Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Port of Los Angeles, BNSF SCIG Support

Hi!  The long term purpose of this blog is to address numerous advanced real estate related topics as they come up. 

The immediate purpose is to introduce myself, and simply to get used to writing (again).

My background: I am a California General Certified Real Estate Appraiser.  Twenty five years full time appraisal; six years real estate sales (California & Nevada), and eight years institutional finance

I passed the California Coastal Commission Exam for (land use) Plan Analyst I in 1991.  Served as Chief Appraiser to SPI (United Title Co.), Valorem Appraisal, A&A Services (appraisal) and owner of Michael F. Ford, Appraisals &  former Sr. Appraiser with United States Treasury Department, Internal Revenue Service Large Business and International Division (LB&I).

I have been hazardous waste removal and emergency services certified; taught appraisal and appraisal standards, founded & was appointed to the Redondo Beach Harbor Users Rights Committee; and General Plan Advisory Committee (circa 1990), "re-founded" the Redondo Beach Boaters Association in the late 1980s  and was subsequently voted a life member, Delegate to the National Water Users Rights Committee in San Diego 1991,  was a founding member of the Wilmington Boaters Association in the early 2000's. 

Former partner in the Marina Diving Company, and (former) owner Diver Mike's Diving & Salvage. I have been a NASDS-Certified scuba diver since 1974.  My diving career involved both scuba and surface supplied air, and near the end was limited almost exclusively to small boat, shallow depth salvage in L.A. Harbor.

Long Ago:
In August of 1980, I left my salaried job as the Budgetary Counselor with Navy Federal Credit Union in Vienna, Virginia, and the five bedroom house I lived in, to return to Redondo Beach and live on a twenty-four foot sailboat. 

That boat 'grew' over the years to 40', 50' and even a 65' boat.  I lived in King Harbor for ten years, and when the larger boats came, Los Angeles (Wilmington) Harbor for fifteen more years.

Obviously, I have loved the water for a long time.

I grew to love the L.B./L.A. Ports and waterfront and all of the associated activities here.  My father was head of civilian industrial relations at the Naval Shipyard, when I was in high school, and in the Marine Corps.

I now live on the West side of Long Beach, a short distance North of Pacific Coast Highway and West of the 710 Freeway. 

No offense to former neighbors, but I like it more here than I did Carroll Park and the Circle Area.  It is vibrant, and alive!  Here, we talk to each other and help each other, even when we are temporarily annoyed with one another.  It is normally less pretentious (to me anyway).

My section of the neighborhood is a so called buffer area.  This is an area in land use planning, that transitions from higher intensity uses 'down' to lower density single family residential dwellings.

Most people give little thought to this concept, although almost all of us recognize the neighborhood characteristics that are more desirable for residences.  There is a recognized method to land use planning.  It is proven over many years, though every once in awhile some (at the time, seemingly sensible) social engineering takes place, and exceptions to long established, customary uses crop up.

Traditional usage has heavy industrial uses planned for peripheral or outer areas, with little or no retail-commercial and residential housing. Commercial (often downtown or central business districts) uses come next, often as buffers to multi family dwellings, and then decreasing density single family uses.  Ideally the use types are clustered, and factors undesirable for residential dwelling are limited to outer industrial (and commercial) areas.

Geography and community expansion limit, and / or force variations to this land use 'plan'. 

In 1897 when the war between Redondo Beach and San Pedro for the designation as the West Coast Deep Water Port for Los Angeles was being fought in the Senate, there was very little housing in San Pedro, Wilmington, and Long Beach.

The entire harbor area was surrounded by the Huntington's railroad lines.  Land access to the harbor could not be had without crossing their tracks.  Fees had to be paid to access shipping and drayage freight.

The discovery and development of oil caused a rush to build housing for transient workers.  It was pretty hodge podge and inter-mixed development.  We see the results of this throughout the Wilmington, San Pedro, Long Beach and Signal Hill areas today. Demand far exceeded supply.

Public transportation was limited (as was personal car ownership). Housing had to be within walking distance of work centers. Even with more conscientious planning in the 1930's, after the great flood caused major rebuilding, the necessity to have housing close to work centers, or at least near public transportation lines, was critical.

Then came World War Two. ALL best were off in terms of traditional planning.  Maximum efficiency and proximity to shipyards was the building priority of the day! The local building boom created rapid expansion of industrial uses toward residences; and residences toward industrial uses.  Shipyards and related supporting commercial, as well as varied light to heavy industrial services spread out in all directions. This continued through the Korean War into the 1950's.

Rather than tearing down older under improvements, or entire blocks of non conforming uses that arose over the prior half century, it was easier (and cheaper) to create new suburbs. 

There was also little in the way of legal mechanisms to effect widespread changes in the community footprint.  Individual property rights of so many veterans of war, and their supporting shipyards services were not something to be trifled with.  Redevelopment Agencies were not common.  How could one 'correct' the intermingling of land uses that took place over the years, even if one wanted to?  Eminent domain was (and still is) perceived as a dirty phrase, and even dirtier concept by most property owners.

It was easier and less costly to expand outward. In the 1960's, "social awareness" and a cultural 'revolution' started.  Redlining and racial discrimination became illegal, and eventually (mostly) disappeared from housing.  While incidents certainly can be found to exist in the country today, they are much less prevalent, and have 'zero social acceptance'.

The California Coastal Initiative (Old Prop 71?) was passed in the 1970's to recover and preserve public access to the coast and coastal waters. 

In the 1970's ('78) Rent control started in Los Angeles; tougher earthquake construction standards were adopted, and we passed Proposition 13 (Article 13 of the State Constitution) to keep older existing residents from being 'taxed out' of their houses.

In the meantime, area economics and industry both changed. To some extent after the Vietnam war, but certainly after "Peace broke out unexpectedly" and the Berlin Wall came down, the area underwent changes that it has still not recovered from.

Environmental awareness (both necessary, and seemingly nuisance levels) grew in the 1980's and 1990's.  By the turn of the millennium it is frequently questionable as to both motive and intent. 

Sea Shepherd, long an advocate of extreme environmental confrontation has morphed into even more extreme individuals who consider themselves above the law, and that have resorted to outright piracy on the high seas.  Instead of being tried and jailed, one "Captain" is given his own cable television program. 

"Conservation Easements" became big business and a recognized tax avoidance scheme across the country.  A noble concept that has been bastardized by abuse all over this land, and much of it's intended benefit, negated.

New England, The South, Colorado, and most recently New Mexico were centers for unethical Land Trusts whose only purpose was to generate fees.  They jeopardize the good work of sincere Trusts, whose only goal is real preservation.

In the 1970's we were told to "save a tree, use a plastic bag"; now we have made plastic bags illegal and decided that it is OK to kill trees again for paper bags as long as we pay a fee of $0.10 per bag for recycling!

Apparently the much heavier gauge 4 to 5 mil plastic we use for trash bags is not a threat to our landfills.  Either that, or we are waiting for the introduction of jumbo paper bags with a conscience fee of $0.75 per bag.

The jury is still out on plastic-paper-fibre diapers.  The plastic pollutes, but paper by itself causes 'social inconveniences'.

FORGET about cotton!  Between the rash of rashes associated with it; diaper-pin stuck bottoms; the distaste the otherwise "socially aware" have for eau de diaper, diaper pails and yes, having to clean the reusable diapers by hand, or adding to the carbon footprint by a diaper cleaning and delivery service "environmental awareness" loses every time.  Besides, the softeners aren't biodegradable.

Better to attack rich land developers. 
stop the gas cars - use bio diesel! Bio diesel invariably has to use regular diesel as well (to start; stop, clean the fuel lines, or in mixture, for either convenience or emergency).  Still can't decide if diesel is good or bad.  Mercedes has blue-diesel that is supposed to be "green"-we don't allow it here. Wrong color apparently. 

Why not mix 10% bio diesel with all truck diesel for a 10% reduction in particulants? Makes too much sense. It's too cost effective and does not provide an all at once solution.

Apparently, now that the diaper concern is resolved (or to hide it's hypocrisy from public sight), there are bigger environmental fish to fry...er bake; frying takes oil and that has cholesterol and its not nearly as healthy.  (Just use a solar oven, please).


"We" already got the refineries and even though the promised $0.05 a gallon environmental compliance cost turns out to be closer to $0.40 to $0.50 per gallon, no one will remember that. 

Lets make the ships plug into a wall socket when they come to port!  I mean, we all KNOW California has PLENTY of affordable, "clean" electrical power!

"OK now that is done, whats next? What do you mean electric is not clean? You can just MAKE it clean by building solar panel generators out where nobody cares, like in the desert!" "Huh?" "What desert turtle? Who ever heard of a turtle in the desert anyway?" "It's a tortoise."  "Tortoise?" "Yeah, that would be sort of a land-turtle."  "Oh. Don't they like clean air?"  "Doesn't matter , you can't disturb their habitat."

At least not until we invent global warming and political power bases are invested in energy companies.  THEN that damn turtle can just go fend for itself!

What's a 'Solyndra'?

"OK new enemy of the people needed! Volunteers? Don't make me pick one!  I will, you know. OK, you asked for it!  Eenie Meenie Minei Moe, my mother said BNSF has got to go!"

*Ends trip down memory lane*  "Good thing no one got me started on self serving, crooked politicians, or that mistaken freon thingy!"

Industrial uses became more 'benign' or at least less visible (TUMS oil Islands for example). Redevelopment agencies became more active in San Pedro and Long Beach.  Brand new property was built right next door to much older, less modern property (all types). 

Real estate prices went crazy!

School Districts CHOSE to build new facilities right next to freeways; downwind of refineries, on top of methane infused soil, next to railroads and anywhere else large chunks of vacant land that nobody else wanted, could be bought cheap.  I'd love to review the EIRs for those!

Now ten to fifteen years later, in 2011 when and where the air is far cleaner than it has been in over a hundred years, and where an older, higher polluting use is considered for replacement by a much more modern and cleaner use, the health of our kids is a concern! 

It is so bad, that even our parks; and the very school buildings themselves, will suffer from this cleaner air and reduction in freeway traffic!

My neighbors to the North should move South of  Kidd Park and East of Santa Fe. I think about every other person over there said they have asthma.

Running around on a soccer field probably helps control it. 

We don't have nearly as much asthma over here. We can't afford it, in my buffer neighborhood. 

My 2005 heart attack had NOTHING to do with smoking for 45 years, or bad air.  Thank God for hereditary high cholesterol! For a minute there, I thought I'd have to take responsibility for it myself!

OK, this time I mean it! *turns off memory lane*

I am not anti environment, but I AM anti environmental stupidity.  "Fad environmentalism" does more harm than good.  It masks real, meaningful environmental progress with instant gratification, and meaningless slogans like "Earth First!" (never mind the nails in trees designed to maim loggers).

BNSF wants to build something major in California.  They complied with both the letter and the spirit of environmental laws in effect when they started this.  They went beyond what is required. 

They just didn't know the new fad slogan of the week was going to be "zero emissions", using technology that does not exist for heavy industrial use yet.

I support the Southern California Intermodal Gateway (SCIG) at the Port of Los Angeles!!! 

  • It will provide immediate, good paying jobs.
  • It will improve air quality - The DEIR forecasted emissions levels are 17 times better than the 2005 Port CAAP standards!
  • Do nothing, and our air quality continues to deteriorate.
  • We ARE going to get one to two million more containers per year in and out of the port- the entire sum of port projects are geared toward this end.  It WILL happen.
  • We have a choice: Either add these containers to truck traffic on and near the 710 freeway, which is already at a standstill, or put them on trains.
  • IF SCIG is approved, the Port and railroad can control the types of trucks used for containers.  They will ALL meet 2007 Port standards (or better), and eventually 90% will be LNG or better.
  • If the project is not built, then the trucks will drive 48 miles round trip to the Hobart- Commerce/Vernon rail yards.  That's 48 million miles per million containers vs. 8 million round trip miles if it IS built.
  • BNSF has been a better 'neighbor' to me than the so called environmental 'justice leagues' and organizations opposing it.  So called "environmental justice" groups have given me misleading data, intended to scare me.  BNSF gave me access to facts.
  • I've heard back from numerous BNSF representatives to every one of my questions.  To date, the original environmental activist that approached me and piqued my interest in this project, has never communicated back to me on why she opposed the project, BEFORE the draft environmental report had even been issued.
  • The 'alternative' so called "zero emissions technology" (MagLev(TM), LSM, LIM, etc. does not exist for similar industrial use, heavy freight shipment in developed urban zones.
  • ALL published studies for these (Mag; LSM, LIM) entailed light weight commuter trains.  Those trains were 30% to 40% lighter than their conventional light rail counterparts.  The magnetic drag, aerodynamic drag, electrical energy required, and frictional drag until lift off speeds are achieved all envisioned optimal conditions of use, and (improperly) dismissed conditions below lift off speed, as they would be too short in duration to be significant factors.
  • Lift off speed for lightweight commuters is 20 to 50 mph. The upper end is simply not achievable or safe in the four mile lines projected.  The upper end speed probably is not adequate for heavy freight vehicle lift off at all.
  • Catastrophic accidents involving high speed commuters (LSM, LIM and otherwise) are not addressed in most feasibility studies which simply indicate collision is not possible because no more than one car can be on a track section at a time.  They do not address metal fatigue or operator errors, which are the causes of the two deadly HSR crashes known.
  • Because the energy consumption; equivalent fuel comparisons, and loaded vehicle weights, and probable majority duration drag factors for heavy freight have never been analyzed (or reported), there is no way of verifying that the technology IS more efficient or cleaner than electric generator diesels or low sulphur diesels.
  • BNSF has committed to regular five year cyclic port locomotive fleet upgrading.  Tier II initially, then Tier III when that technology is available, and ultimately Tier IV when the federal rules are written for it and the technology invented and developed.
In addition to the above, California has a bad reputation for being anti business and anti industry. 

We are now paying the price for that. 

Among the highest unemployment in the nation. Locally in the Long Beach area, it is even higher.

Property values continue to decline.  They decline beyond the direct cause and effect of the 2008 collapse.  Most 2% Option ARM loans responsible for many defaulted loans have either been defaulted and foreclosed; modified, or refinanced. 

In West Long Beach (90810) our median pricing is trying to stabilize around $240,000 to $260,000 over the pas two years. 

The current batch of loan defaults appears to be more loss of job related  than a result of recasting 2% loans to higher rates.

The ONLY way that is going to stop is with more, good paying jobs.  Not temporary government "make work" jobs that use up taxes; but 'real' temporary and permanent private industry jobs, that ADD to the tax base rather than reduce it.

There are many finance and economist professionals who are reporting another potential million defaulted loans next year. 

I have to wonder how many of those can be avoided if we start increasing jobs now?  I don't know if SCIG will help or not. 

It was supposed to start sometime in 2012 to 2013.  If the usual "pseudo-environmentalists" get their way, it will be delayed as long as possible. 

They know it will be approved - it looks like they just want to drive the costs up, for reasons of their own. 

Environmental extortion? Who knows.

PLEASE! Let's identify the real issues and see what we can do to resolve them in a practical, cost effective and reasonable manner.  If you just don't want the project,  "in your back yard (NIMBY)", be honest and say so.

THAT is a reason I cannot argue with.  More project specific information and MaGLev, LSM and LIM information can be found on my website at :

http://www.mfford.com or you can just link to the BNSF or Port of Los Angeles websites.

Your pro or con comments are welcome. 

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