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June 2009

Foreclosure Watch: How Many Houses for Sale?


In the Pacifica Tribune (6-24-09) a local real estate agent ran a full-page ad in which one column was headed "Real Estate and Loan News." She asserts, among other things, that: "Inventory is Low ... Currently there are 47 single family homes for sale in Pacifica down from over 100 this time last year. ... Today there are only 4 bank owned properties on the market." But according to RealtyTrac, a Southern California company that tracks foreclosures, there were 60 bank-owned properties (REO) as of June 21, 2009, in Pacifica’s 94044 zip code. Since then, the number has declined to 56, indicating a huge "shadow inventory" of REOs in Pacifica if banks are not putting them on the market.

How Big Is the Problem?

The chart below is a record of Pre-Foreclosure Notices over the past two years published in the Pacifica Tribune. The data are for the northern San Mateo County cities of Pacifica, San Bruno, Daly City, South San Francisco, and Brisbane. The data are incomplete because these notices may be published in other newspapers of record such as the San Mateo County Times.


(click chart to enlarge)

Estimates are that between 40 percent and 80 percent of these houses in pre-foreclosure progress to the auction stage of the foreclosure process in San Mateo County. RealtyTrac’s data provide a more complete picture of the problem of homeowners in trouble. Pacifica has seen a large increase in pre-foreclosure notices and foreclosure auctions since the last quarter of 2008. The figures are from the latter part of each month cited:


              Pre-Foreclosure    Auction 

Oct. 08             81                     15
Nov. 08            62                     21
Dec. 08            59                      24
Jan. 09             63                      22
Feb. 09             67                      17
Mar, 09             91                      22
Apr. 09            106                    34
May 09            108                    52
Jun. 09             125                    57

The problem is that unsold inventory appears to be rising rather than falling. An increase in the foreclosure rate could indicate further downward pressure on house prices.

Volcanic Sunsets: Purple Haze


VOLCANIC SUNSETS: The Russian volcano that erupted directly beneath the International Space Station on June 12 is now causing beautiful lavender sunsets across parts of the northern USA and Europe. A plume of ash and sulfur dioxide from the Sarychev Peak eruption is circulating through the stratosphere,  and when parts of the plume pass over an area at sunset, the sky fills with delicate white ripples, sometimes-colorful streamers, and a telltale hue of purple. Check today's edition for observing tips and a photo gallery. SPACE WEATHER

Greener Cows

Canadian scientist Stephen Moore at the University of Alberta (Edmonton) is breeding cows that emit 25 percent less methane. Cows produce three-quarters of the world's methane, a greenhouse gas 20 times worse than carbon dioxide for climate change. (

Radio Lab: Inventive, Addictive Science Show


Radio Lab, the inventive and addictive series about science hosted by Robert Krulwich and Jad Abumrad, will be back with five new shows in September, and KALW 91.7 FM will broadcast them all Wednesdays at 1 p.m. starting September 9. But if you can’t wait until September, check out the RadioLab link at KALW, which hooks you up with weekly Radio Lab podcasts, including material you won’t hear on the radio.


Russian Volcanic Blast Seen from Space


VOLCANIC VISTAS: On June 12, astronauts onboard the International Space Station watched in amazement as Russia's Sarychev Peak volcano erupted directly beneath their spacecraft. The rare photo they took is a must-see. An enormous sulfur dioxide plume from the eruption is now circumnavigating the globe at northern latitudes, producing spectacular sunsets for international air travelers. SPACE WEATHER features 3D photos of the eruption from space, satellite movies of the sulfur dioxide plume, and a Mars-like view of the volcanic cloud over the Canadian Arctic. 

Go Green in Pacifica: Take the Initiative Now!


Help make Pacifica a greener, more environmentally sound community. Pacificans are uniting to make it happen. Here are some of our ideas: ban polystyrene containers still used in some restaurants, bag deposits to reduce demand for paper and plastic bags, ban gas-powered leaf-blowers. Maybe you have some ideas to share. Let's work together. Contact Bill Collins at