Explaining Southern California's economy

The outlook is poor for office demand, in the U.S. and California

Los Angeles

David McNew/Getty Images

If you think there's recovering demand for all that office space, a UCLA economist says you're mistaken.

Economist David Shulman of the UCLA Ziman Center for Real Estate doesn’t sugarcoat it: beyond a few important markets, the prospects for an office space expansion look grim.

A weak recovery and companies' rethinking of how much space they require has kept vacancy rates at 17 percent. Shulman calls that figure “elevated” in a December report issued by Ziman and the Anderson Forecast.

"Even before the Great Recession, the office business was sick," he writes.

Shulman warns that his exceptions to this trend - San Francisco and the Westside of Los Angeles - shouldn’t get cocky. Office rents in those California cities haven’t recovered to their dot-com era peaks in more than a decade.

Shulman sees the vacancy rate declining, but at a slow pace. He also points out that the way we work, especially at high-tech companies, has changed.

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Innovative Occupy LA deal to move from City Hall under fire

Occupy LA March - November 17

Eric Richardson / blogdowntown

A protester is arrested during a Thursday afternoon Occupy LA march that did not have police permits.

Well, that didn't take long. Just as an innovative deal between the City of LA and Occupy LA protesters — a deal that would have gotten the protesters off City Hall's lawn and into 10,000 square feet if office space — was floated, it was criticized. 

But it may still be in play. And if it is, it's consistent with the very enlightened stance LA has taken toward the Occupy Movement since it set up camp at City Hall almost two months ago.

This is from the LA Times:

Images of cops in riot gear rousting Occupy encampments across the nation have become ubiquitous in recent weeks, as many cities try to prevent the tent gatherings from becoming troublesome permanent fixtures. But Los Angeles has taken a different tack.

Officials have been quietly searching for common ground with Occupy representatives for several weeks, culminating in a highly unusual offer announced by protesters Monday: If the campers move off the City Hall lawn, the city will lease them work space for $1 a year, as well as provide land for protesters to garden.

As political blow back to the proposal mounted Tuesday, city officials backed away slightly from the offer, according to Scott Shuster, a protester who said he has been present at the meetings, which are headed by Villaraigosa's deputy chief of staff, Matt Szabo. Shuster said it was unclear whether that offer was still on the table.

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Why is Occupy LA so much more calm — and successful — than other Occupy movements?

Corey Moore/KPCC

Hundreds of Occupy protesters gathered downtown LA for a march through the financial district

The news broke earlier today that Occupy LA has been offered a pretty sweet deal by the city to clear its tents from the lawn around City Hall. In return, the two-month-old protest movement — which has been for the most part a model of peaceful agitation — will get 10,000 feet of nearby office space.

For $1!

Oh, and the city is evidently throwing in some farmland.

Yes, farmland.

For Occupy LA protesters who might, you know, want to work the land.

This is a remarkable development, for three reasons:

  • Occupy LA, unlike its far more belligerent cousins in the Bay Area, is beginning to shift into something of an entrepreneurial mode. It trades tents, dead grass, and cold nights for...office space! Occupy LA, in short, is starting to organize itself like a business, or at least a more conventional political movement, with the eminently practical goal of moving its operations indoors.
  • Occupy is also proving that the ostensibly leaderless movement can throw up some quasi-leaders. Members of Occupy LA have clearly been negotiating with the city, and while this is ticking off the movement's hardcore elements, it's a welcome evolution.
  • The farming thing is strange, but also consistent with the ethos of earlier protest movements — such as those that emerged in the 1960s — which often had a communal, agrarian component. 

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