Los Angeles being 35 to 50 feet underwater, it is disingenuous of the CFASE or EYCEJ to pretend they have identified "alternative sites within the port" as they claim.

  1. An architectural scale quickly demonstrates that the so called 1/4 mile buffer market line is not uniformly 1/4 of a mile.  It appears to be a less than accurate hand to mouse outlined (freehand) guesstimate.
  2. NONE of the Wilmington sites noted are adversely impacted by this project; they are buffered by the oil refinery between them and the project! (aside from which, prevailing winds are in the opposite direction).  The lower "dogleg" portion is on dedicated truck routes already.  It is only peripherally related to the BNSF SCIG project area which starts NORTH of Pacific Coast highway-not South of it.  The map is unclear, but this appears to be the area that had already been buffered from residential areas by recently built parks; a raised bem, and sound attenuation walls.
  3. The Long Beach side has greater potential for impact in the neighborhood, IF any adverse impact exists at all.  The Villages at Cabrillo are built just North of the trash recycling center, on the East side of the freeway. SCIG has less impact than the trash The previous sentence is incorrect re location in relation to the recycling center, I apologize for the error, and any confusion that results (MFFord 126/2011).  It's also located West of the police station.  It is clearly an "in-fill" project itself, and must not dictate land uses of older, existing industrial zones established long before it was.
  4. The same holds true with the schools and parks identified oon the West side.  There is probably little impact aside from noise potential.  SCIG proponents have offered to build sound attenuation walls at their expense though it would be on City of Long Beach land between the residents and the freeway (reducing an existing noise generator in the process.  They will also have walls and vegetation around the SCIG on the West side of the freeway.
  5. SCIG itself stops at Sepulveda (Willow), although CFASE has chosen to show it extending northward along an existing rail line, up toward another project.
  6. Frankly, in the unlikely event that elements within the oil refinery ever blow up (again), I'd prefer having a railroad with (hopefully) high stacks of containers between my neighborhood and that event.  The last time it happened and I lived on a sailboat in the harbor, and it felt as though the boat had been dismasted when the concussion wave from the blast hit.  IF it ever happens again, I'd rather it be containers and trains that  take the brunt of the hit, than my house.

Friday, November 18, 2011

On Meeting CFASE, & the POLA DEIR for BNSF SCIG...

It is no surprise that opposing opinions are raised at public hearings. Several that were expressed struck me as being either completely unreasonable, or at best, completely unsupported.

Rather than engaging in "he said / she said" type disputes, or engaging in prolonged, unproductive name calling, I thought I'd talk direct with those opponents, and try to better understand where their information comes from.

Mr. Jesse N. Marquez, of the Coalition for a Safe Environment (CFASE) was kind enough to give me a few moments of his time, and a copy of one of his group’s press release packages. He also explained how the conclusion expressed as number 15 "A decrease in your house value" was arrived at. While I expressed my reservations about both the result and the procedure used to arrive at that result, Mr. Marquez still offered to send me the source data used to arrive at the conclusion.  As of this posting, it has not arrived.

It is my intent to address each and every item raised in the press package given to me. To insure that I am not inadvertently misstating CFASE positions, I will try to scan their actual documents into this blog, and to then address their content.

The first document is titled "Is this Your Families Future???"

            The following image with text is a true scanned copy of the document noted above.  It has not been altered in any way other than automatic resizing by my html editor.

            If I am given information that refutes or my comments and or opinions and understanding as expressed herein, I pledge to analyze it and if I am wrong, in whole or in part to acknowledge that at least as prominently within my blog as I have these comments.

            Everything contained herein (except the quoted flyer from CFASE) is my own opinion.  I am not employed by the Port of Los Angeles, or BNSF.  I am not a sub-contractor or independent contractor for either. 

This posting is a continuation of my own campaign against misleading information being presented by Opponents of Progress Sycophants (OOPS!).



"close quote

That a potential for environmental impact exists is not in dispute.  That is, after all, the reason that such projects must have Environmental Impact Reports prepared, submitted, reviewed by staff, and be subjected to review and analysis by the General Public.

                Independent professional analyses are prepared toward that end.  A Draft Environmental Impact Report has been prepared for the Port of Los Angeles, for the Southern California Intermodal Gateway Project, proposed by BNSF.  In my opinion, it addresses all of the required and pertinent issues required in an EIR.  It is clear that CFASE disagrees.

                Let’s analyze the above document provided in the CFASE press release kits.  I’m told non-colorized copies were distributed throughout the Wilmington area the day prior to the November 16, 2011 public hearing at the Wilmington Senior Center.

                Assume the stated number; of two million truck trips a year is correct. (The DEIR notes one million more containers), but with existing volume, some empty trucks, etc. the CFASE estimate does not seem unusual or to be an unreasonable estimate.  The statement that the Port and BNSF refuse to build the project on port tidelands property or use clean zero emissions and low noise trains and trucks is NOT a correct statement.

1.       The Port of Los Angeles representatives explained the difference between on-dock, and near-dock intermodal systems.

a.       The Tidelands Grant Act specifies which projects may be in tidelands areas and which may not.  This is not a volitional regulatory constraint.

b.      There are physical requirements and limitations for rail served intermodal facilities. NONE of the on-dock sites currently available in the Port of L.A. are physically suitable for such a facility.

c.       ALL of the sites potentially available for an intermodal facility in Tidelands areas are needed for on-dock facilities.

2.       Zero emission freight trains or similar utility freight moving systems do not exist.  MagLev™, Linear Synchronous Motor (LSM) and Linear Inductive Motor (LIM) technology have been postulated and treated as if they already exist for heavy freight service. 

a.       There is no operational heavy freight, container moving system using these technologies in operation anywhere in the world today.

b.      Advocates of such systems claim zero emissions for heavy freight container movers, is certain, using statistical data compiled from studies involving lightweight commuter trains.  Trains that in turn are 30% to 40% lighter than conventional light rail commuter trains!  All this data is based on the underlying assumption that the 30% to 40% lighter than conventional light rail trains will also be operating at peak efficiency nearly 100% of the time, and both magnetic and aerodynamic drag will be almost negligible.

c.       One company (General Atomics) has built a prototype 20’ (TEU) container mover and (closed circuit) experimental track in San Diego.  Their website offers no insight into when it will be available for commercial use; what the test data shows in terms of operating costs, what the power costs will be, what the carbon emissions  costs will be, how they will deal with oversized containers (40’ and even larger extended containers over 50’), what, if any the impact on extreme weight differences between two consecutive containers would be on a system that requires equal weight distribution over the entire container mover for optimal operation.

d.      The Port and BNSF are not refusing to use this technology.  The technology is simply not available for commercial, heavy freight.

3.       Zero emission truck use-this is more of a direct mis-representation.  Both the Port and BNSF have promised to use LNG or better trucks, over a specific identified planned ramp up period.  No more than 10% of trucks will not be LNG or better.  They (BNSF & the Port) have deliberately left the options open to use hydrogen and or electric if either of those technologies is proven to viably exceed LNG in the future.

4.       BNSF has agreed to buy newest technology diesel engines and reserve them for operating into and out of the intermodal facility.  Yard switch engines will be all electric generator type.  Overhead cranes will be all electric, and further, will regenerate electricity back into the grid when containers are being downloaded.  Lastly, yard hostlers will be limited in number (10) and all will be nonpolluting LNG or electric.

I have to call a “100% FOUL” on the last introductory sentence in the scanned flyer above.  It is simply untrue!

The flyer makes certain statements of negative events that will be caused by, or result from the project.

1.       It claims the project will cause an increase in premature deaths.  There is zero support for this in the CFASE flyer.  Contrary to inferences, the project will result in emissions that are considered to be 17 times less than the Port’s CAAP.  CAAP was designed to clean the air.   In fact the CFASE lists CAAP as one of THEIR accomplishments!  At best, this is unsupported & irresponsible hyperbole.  At worst, it is intentionally or very carelessly misleading.  I call a 100% FOUL for this item.

2.       Claimed to cause an increase in asthma, other generic respiratory problems and COPD. No support provided to demonstrate newer, cleaner technology, fully compliant with CAAP will cause an INCREASE in these ailments.  I am told the spouse of one of the CFASE “leaders” is a doctor that prepared a 1986 study showing increases in adverse health that were attributed to railroad proximity.  I don’t know the objectivity of that study; its professional reliability, nor whether it has any relevance what so ever for the DEIR proposed technology. I give zero credence for the claim.  As stated, it is not worthy of belief.

3.       Causes lung & other cancers.  No support provided.  No medical / health analysis for similar projects presented to the POLA Environmental Management during the public hearing.  I give zero credence for the claim.  As stated, it is not worthy of belief.

4.       Cause an increase in heart attacks and other diseases.  Like the above items, zero support for the specific claim was provided.  Having had a heart attack, AND having lived inside the Port of L.A. for over 15 years less than a quarter mile from frequently used rail lines, I was most interested in this claim.  MY heart attack was a combination of heredity and lifestyle.  My genetic father died of high cholesterol induced coronary artery blockage when he was 51.  I too had a similar heart attack at 55.  Though I smoked for 40+ years, it was caused purely by arterial blockage.  No support for the position provided. I give zero credence for the claim.  As stated, it is not worthy of belief.

5.       Increased temporary and permanent disabilities.   No support.  This one hardly seems worth addressing. They cannot even identify the medical conditions or nature of these ailments that we are supposed to be in fear of? No support.    I give zero credence for the claim.  As stated, it is not worthy of belief.

6.       There is no justification for claiming this will cause an increase in insurance of any kind, including health care coverage. I give zero credence for the claim.  As stated, it is not worthy of belief.

7.       Job losses due to illness. No support or basis. I give zero credence for the claim.  As stated, it is not worthy of belief.

8.       Increased “deadly” port diesel train & truck air pollution.  IF true (and no support was provided to support this), then moving the SCIG inside the port would appear to provide no net gain to anyone.  It can be argued equally, that failing to build SCIG as proposed, will result in the same thing due to increased traffic of uncontrolled traffic.  The claim is meaningless.

9.       Increased truck & train traffic passing near homes, schools and community.  This is a broad brush statement that mixes subjective half-truths and a true claim so broad as to be meaningless).  Of COURSE there will be an increase in trains and trucks in the community!  IF it is NOT BUILT, then there could also be an increase in trucks in the neighborhoods and near the schools.  Building the project does not cause that.  Forcing two million more trucks on to the 710 and other corridors would.  . I give zero credence for the claim.  As stated, it is not worthy of belief.

10.   Increased accidents. ZERO SUPPORT for the claim! In fact, it is equally probable that less rather than more accidents would take place, due to the removal of 1.5 million ‘plus’ trucks from the 710 freeway.  I give zero credence for the claim.  As stated, it is not worthy of belief.

11.   Increased insurance rates, increased and more serious accidents- complete conditional speculation!  I give zero credence for the claim.  As stated, it is not worthy of belief.

12.   Increased BNSF facility, train and truck traffic noise.  I give 2 out of 3 possible! I assume the facility could generate more noise. More trains, could also generate more noise.  These are items that can be mitigated by two fairly simple fixes (sound walls).  The third claim is untrue.  This project will remove trucks further away from the TI freeway, NOT increase them.  Further trucks going to and from SCIG are specifically PROHIBITED from going as close to the one neighborhood potentially affected (West L.B.) as they currently do.  Wilmington routes do not appear to be significantly affected by SCIG.  66% accurate at best; same credibility I’d give any ‘half-truth’.

13.   Increased global warming impacts from more air pollution. Assuming global warming were still a concern after numerous so called experts have been documented to have falsified evidence, then one has to concede the corollary or inverse is true. IMPROVING air quality as per the Ports CAAP could only REDUCE “global warming impacts”.  Position unsupported and argumentative at best.  Zero credibility.

14.   Diversion of public services to support accidents and emergencies.  Not demonstrated. Increased tax revenue from the facility and higher container volume could just as easily result in increased services!  Elimination of 1.5 million trucks already on the freeway could actually save lives as well be eliminating congestion and rush hour gridlock.

15.   Lastly, my favorite.  CFASE alleges “The project will cause a decrease in your house property value” 

a.       This is a completely untrue statement.  The project as proposed has no potential to affect property values negatively.  It does on the other hand have the potential to benefit property values by (1) reducing air pollution, (2) reducing nearby (TI) traffic for BNSF intermodal destined containers (3) IF allowed by Long Beach City Council, building of a sound attenuation wall between the West side neighborhoods and the TI Freeway (4) Reducing container traffic on the 710 freeway enabling commuters to make better use of this important regional link.

b.      When asked about this, Mr. Marquez said he has all kinds of studies showing houses next to rail lines sell for less than house further away do.  The latter is a true statement.  Example: A house overlooking a pleasant outside view (ocean, park, etc.)  WILL normally sell for more than one next to; close to or affected by train noise.  This is called external inadequacy (formerly called external obsolescence).  The affected neighborhoods have already suffered whatever ‘decrease’ in property value that the market recognizes for being so close to the TI freeway, the existing rail line, and most significantly the overwhelming presence of the huge refinery on the other side of the proposed SCIG.  Modernizing the same site between a dirty, unattractive freeway where heavy construction equipment is regularly stored (and operated) is NOT LIKELY to further decrease property values.  The refinery already operates 24 hours a day.  The freeway is used 24 hours a day.  Historic markets have already penalized the neighborhood as much as they are likely to for this external inadequacy.

c.       Just as the schools buffer the residential neighborhood from the freeway; the freeway buffers the schools from the proposed SCIG, which in turn serves as a buffer between the refinery and the neighborhoods!  If the refinery were not in existence, then I’d have to concede the possibility of expanded rail use reducing property values.  With the refinery, it is not likely.  There is only so much that a perceived external inadequacy will reduce property values by.  Most appraisers opine somewhere around 5% to 10% for a serious condition.  In rare exceptions it can be more –normally in very upscale areas where property values are already very broad and diverse.  In conforming areas, the impact is usually lower.   The reason is that at some point in dropped property values, investors will buy the property as a good deal (less than surrounding values).  10% less than prevailing values will often produce entry level or step up buyers.  10% to 25% will produce investment for rent buyers whose only concern is return.

d.      One thing that COULD cause a new drop in value is the action of Coalition for a Safe Environment CFASE itself!  Established markets already have groups they appeal to.  These are people that know the area and accept it.  When someone starts running around in an irresponsible manner,  claiming property values are going to crash because of all kinds of horrible (new) health risks; then even though those risks are not, or may not be real and supported risks, the market MAY decide the condition they already accepted is in need of further consideration or discounting!  The fear mongering becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy!

e.    Right now the number one thing causing property values to decline in West long Beach is the high unemployment rate!  The number two thing is the high recent foreclosure rate and the probable high future foreclosure rate if jobs are not brought into the area immediately!

f.      Since late 2009 to late 2011, 90810 median property values have been trying to stabilize around $260,000 to $240,000 based on quarter to quarter comparisons that I recently performed (November, 2011), using NDC for all of 90810.  Unless a new storm of foreclosures hits next year as it is forecast to do[1], we should not see a much larger reduction in median value.

g.    The properties fronting to (located across the street from) the park and school along Webster are actually more likely to sell for more than the interior neighborhood properties closer to Santa Fe, or that do not have park like views [2]or school convenience.  Even though this places them closer to the freeway.  While there are many people who see schools and parks as negative features due to reduced privacy and associated school children’s playground noise.  On the other hand, there are many more people (with kids) that see park frontage and school proximity as a very substantial positive.  At least until someone tells them it is a stew of toxicity that is going to kill them and make them so miserably sick in the interim, that they’d be happy to go!

Opposition to any change is fine if that’s in the residents heart and mind.  There is always the temptation to throw in every argument one can think have, “plus the kitchen sink”.  It is human nature. 

It’s the wrong approach to take though, when the type of opposition itself has a good chance of causing the damage that you fear most. 

If MY property value goes down and I can attribute it to unfounded fear caused by CFASE; or future nuisance lawsuits by CFASE (or any other self-serving, ambulance chasing, pseudo environmental groups), then I will be looking for neighbors to join me in suing them!  There is a difference between those that sincerely believe in what they are doing and saying, and those who are looking to capitalize on it monetarily, or through enhanced political power. 

I tried to keep an open mind while reading CFASE press release kit.  In my opinion, there was little contained within it that appeared to be fact based. It appears more as if designed to tug at heartstrings, and play on fear.

I will address the so called three alternative Port Tidelands sites in a separate blog shortly. 

I read the CFASE mission statement.  On the surface it sounds commendable.  With more than fifteen seconds thought it is less commendable.  The statement itself shows a clear bias and fails to define its own euphemistic “Environmental Justice” terminology.

The information provided by CFASE is according to Mr. Marquez compiled from many sources.  Some is scientifica. Some is not.  The CFASE website and it's affiliates sites suggest reliance upon volunteers...even when it comes to taking air quality measurements.

If data is being reported as scientific information, I'd like assurance that it was obtained by qualified professionals, using established scientific methodology, with published results, open and available for peer review.  I don't want well intentioned amateurs taking measurements that are subsequently reported as scientific facts.

Amateur technicians can be trained to operate instruments.  Professional usually also have a code of ethics to adhere to, and are not supposed to be swayed by concerns of self interest.  When and if they are, then their professional peers can test and refute their findings. 

[1] B of A and Chase are both reported in numerous industry publications and sources to be holding back nearly a million more defaulted or expected to default mortgages with intentions of releasing them to the market in starting in early to mid-2012.
[2] Based on my own personal research in late 2009 as a prospective buyer in the area.