Friday, August 14, 2009

Back to Technical Stuff

Buildings presently under construction are governed by the 2006 International Building Code.  Chapter 2 of the IBC includes over 600 definitions of terms used elsewhere in the Code.  Believe me when I tell you that, in any code, the devil is in the definitions.

Let me give you just one example.  "Approved", which is used over 800 times in the 2006 IBC, is defined as "Acceptable to the code official or authority having jurisdiction."  Translation: Something is approved if and only if the building department says it is.

Now theoretically the building department can get so off base that its definition of "accepted" is unacceptable.  Do you have any idea what it takes to get a court to say so?  Believe me, you don't want to spend the money to find out.  Make nice with your building inspector.

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Speaking of SunCrest...

...Zions Bank is suing Draper for $25 million for interfering with its development.  Even though you can't get anyone to buy up there because you can't get any financing up there because no geotech engineer will sign off up there because the whole thing is slumping.  Talk about drinking funky Kool-Aid.  Draper scewed up, all right; it screwed up when it greenlighted that turkey in the first place.

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Well, We're Gaining Ground in Something

We're No. 5!  We're No. 5!

Yes, Utah is now fifth in the nation in foreclosures per capita.  I knew there was only so long we could hide all the distressed properties in the peculiarities of local culture.  The troubles are busting out everywhere now.  The Draper Bench is a sea of REO.  I think they should change SunCrest's name back to Widow Maker because there must be a bunch of angry housewives up there ready to kill their high roller husbands.  There are several other such choice areas around the valley, St. George is a train wreck, and from what I can gather here, so is Heber.

Anybody who thinks this market has bottomed is drinking Realtor Kool-Aid.

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Thursday, August 06, 2009

When It Falls Over?

And the answer is, "This is the day the Odd Fellows Hall will be moved into place."

The federal courts want to expand to take up the entire half-block along 400 South between Main and West Temple.  Rather than tear the historic Odd Fellows Hall down, though, it was decided to move it across Pierpont Avenue.  But having been jacked up and spun around, it's been sitting on its cribs and beams for a couple of months, waiting for the general contractor, Layton Construction, and the moving sub, Emmert International, to sort out a payment dispute.  That can't be good for a building that's 118 years old and could easily disintegrate into a pile of rubble, thereby mooting the issue.  In the mean time, the court project is on hold.

The thing I find peculiar here is that this is a GSA project.  I would venture to say that every GSA project I've been associated with required the general to post a performance bond.  Why isn't there one on this project?  And if there is, why hasn't it been called to get this project off the dime?  And why haven't any of the media reporting on this thought to ask these questions?

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Wednesday, August 05, 2009


Does anyone really want to run a grocery store here (See here and here.)?  Remember when Safeway and American Stores ran stores here and then shut them all down (although American Stores maintained its corporate headquarters here and even built a new building, which it then abandoned when it sold out to Albertsons, which then sold to Supervalu, which has now sold to Associated Foods, and I think I'm getting dizzy)?

Anyway, Supervalu is dealing the stores it recently acquired in its Albertsons acquisition to Associated Foods, which is a co-op consisting of Ream's, Winegar's, Kent's, and Harmons and operates Macey's, Dan's, Lin's, and Dick's Market.  The deal involves 36 stores and will boost Associated's number of company-owned stores from 22 to 58.

I don't mind the transfer itself.  I've always done most of my shopping at Associated's stores, so this isn't going to change my habits.  My concern is that a number of these sites have to be in direct conflict with the member's stores.  Think about that laundry list in the previous paragraph and how many have an Albertsons close by.  I'm wondering how long this will last before members start pressing for closures.  Any way I look at it, I see more dark grocery stores in my crystal ball.

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Is This Any Way to Run an Education System?

By any, objective measure, Utah has its peculiarities.  Perhaps none are so glaring as its treatment of schools, in spite of a lot of lip service being paid to kids and their education.  Among the many oddities, I shall point out these: 1) Although we have burgeoning subdivisions full of burgeoning families, schools have no authority to ensure that developers set aside land for schools; 2) as the Canyons-Jordan debacle shows, sections of school districts may secede without any say from the rest of the district (or other districts that end up having to pay equalization money); and 3) you can just about open up a school out of the trunk of your car.

Witness the Bob Jones tandem train wreck, the John Locke Academy and the School for Autistic Healing.  A real estate developer, Jones was flying high until the market turned.  He used his cash flow to finance the schools, and by most reports, they were good facilities.  But then the market did turn, and the money ran out, and the schools crashed and burned.  Parents were left scrambling for alternate schools, especially tough for special needs kids, and often after having paid tuition up front for educations that now would never happen.

I can't say Jones is blameless in this.  He looks like yet another Utah glad-hander who stretched everything well beyond the breaking point.  But I have to ask, "Where's the bonding?  Where's the back-up plan?"  The quick and dirty answer is that they don't exist because there is nothing in Utah law requiring them.  Our Glorious Legislature is very keen on making it easy to provide "alternatives" to public schools, but it doesn't want anyone to be responsible when those "alternatives" go belly-up.  Anyone, that is, except the public schools, which must now scramble to find places for all these kids.

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