Category: commercial real estate news san francisco (74)

Cash Flow, CRE Fundamentals Pose Strong Counter Punch to Potential Rate Increase Impact on CRE Values According to Accounting Firm
Source: CoStar News
By: Mark Heschmeyer
Reposted: September 16, 2015

As the Federal Reserve readies an expected decision this week on whether to begin raising interest rates, common assumptions among some commercial real estate investors, developers and lenders are that CRE values will take a hit when interest rates are raised.

The basis for this assumption appears intuitive at first. Rising benchmark interest rates, like Treasuries, should tend to make all yield-oriented investments to be less attractive,

However, according to a new report issued this week by accounting firm EY, the relationship between interest rates and CRE values is much more nuanced. While the Fed’s initial policy adjustments likely will have a marginal impact on CRE valuations and investment momentum, interest rates and cap rates aren’t always correlated, the EY report authors claim.

Several factors affect the trajectory of capitalization rates and real estate values, such as demand and supply changes, transaction activity and trends in the overall economy. An in the current market, CRE fundamentals are strong.

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At the worst, EY predicts, an uptick in the federal funds rate may make it more expensive to develop new projects and refinance certain debt, and possibly cause a reactionary sell-off in publicly traded real estate investment trusts (REITs).

However, as it currently stands, relative to historical averages over the last 30 years, the spread between the 10-year Treasury and CRE yields appears to allow for further compression. This suggests that CRE values are not immediately threatened by rising interest rates, EY said.

The EY report was authored by members of EY’s real estate M&A advisory team led by Steve Rado, a principal in Ernst & Young LLP’s Transaction Advisory Services practice, with contributing author Dr. W. Michael Cox, the former chief economist of the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank and a professor at Southern Methodist University’s Cox School of Business.

EY noted several drivers that are expected to buttress real estate values, including record amounts of inbound capital, available private equity ‘dry powder’ for investment, a generally positive economic outlook with some obvious caveats, and relatively strong CRE fundamentals.

A 25 to 50 BPS Jump Doesn’t a Spike Make

A shock to the U.S. CRE investment environment from a 25 to 50 bps increase in the overnight lending rate seems unlikely in light of the forecasted environment for the sector, according to EY. With vacancies trending down in office, retail and industrial properties and hospitality and multifamily exhibiting increased rents, the report’s authors expect the effect of contractionary monetary policy and rising interest rates on real estate values and cap rates to be mitigated in the near term, especially for investors focused on cash flows from higher lease rates and strengthened property operations.

While many observers purport a negative outlook for CRE based on the premise of a spike in long-term interest rates, the possibility that long-term interest rates will see only moderate increase over the near term is more likely given the slower pace of the U.S. economic recovery, the EY analysts said.

They also expect CRE will continue to be an attractive investment on a risk-adjusted basis in the near-term, given current conditions of increased capital supply and strong fundamentals, along with room for compression in the spread between cap rates and interest rates, according to the report.

However, EY cautioned investors on underwriting risk as trophy assets in gateway markets appear to be fully priced with new supply is coming on the market at a faster pace.

Finally, the EY report authors urged investors to see the glass as half-full rather than half-empty.

“Actions of the Fed to normalize interest rates should not be seen as a bane for the industry, but rather should instill confidence that their efforts are a proactive measure to provide stability in the future,” the EY report concluded.

Link to article: Interest Rates & CAP Rates

Despite Investor Concerns of Overheating, Market Indicators Support CRE Pricing
Re-posted: CoStar News
By: Randyl Drummer

As commercial real estate prices have continued to surge, some have become concerned that valuations may be overheating or even reaching bubble levels as a combination of high demand, low interest rates and loosening loan underwriting standards contribute to a record spike in deal activity and price paid per square foot for trophy properties in top U.S. and global markets.

But while investors and analysts agree the surging demand for commercial property should be closely scrutinized for signs of overheating, several market indicators appear to reflect solid justification for the upswing in prices. So while peaking prices are a concern, analysts said it is premature to characterize the recent valuation increases as a ‘bubble’ that will inevitably lead to a market correction.

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Rather, they said, the price increases seen over the past 12 months appear to be a direct function of the long period of low interest rates in a low-yield environment, coupled with strengthening fundamentals and rising property-income levels.

“Indicating that we are not in a bubble, we are still seeing a wide pricing gap for taking risk that did not exist in 2006 and 2007, when vacant buildings could fetch premium pricing because investors did not have to wait for leases to expire to get at the embedded rent growth,” said Walter Page, director of U.S. research, office, for CoStar Portfolio Strategy. “Capital is very risk adverse compared to 2007.”

Perhaps most significantly, Page added, previous pricing bubbles have burst only after developers flooded the market with a large supply of new space within a very short time. With the possible exception of the office construction boom in Houston, this is not the case today.

Showing a measure of caution following recent stock market volatility and swings in August and into September, property investors appear to be taking a pause to assess conditions, with previously acquisition-minded investors now saying, “Not so fast.”

In recent meetings with several major investors, Page said the discussions have changed tone and now focus on not rushing in and taking their time to place money. As a result, they expressed expectations that sales volumes may slow somewhat in the second half of 2015, Page said.

Price appreciation has also slowed, both from earlier this year and compared with the early to mid-recovery period from 2010 to 2013, suggesting that pricing is reaching market-clearing levels, added Page.

Using the term ‘bubble’ to describe the current pricing advances gives the false perception that the market is not stable and is ready to burst,” notes Andrew Nelson, chief economist for Colliers International.

“Investors like to buy closer to the bottom, and it certainly seems we’re closer to the top, even if not quite necessarily there,” Nelson said. “At the same time, market fundamentals are strong and getting stronger, and I do believe we have some time left on the clock in terms of continued economic growth.”

While the abundant supply of cash looking to find a home in U.S. properties is helping to propel sales, only about half of U.S. office markets are achieving pricing above the last peak, with top-tier markets like San Francisco, New York and San Jose leading the way. Other major world cities show a similar trend.

CoStar sales data shows record CRE sales volumes in all product types totaling $600 billion over the past four quarters, which is 7% above the 2007 record of $556 billion, and up by 23% from the four-quarter period a year earlier.

Office sales of $148 billion over the past four quarters trail the record $203 billion in 2007, which included $60 billion in sales and re-trading stemming from sale of Equity Office Properties to Blackstone, which some consider to mark the previous cycle’s peak. The current four-quarter sales volume represents a 21% increase from a year earlier, so clearly office sales volumes are strong, Page said.

However, the office value appreciation rate has slowed to 2.4% over the past year, down from the 5% to 8% appreciation rate between 2011 and 2013, Page said. Value increases over the past year have ranged from just over 4% in the San Francisco Bay area to less than 1% in Chicago, Seattle, and Denver.

A marked slowdown in cap rate compression, from 50 to 90 basis points per year during the 2010-2013 period to a 20 bps decline over the past year, also has contributed to the slowing depreciation.

“Because of the expectation of rising interest rates, we are forecasting that the current 5.7% national office cap rate will mark a market bottom, with a rise of 20 basis points forecasted by 2018,” Page said.

Valuations should increase in most markets for several more years, suggests that the growing strength of local economies will be a key factor in improving property returns, Page said.

“Our forecasted annual returns through 2019 range from over 9% for San Francisco and Nashville to 2% for Houston and Washington, D.C.”

Also, rent levels in a large number of metros have not yet risen to the point that justifies new office construction. With the exception of multifamily, levels of new supply remain moderate in most property types, particularly the office market, where construction is almost exactly at its long-term average of roughly 124 million square feet per year, well below the 184 million square feet added at the peak of the last market bubble, Page pointed out.

Moreover, the construction is highly concentrated in about one-third of U.S. markets, led by Houston and New York with 13 million square feet. Seattle, San Jose and San Francisco are also hot spots for office construction.

The remaining two-thirds of markets have roughly half their historical level of new office construction, yet the vacancy rates for these markets are about the same as in 2007.

Globally, property is expensive on a per-pound basis in some top markets, and cap rates are low for the best properties, typically signaling modest returns and expensive pricing, Colliers’ Nelson agrees. With inflation and interest rates still very low, however, spreads between cap rates and long-term Treasury note remain above their long-term averages, making pricing look much more reasonable, he added.

Link to article: Market Indicators Support CRE Pricing

CompStak:  San Francisco Office Rents Continue Their Rise
Re-posted from:  The Registry Bay Area Real Estate
By:  Robert Carlsen
Date Posted:  August 30, 2015

Many brokers, appraisers and developers have experienced San Francisco’s strong first half of the year in commercial real estate, with demand for office space continuing to outpace supply and office rents increasing across all building classes and submarkets.

While Class A and B buildings in San Francisco both had quiet starts to 2015, they recently picked up to close the first half of the year in the black, according to CompStak Exchange, a New York-based commercial real estate database specializing in lease comparables.


CompStak’s second quarter 2015 effective rent report said that Class A effective office rents in San Francisco were up 6.6 percent to $65.29 per square foot over the previous six months and Class B buildings performed even better, with effective rents increasing 12 percent to $59.40 per square foot over the same time period.

And with the tightness of available office space comes the absence of perks. “Landlords who also own property in markets outside of San Francisco know how favorable market conditions really are,” the report said. “Concessions given in San Francisco are far below comparable markets like Los Angeles, Manhattan and Washington, D.C.”

“For example, tenants in Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles County receive, on average, twice as much in free rent and tenant-improvement dollars. The strength of the San Francisco leasing market is evident when viewed in this light.”

According to Blake Toline, a CompStak research analyst, most of the demand driving up prices in San Francisco is coming from technology companies, which has been a trend over the past few quarters. The north and south Financial Districts typically have more corporate tenants, such as law, finance and consulting firms, “but that is starting to change as space around the city becomes harder to find, forcing tech tenants that wouldn’t have normally looked at the central business district to sign space there,” he said.

CompStak said that Class B buildings offer space with more character, unique interiors with exposed brick, operable windows and open floor plans, which makes them more attractive to tech tenants.

Toline provided some recent submarket tenant rent increases over the past six months.

In the lower South of Market area, Class B space is up 3.8 percent to $67 per square foot. Recent lease deals in the region include Elance at 475 Brannan St., which featured an 18,000-square-foot expansion, resulting in an effective rent in the mid-$70s; Hipmunk at 434 Brannan St., which included a 17,000-square-foot short-term renewal and saw effective rents in the high $60s; and HoneyBook at 539 Bryant St., which included a 15,000-square-foot rental in the low $70s.

In the south Financial District, Class A space is up 3.5 percent to $69.80 per square foot. Recent lease deals include WeMo Technologies at 555 Market St., which rented 172,000 square feet in the high $60s; Instacart at 50 Beale St. has 56,000 square feet of lease space in the high $60s; and Intercom at 55 2nd St. has 23,000 square feet of space in the mid-$70s range.

Additionally, in the north Financial District, Class A space is up 5 percent to $65 per square foot. Recent deals include a Sheppard Mullin Richter renewal at 4 Embarcadero, with 72,000 square feet of space in the high $70s; Sentient Technologies at 1 California St., with 17,000 square feet going for the low $70s; and HIG Capital at 1 Sansome, with its 11,000 square feet priced in the low $70s.

Link to article: SF Office Rents Continue Their Rise

But in Current Competitive Environment, Other Banks Still Cutting Deals
Source: CoStar
By: Mark Heschmeyer
Posted: July 29, 2015

Even though the Fed today signaled that it remains on course to raise interest rates in September or later this year, a few banks have already begun raising interest pricing on their commercial real estate loans, particularly for multifamily property. While long expected given the overall strength of the economy, the bump in pricing is coming weeks in advance of an expected hike in the Federal Reserve Bank lending rate.

“We’ve seen rates increase, both on the Treasuries and on swaps, and we’ve seen the increase being sustained and we’ve been wanting to raise interest rates for the last several weeks,” said Joseph DePaolo, president and CEO of Signature Bank.

However, DePaolo said his bank wasn’t able to raise rates in the second quarter because their competition wasn’t moving.

“You can’t be a half or more [percentage points] higher because no matter how much they want you and no matter how efficient our commercial real estate team is, half is a half, and it means a lot,” he said, noting the highly competitive lending environment.

But that has changed in the last 10 days.

“We did some due diligence last week and again yesterday (July 20) and found that our competitors were raising their five-year fixed from let’s say as low as 3% to 3.25%,” DePaolo said. “We were 3% and we simply raised ours to 3.5% and that was yesterday.”

While all the signs appear to point to interest rates finally moving up after many previous fals starts, not everyone is convinced that higher rates will finally take hold.

“That’s possible, but there’s no guarantee,” said Peter Ho, chairman, president and CEO of Bank of Hawaii. “We have seen these [trends] in the past, where it sure looks like rates are moving up and margins stabilized only to find out that, it’s not really a trend, it’s an aberration. So it’s definitely possible, but as I said, I just can’t guarantee that.”

With the expected change in rates, Stephen Gordon, chairman, president and CEO of Opus Bank in Irvine, CA, said his bank has been cutting back on multifamily lending, reducing its multifamily loans in its portfolio from 59% of its holdings to 53% this past quarter.

However, while certain banks have begun the shift to more costly money, the improving economy has banks competing intensely for borrowers as they return to market. As a result, aggressive competition for commercial real estate lending is continuing across much of the country.

“In my opinion [lending competition] remains brutal,” said Mark Hoppe, president, CEO of MB Financial Bank in Chicago.

That is particularly true in CRE lending, Hoppe noted. Loan to values are clearly going up and the bank is seeing more relaxation in the amount of guarantees required in some deals.

“We understand that this is the world we live in, a very competitive one, and we’re going to compete on every front but do it where we think it makes sense,” Hoppe said.

CRE Borrowing Moving Beyond Major Metros

René Jones, chief financial officer of M&T Bank, noted a significant shift in CRE lending patterns. In previous quarters, most of the lending growth in M&T’s markets were primarily around the New York City metro area. That’s not the case this past quarter.

“Right now, growth is everywhere,” Jones said.

Total loans in upstate and western New York, were up 4%. In metropolitan New York and Philadelphia, up 8%; in Pennsylvania, up 12%; in Baltimore, up 7%; and in its other regions, loan growth went up 5%.

Other CRE lending trends noted among the nation’s major banks emerged from mid-year earnings conference calls. Highlights follow:

The Eyes on Texas

“The Eyes of Texas” is the school spirit song of the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Texas at El Paso, but from an economic and CRE standpoint all eyes have been on just Houston for the last three quarters. With energy prices not rebounding much from their 2014 collapse, there has been a lot of concern about how Houston multifamily and office properties will hold up.

Although lenders are seeing some softness in the market, second quarter results appear to be muted.

“Our office construction portfolio is very modest in size. And the office term loan portfolio is performing well there,” said Scott J. McLean, president and COO of Zions Bancorp in Salt Lake City. “On the multifamily piece, we’ve had about five, six multifamily transactions that have come out of the construction period and they’re achieving rents that are actually above the pro formas. But clearly, there will be softness there for office and there will be softness in multifamily, but we think our real estate portfolio is about $1.5 billion less going into this downturn than it was going into the 2009 downturn,” McLean said.

However, McLean likes the overall direction of the Houston economy. While job growth won’t be the 80,000 to 100,000 new jobs it has averaged over the last couple of years, McLean said the market could see 10,000 to 20,000 new jobs this year and about 30,000 new housing starts.

“Sure Houston continues to be a dynamic market,” said Keith Cargill, president, CEO of Texas Capital Bancshares, but “there is no change in our view that we will see muted growth in CRE.”

“We know we are early relative to what appears to be still a very healthy market really in all categories. Our multifamily is still extremely strong. Even in our Houston market where we have some projects, I had some concern about six or eight months ago. They are holding up quite nicely and as they complete they seem to be hitting pro forma rates or better. And so we hope that continues,” Cargill said.

“We just believe strongly that you can have too much of a good thing in terms of concentration risk,” he added. “And while today [CRE, building and energy] are three of the healthiest businesses we have, they have more cyclical risk in a down cycle. And that’s the only reason that we are tamping down the growth rate.”

Lending for the Long-Term, Borrowing for the Short-Term

Rapidly escalating CRE prices are a mixed bag for banks. On the one hand, they create demand for loans. Banks are pricing those loans based generally on 10-year payback periods. But with the run-up in CRE values stretching into its fifth year, borrowers are flipping investments much more quickly than that.

Loan prepays are definitely on the high side, said Russ Colombo, president and CEO Bank of Marin in Marin County, CA.

“There is a fair amount of profit-taking going on,” Colombo said.

Link to article: Fed Move

At Midyear, Accelerating New Office Supply Held In Check By Strong Absorption
U.S. Office Market Reaches Supply-Demand ‘Sweet Spot’ as Tenants Trade Up to Higher-Quality Space Despite Rising Rents
Source: CoStar
Reporter: Randyl Drummer
Posted: June 22, 2015

U.S. office market demand growth rebounded in the second quarter of 2015 following slower-than-expected net absorption in the first three months of the year as businesses continued to add office jobs and lease space.

Net absorption roared to 25 million square feet in the second quarter, the second-highest quarter for demand growth since 2006 and more than double the 12 million square feet absorbed during the first quarter.

After years of slow and steady increase in office supply, the level of office space under construction reached 124 million square feet in the second quarter, the highest total since 2009 and slightly eclipsing the 15-year average of 122 million square feet.

Rent growth reached s 4% annual rate in the first half of 2015, while the national office vacancy rate declined 20 basis points to 11.2%. The 27 million square feet of new office space deliveries in the first half of 2015 exceeded the historical first-half average of 21 million square feet, reflecting a relatively healthy office market and broader economy.

“We’re at a supply/demand balance — a really sweet spot in the market cycle for the office market,” said Walter Page, CoStar Group, Inc. director of U.S. research, office, joined by Senior Manager, Market Analytics Aaron Jodka and Managing Director Hans Nordby for CoStar’s State of the U.S. Office Market Midyear 2015 Review and Forecast.


Link to Article: Highest Q2 Office Net Absorption in 7 Years

San Francisco’s Vacancy Decreases for the 12th Consecutive Quarter to 3.1%
Source: CoStar

The San Francisco Industrial market ended the second quarter 2015 with a vacancy rate of 3.1%. The vacancy rate was down over the previous quarter, with net absorption totaling positive 307,426 square feet in the second quarter. Vacant sublease space decreased in the quarter, end- ing the quarter at 306,979 square feet. Rental rates ended the second quarter at $17.26, an increase over the previous quarter. There was 293,100 square feet still under construction at the end of the quarter.

San Francisco Industrial Real Estate

Net absorption for the overall San Francisco Industrial market was positive 307,426 square feet in the second quarter
2015. That compares to positive 120,002 square feet in the first quarter 2015, positive 266,214 square feet in the fourth quarter
2014, and negative (22,710) square feet in the third quarter 2014.

The Flex building market recorded net absorption of posi- tive 178,179 square feet in the second quarter 2015, compared to positive 33,684 square feet in the first quarter 2015, positive 125,780 in the fourth quarter 2014, and positive 140,779 in the third quarter 2014.

The Warehouse building market recorded net absorp- tion of positive 129,247 square feet in the second quarter 2015 compared to positive 86,318 square feet in the first quarter 2015, positive 140,434 in the fourth quarter 2014, and negative (163,489) in the third quarter 2014.

The Industrial vacancy rate in the San Francisco market area decreased to 3.1% at the end of the second quarter 2015. The vacancy rate remained at 3.7% at the end of the first quarter 2015 compared to the previous quarter, and 4.0% at the end of the third quarter 2014.

Flex projects reported a vacancy rate of 4.4% at the end of the second quarter 2015, remained at 5.3% at the end of the first quarter 2015 compared to the previous quarter, and 5.8% at the end of the third quarter 2014.

Warehouse projects reported a vacancy rate of 2.7% at the end of the second quarter 2015, 3.2% at the end of first quarter 2015, 3.1% at the end of the fourth quarter 2014, and 3.3% at the end of the third quarter 2014.

Sublease Vacancy
The amount of vacant sublease space in the San Francisco market decreased to 306,979 square feet by the end of the second quarter 2015, from 333,754 square feet at the end of the first quarter 2015. There was 285,144 square feet vacant at the end of the fourth quarter 2014 and 290,380 square feet at the end of the third quarter 2014.

San Francisco’s Flex projects reported vacant sublease space of 164,850 square feet at the end of second quarter 2015, down from the 186,108 square feet reported at the end of the first quarter 2015. There were 208,699 square feet of sublease space vacant at the end of the fourth quarter 2014, and 91,366 square feet at the end of the third quarter 2014.

Warehouse projects reported decreased vacant sublease space from the first quarter 2015 to the second quarter 2015. Sublease vacancy went from 147,646 square feet to 142,129 square feet during that time. There was 76,445 square feet at the end of the fourth quarter 2014, and 199,014 square feet at the end of the third quarter 2014.

Rental Rates
The average quoted asking rental rate for available Industrial space was $17.26 per square foot per year at the end of the second quarter 2015 in the San Francisco market area. This represented a 5.4% increase in quoted rental rates from the end of the first quarter 2015, when rents were reported at $16.38 per square foot.

The average quoted rate within the Flex sector was $27.89 per square foot at the end of the second quarter 2015, while Warehouse rates stood at $13.03. At the end of the first quarter 2015, Flex rates were $26.53 per square foot, and Warehouse rates were $12.20.

Exclusive: One of the World’s biggest developers hunts for mega projects in Oakland, S.F.
Source: San Francisco Business Times
Reporter: Cory Weinberg
Date Posted: June 30, 2015

One of the world’s largest real estate developers, Shanghai-based Greenland Holding Group, is in talks to invest and build in the Bay Area for the first time, the company’s U.S. head told the San Francisco Business Times.

commercial real estate

I-Fei Chang, who is overseeing $6 billion worth of development for Greenland’s Los Angeles-based subsidiary, is looking for opportunities to park billions more. She said she travels to the Bay Area “biweekly” to meet with local companies and city officials about building the company’s third U.S. project here.

A development deal would draw even more Chinese capital to Bay Area real estate and introduce to the region an investor that has so far been elusive. But for a foreign company only looking at mammoth deals, finding the right project can be a headache.

“We do have something (in the Bay Area) in mind. We are busy paddling,” she told the Business Times at a National Association of Real Estate Editors conference in Miami. “It’s like a duck — you keep calm on the surface of the water but the feet are quite busy paddling in the water.”

“It always takes time. We wish it could be quicker,” added Chang, a native of Taiwan and a graduate of Yale University. “It just really depends on the accessibility of the projects that we’d have the opportunity to invest.”

Greenland Holding claims to be world’s largest property developer by floor space under construction (250 million square feet) and by sales revenue ($40 billion), the Wall Street Journal reported.

The company, which is owned by the Chinese government, took a pass on investing in Lennar Urban’s $8 billion Hunters Point Shipyard project. It instead bought a majority stake in Forest City’s $4.9 billion Pacific Park Brooklyn project next to Barclays Center. Last year, Greenland broke ground on the $1-billion downtown Los Angeles hotel, condominium and shopping complex called Metropolis, which it bought in 2013.

Greenland USA then took another stab at investing in San Francisco. Late last year, the company lost out to Shanghai-based Oceanwide Holdings in buying the First and Mission Streets property– which will span 2 million square feet of office, condominium and hotel space by 2019.

Greenland Holding has invested about $20 billion in overseas development projects since 2013, including developments in London, Sydney and Toronto. The company has more than $55 billion in global assets, according to a report by Knight Frank. Chinese builders have looked toward the western world mostly because their own residential market has cooled significantly. The Chinese government has also recently relaxed limits on outbound investments.

Investment hurdles

Greenland USA is looking to develop large mixed-use projects like their deals in Brooklyn and Los Angeles, Chang said. That separates Greenland from other Chinese developers like Vanke, the Lumina condo complex joint venture partner, and R&F Properties, the 555 Fulton St. developer, who have focused on solely residential projects.

Chang wouldn’t say how deep current development talks are. She also spoke at length about investing in areas of cities that are undergoing “transformation” and in need of middle-class housing. But she also lamented rising construction and labor costs as the U.S. real estate market heats up.

She said construction costs have risen by 20 percent on Greenland’s two current U.S. projects since the company got involved.

“We have the stomach, and we envision there’s so much space that’s under transformation quickly,” she said. “But we still want to break even with what we build… We also see some prices that are overheated and those prices go sky high. That concerns us.”

Rob Hielscher, the Western U.S. head of JLL’s International Capital Group, said a many development projects make financial sense in San Francisco, but finding large-scale development opportunities can be a struggle, particularly with the city’s Proposition M office space cap limiting the amount of office space that developers can deliver in San Francisco.

“The bigger issue is the lack of large-scale development opportunities that are currently available for groups like Greenland to purchase or invest in” he said.

Some of the biggest mixed-use projects in San Francisco’s development pipeline include Forest City’s 5M and Pier 70 projects, the Giants’ Mission Rock and Kilroy Realty Corp.’s Flower Mart. Only the Giants’ project has priority to squeeze under the office space cap.

The only mixed-use proposals of over 1 million square feet in Oakland is the Brooklyn Basin waterfront project, which attracted investment from China’s Zarsion Holdings two years ago, and East Oakland’s Coliseum City, which is fraught with political risk.

But if it does find the right deal, Greenland’s global clout will likely give it a leg up over other Chinese investors that may be less recognizable to U.S. builders, Hielscher said. “They’re a name brand that many domestic groups would want to work with,” Hielscher said.

Ready for Oakland?

Zhang Yuliang, Greenland Holding Group’s chairman, told reporters in December, that “we’d increase our investment in cities where there is potential for growth, in the big cities.”

In the Bay Area, that doesn’t just mean San Francisco. Rachel Flynn, Oakland’s planning director, and Darlene Chiu Bryant, head of the San Francisco-backed nonprofit China SF, confirmed that Greenland has met with officials from both cities about development opportunities recently.

“They seemed really interested in our city, but nothing seems imminent,” Flynn said, who added that the city told Greenland about its upcoming downtown specific plan that should clear hurdles for development. “It will be interesting to see what they end up focusing on.”

Chang seemed high on Oakland. She brushed off a question about what made her enthusiastic about a city that struggles to attract big investors because of a reputation for crime and poor government, as well as its uncertain payoff on building highrises.

Instead, she extolled Oakland’s short commute to San Francisco on BART, the proximity to the University of California at Berkeley, and the city’s waterfront.

“There’s no crime in the city if you have believers who want to believe they’re pioneers.” she said. “Why can’t we have more housing projects for the middle class that includes an easy commute? Oakland is just like a Brooklyn for us on the Pacific side.”

“It’s all about what we can do for your city and how we can have that partnership,” she added.

Interview with I-Fei Chang

What is Greenland’s mission?

It’s our mission to not only bring over Chinese capital but expertise of large-scale, mixed-use urban experience that we have in China and from our development experience in the U.K., Canada, Malaysia. We hope to invest and reach out to the community to understand the city’s vision. Our long-term partner is the city and community, to be there a long time.

Why did you land in Brooklyn and Los Angeles first? Why not the Bay Area?

Those two markets, we just were lucky to have the opportunity to select the right project at the right time — two important economic-driver kind of projects . Of course, we’d love to have the opportunity to enter the northern gate of California, to be in the Bay Area. It just really depends on the accessibility of the projects that we’d have the opportunity to invest.

You earlier called Los Angeles, not San Francisco, the “capital of the Pacific.” Why is that?

Just the population, the diversity. It’s an entertainment center. But you have the wineries.

Who is your target residential customer in the U.S.?

Two million people buy from us in China. But here it’s most important to provide urban living experiences, to develop mixed-use projects in U.S. cities. Our target customer would be U.S.-based, young professional or early retiree. They just want to enjoy urban living so we provide the facility, the garden, the daycare center, the school and the public green space to get an apartment, hotel or office; that kind of mixed-use project, a one-stop solution.

Are you finding it more difficult to locate and find opportunities in the states?

We need to meet our business cycle. What’s driving this overheated market that we are cautious of is land price and construction costs. After we obtained these two projects, construction costs rose 20 percent. And the target sales prices of the unit, we have to be cautious about what will be the next opportunity for us to choose. What will be middle-class income, and what is the price they can support if they want condominiums?

Are those opportunities even existing at this point?

Our strategy is certainly for one way to approach private owners and explain to them our vision here, our sense of urgency to make a change here. We reach out to city officials, planners, economic directors, and so on, to see if publicly-owned land can be obtained and have a public-private partnerships.

But how do you get to middle-class housing solutions? In the Bay Area, we have a lack of supply. Market rates are out of reach for the middle class, and those units fund below-market-rate units that middle-class families don’t qualify for.

There are multiple ways. I know architects and developers in Japan and Russia. In Russia, the land is dirt cheap. The land is controlled by the government, so the developers just lease, so the cost is very cheap. It (brings down) the construction costs. The government just needs to be very smart to find some developer with an injection of cash into the government land. There are various ways to utilize urban land.

Link to article: Greenland Holding

Why Office Rents are Surging in these East Bay Cities
Source: San Francisco Business Times
Reporter: Roland Li
Date Posted: June 30, 2015

Rents are rising in the East Bay office submarket along the northern I-680 highway corridor as local companies expand, despite still-high vacancy rates and limited migration from companies outside the area, according to brokerage Newmark Cornish & Carey.

Commercial Real Estate

The submarket, which includes Concord, Walnut Creek and Pleasant Hill, has seen rents increase in some areas by as much as 30 percent, said Tom Fehr, executive vice president and regional manager of Newmark Cornish & Carey. Rents range from $48 per square foot in Class A space in Walnut Creek near the BART station to $24 per square foot in less desirable space in Concord, he said.

The vacancy rate in the submarket of roughly 10 million square feet remains high at 15.3 percent, but it is down from 16.7 percent at the beginning of the year, according to Newmark Cornish & Carey data. Concord has improved to 17.8 percent vacancy, from 20.4 percent at the start of the year.

“What is driving it is organic growth within our market,” said Fehr. “These tenants are not, for the most part, tech companies. The tech companies are staying in San Francisco.”

The northern I-680 submarket is still rebounding from the 2008 recession, when a swath of businesses related to home buying closed, including mortgage bankers, insurers and homebuilders. “We got hit pretty hard. Our recovery’s been much slower,” said Fehr.

Part of the market’s appeal is its proximity to more affordable housing in the East Bay. Workers also typically encounter lighter traffic when driving northeast, in contrast to crossing the Bay Bridge into San Francisco, said Fehr.

Newmark is now fielding more inquiries on space from companies considering a relocation from Oakland or San Francisco. “We’ve been waiting for the spillover to happen probably since the second quarter of 2013,” said Fehr.

Rents aren’t near the $60 per square foot that would justify new construction of office space, and the vacancy rate in the area further discourages any new construction. But if the submarket is able to continue the current momentum to lure more tenants, the area may see its biggest recovery since the recession.

“It’s the first time since 2010 that we’ve had a really dynamic six-month period,” said Fehr.


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Charles Schwab, Square latest companies to unload S.F. office space
Source: San Francisco Business Times
Reporter: Cory Weinberg
Date Posted: May 26, 2016

The amount of office space available for sublease in San Francisco is about to reach a five-year high now that mobile payments company Square and Charles Schwab are expected to lighten their footprints.


A Charles Schwab (NYSE: SCHW) spokesman told the Business Times that it is looking to sublease its 327,000 square feet at 215 Fremont St. so it can eventually consolidate into one building at 211 Main St.

Square just put 50,000 square feet on the market from its 1455 Market St. space, Bloomberg reported. That would reduce Square’s leased space there by one-fifth and comes soon after neighboring tenant Rocket Fuel Inc. also put a big block of space on the market after revenue and hiring slowed.

As more companies ditch their office spaces, it raises alarms for a potential commercial real estate downturn, as I detailed last month. Those alarms may blare more loudly now that these potential listings put sublease space at about 1.7 million square feet, San Francisco’s highest total since the tail end of the recession in the last quarter of 2009.

With both real estate developers and tech companies relying on cheap capital, rising interest rates could dent those markets, Glenn Kelman, CEO of brokerage Redfin Corp. said on Bloomberg Television last week.

“There’s a bubble,” Kelman said. “There are prices that are too high on companies. There are prices that are too high on real estate. As interest rates go up, you’re going to see a contraction.”

But these two cases also highlight a paradox on the city’s real estate market – traditional companies that are fleeing the city to lower costs and technology companies looking to lap up as much space as they can afford in a tight real estate market.

Square is one of several tech companies (like Trulia, Zillow and Salesforce) that have looked to gobble up space way ahead of what they actually need in order to anticipate future growth in a space-constrained market. That’s also why the office vacancy rate is at a 15-year low, according to Cushman & Wakefield.

It’s also why 80 percent of the 4.1 million square feet of office space under construction in the Bay Area is pre-leased, as DTZ research director Garrick Brown detailed in a March blog post. He said there’s little reason to worry, even if the economy takes a dive in a couple years.

“So if current leasing trends persist, it is highly likely that none of this space will be delivered without a tenant connected to it. None! So is there about to be an oversupply of office space in San Francisco? It sure doesn’t look that way to me,” Brown wrote.

This is Charles Schwab’s second round of San Francisco consolidation in recent years, after it subleased its old headquarters at One Montgomery in 2009 to cut expenses. Last year, it announced intentions to move hundreds of jobs out of San Francisco to lower-cost places like Colorado and Texas.

“As the number of San Francisco employees has gradually declined, it has made it possible this year to consolidate some of our office space in the 215 Fremont building. Hence there is space available there for leasing,” Charles Schwab spokesman Greg Gable told the Business Times last week.

Real estate brokers said they haven’t seen the South Financial District space officially hit the market yet, so it’s unclear how it will be priced. Charles Schwab signed a deal there in 2001, renting at an ultra-low rate of $21 a square foot through 2024, according to CoStar.

Link to article: Office Bubble