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Real Estate at the core

War is the conquest of real estate and cities. It is enslavement of the weak and the reportage of the conquerors. Wars are the cruelest when they have no economic goals, only the enslavement and torture of the collective soul.

Can you tell that I just returned from New York City -- the most exciting place on earth -- with all the expected cacophony and diversity possible, where real estate is of another dimension, where investment bankers' vanities are wrapped up in the awareness of their political power.

Real estate people must develop contacts with their local lenders for they are their neighbors who know the marketplace and who want to contribute to their communities. In fact that is what a community is, the local togetherness of shared minds and efforts.

Places as large and as diverse as New York City are ungovernable; their auto and taxi drivers are totally uncaring machines that race with foolishly bold pedestrians at each intersection, within the ever expanding and changing "canyons" formed between skyscrapers, not intimidated by terrorists or fear of the unknown.

Now, post-war, what the country needs is a strong, brave soul who treats the economy as if it were a matter of survival or terrible deprivation, not a statement of philosophy, but rather a comprehension of where we are and what we must do to improve our economic viability before it erodes our military strength.

As apartment buyers overpay, depending on their conversion to condominiums to make their cost realistic, I feel that I've seen this before. The formula is more a wish than a reality, but they do subtract from the rental supply. When Grubb & Ellis ousted its top management last month, I thought of how many times I've stated that the size of a company does not protect it from potential failure. The abyss is man-made by the vanity of temporary volume figures of how large another giant has become, but no more. It is only the ingenuity, flexibility and the ability to comprehend what business they are in and how best to satisfy their customer that will determine surviving and flourishing.

Cities are not the same; each has its own personality and reaction to growth and size. Small places are intimate, more caring, more personal; larger cities lose that intimacy, replaced by noise and more restaurants and variety. You walk the streets and pass strangers from everywhere else on earth and I am certain, at least one out of three speaking to phantom voices on their cell phones. You catch a few words here and there and wonder how they manage to escape the taxis and cars while grasping their phone as if a lover. We humans are incredible studies, much more interesting than our wonderful zoo.

Every time someone asks me what I do and the subject of real estate emerges, I gain that person's quick interest. Real estate is universal, more real than stocks and other paper. One man, a great scientist, told me of his travels to Washington, D.C., to discuss super-secret stuff, but his passion came alive when we traded ideas on what he should buy as a new headquarters building.

I am organizing a few builders from various parts of the country, to bring them under an umbrella of a large pension fund to service their equity needs; my new fund approaches its denouement in the exciting field of logistics; I am working on several redevelopment projects in L.A. County that attract my creative juices.

It is a never-ending stimulant to work with ambitious people who seek to better their lives and their communities. They are better than any movie. They seek stress for their creative juices; it's like a mind-workout in a class gym. Stress makes the world get better. Any politician who doesn't get that message will be an ex-politico. I am happy that our mayor decided to seek re-election, and hopefully he comprehends this fact of life better this time around.

Goodkin has been a business ethicist and housing analyst since 1956. He may be reached at sanford.goodkin@sddt.com.

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