San Francisco landlords warm to the power of pop-ups

As San Francisco rents continue to soar, retailers have become hesitant about committing long-term to brick-and-mortar space. One solution: popping in temporarily.

Landlords once scoffed at the deals shorter than the typical 10-year term. But as tenants become increasingly wary of San Francisco’s rising rents and shifting retail climate, many are realizing the benefits of shorter leases may outweigh the drawbacks.

The Bay Area has been a landing pad for tenants looking to test the market, but hesitant to commit to long-term deals.

Union Square in particular has been home to temporary deals with online luxury consignor the RealReal, the Kylie Jenner cosmetics pop-up and the Museum of Ice Cream, which recently decided to make its temporary installation a permanent San Francisco fixture.

 

 

 

Full article on San Francisco Business Times

 

 

UC Berkeley professor blames rent control for California’s housing shortage

Kenneth Rosen hopes to sway voters against Proposition 10.

Kenneth Rosen, a UC Berkeley economist and real estate consultant, published a paper Wednesday titled The Case For Preserving Costa Hawkins, in hopes of swaying voters against Proposition 10.

Proposition 10, which will go before voters in November, would repeal the 1995 Costa-Hawkins Act, a state law that severely curtails rent control in California cities. For example, under Costa-Hawkins, only San Francisco apartments built before 1979 may be subject to rent control.

Passing Proposition 10 would not in and of itself create any new rent control housing, but it would allow cities to expand rent control stock for the first time in decades if they so choose.

Rosen, however, argues that turning the clock back to 1994 will stifle new housing and drain apartment stock.

 

Read more on Curbed SF

 

What retail apocalypse? Ask some department stores, but not all

Adapt or die isn’t just a tenet of evolution: It’s also the reality faced by the U.S. department-store industry. And some are doing it far better than their rivals.

Although the chains are often lumped together with other mall mainstays when lamenting the “retail apocalypse,’’ this past week’s earnings reports underscore just how different department stores’ strategies are amid a wider brick-and-mortar slowdown.

Nordstrom Inc., for instance, posted same-store sales that were almost four times higher than expected after drawing in buyers for both its full-priced and discounted merchandise, powered by a massive anniversary sale. At the other end of the spectrum, CEO-less J.C. Penney Co. saw its stock plunge to historic lows as it put more items on clearance to get rid of excess inventory. And for Macy’s Inc., which beat virtually every estimate set by the market but still disappointed investors, it seems the jury’s still out.

“If you’re not doing well now, you’ll have a hard time when thing slow down,” said Ivan Feinseth, chief investment officer at Tigress Financial Partners. “Right now, we have a 50-year low level of unemployment, you have a consumer that’s flush, a stock market at record levels, a strong housing market and easy and low-cost credit. So you have the Goldilocks environment, or the perfect environment, for the consumer.”

 

 

Read more on Bloomberg

 

 

 

Getting downtown ‘right’ in San Jose has been a trial-and-error process

The plan for San Jose’s downtown is years old. What’s new is that Google has bought into that vision.

The critical challenge of getting things right in the next iteration of downtown San Jose has been a hot issue at least since the 1980s, when downtown was torn up and many businesses suffered and died during construction of the Valley Transportation Authority’s light rail system.

Downtown’s future was a central focus of the thousands of people who participated in the four years of work that in 2011 produced the city’s latest general plan, Envision San Jose 2040, that anticipated Diridon’s status as a transit hub amidst 40,000 new jobs.

“This is not a novel idea we just came upon because Google came around last year,” Mayor Sam Liccardo said.

Kim Walesh, San Jose’s deputy city manager and economic development director, said the plan always envisioned “having an anchor developer who would do a cohesive master planned development in that central area.”

That doesn’t mean, however, that latest round of planning efforts and community engagement sparked by Google’s development announcement last year has pleased everyone who will be affected by what happens around Diridon.

 

 

Read more on Silicon Valley Business Journal

 

 

 

Tech tenants continue to compete for limited Silicon Valley office space

The Silicon Valley office market continues to perform well, with tech tenants quickly grabbing up space, particularly larger blocks that are hard to come by in the tight market.

The recent 274K SF lease by Roku at Coleman Highline reflects the strength of the San Jose market. Google’s plans for an 8M SF campus in San Jose have driven a lot of activity in that city’s downtown.

But even beyond a bustling San Jose, the greater Silicon Valley office market has had strong fundamentals for the first half of the year, according to Savills Studley.

In Q2, there was more than 2.6M SF of office leased in Silicon Valley, adding up to 5.8M SF leased in the past 12 months, Savills Studley reports. Availability in the core markets of Menlo Park, Palo Alto and Sunnyvale/Cupertino remains in the single digits, while the region’s overall availability has decreased to 15.8%, down 130 basis points from a year ago.

At the same time, rents are rising, reaching $50.94 overall asking rent for the region in Q2, up 4%. Class-A rents were up 1.7% to $52.51. Tech tenants continue to drive the market.

 

Read more on Bisnow Silicon Valley

 

 

 

Richmond vacant property tax headed to November ballot

Richmond voters in November will decide whether to tax vacant properties to pay for homelessness services, affordable housing and other things.

The vacant property tax measure was inspired by one in Oakland, which was approved for the November ballot a few weeks ago, said Richmond Mayor Tom Butt. If Richmond voters pass the measure — it needs a two-thirds majority vote — a special parcel tax will be placed on vacant properties at the rate of $3,000 a year per vacant developed parcel and $6,000 a year per undeveloped parcel.

The tax would generate an estimated $5.4 million a year for the next 20 years, according to a report from Butt and Councilman Eduardo Martinez. That money will be earmarked for homelessness services, housing, blight, fighting illegal dumping and other specific programs.

There are 980 to 1,180 vacant parcels in the city and 250 vacant structures — most of which are abandoned homes, the report said. About 998 would be subject to the tax.

“In addition to creating a dedicated funding source, by taxing vacant properties, this measure will help encourage people to put those properties back into use, thus increasing the housing supply,” Martinez and Butt said in the report.

The measure passed unanimously at Tuesday’s City Council meeting. Only one member of the public spoke on the measure; she was concerned that a vacant lot that she has owned since the 1980s and had turned into a garden would be taxed. City officials at the meeting said it would not be subject to the tax.

Property would be classified as vacant and subject to the tax if it is used less than 50 days a year. The tax would not apply to properties used as gardens or to host farmers markets, the report said.

A hardship exemption would be available to people who qualify as “very low-income” under the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s guidelines. Very low-income is defined by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development as households who make 50 percent of the area median income. For Richmond in 2018, a family of four with an income of less than $58,100 would be classified as very low-income.

Vacant property owners who can prove that specific circumstances prevent the use or development of the property are also eligible for an exemption. For example, if a natural disaster damaged the property, or if an undeveloped property was being used as a yard for an adjoining property, it would be exempt. If the measure passes in November, the City Council would include details of that exemption in a  separate ordinance, the report said.

 

 

Read more on East Bay Times

 

 

 

In a U.S. mall owner’s world, ‘boring’ is actually pretty good

Mall landlords, besieged for the past two years by the rise of online shopping, are trying to push a new narrative of improving sales and increased demand for empty space at their properties.

Second-quarter earnings results for the biggest owners were largely in line with expectations, according to DJ Busch, an analyst at Green Street Advisors LLC, a research firm that specializes in real estate investment trusts. And that’s good news for an industry that’s struggling to stay relevant.

“We are pleasantly surprised — boring is pretty good in retail,” Busch said. “Incrementally, we’re moving in the right direction, but it’s going to take several quarters to get back to speed and get some of these centers leased backed up.”

U.S. mall REITs have been beaten up as the growth of e-commerce and a surge in retailer bankruptcies and store closures upends their business model. In the past 24 months, a Bloomberg index of eight regional-mall owners plunged 25 percent through Monday, compared with a 3.3 percent decline for all REITs. After a brutal 2017, landlords are trying to paint a rosier picture and convince investors that the worst is behind them.

“Demand from tenants for space in our highly productive centers is increasing,” David Simon, chief executive officer of Simon Property Group Inc., the largest U.S. mall owner, said on a call with analysts last week. “We continue to redevelop our irreplaceable real estate with new, exciting, dynamic ways to live, work, play, stay and shop that will further enhance the customer experience.”

 

 

Read more on Bloomberg

 

 

 

What WeWork’s retail debut says about the state of retail

The company that’s shaking up office markets just took a major step into retail.

WeWork recently launched a new business concept, dubbed WeMRKT, at the co-working giant’s 205 Hudson location in New York City. WeMRKT is a small shop that sells products created by WeWork members, and while there’s currently only one location, WeWork said it plans to expand the concept nationally.

WeWork’s decision to step into retail comes at a turning point in the market. From Toys R Us to Nine West, retailers across the country are filing for bankruptcy at record levels as consumer shopping habits continue to shift.

But not all retailers are struggling. Discount shops are booming while retailers who effectively employ creative, omnichannel strategies are finding success.

WeWork’s new concept is another step in retail’s evolution. From the fusing of the office and retail sectors to new opportunities for brick-and-mortar, here’s what WeWork’s foray into retail says about the current state of the market.

 

 

Read more on Apto

 

 

 

Seeing Pros and Cons in “Digitization” of Real Estate

A future-focused Urban Leaders Summit discussion in Frankfurt in May on embracing new technology raised just as many questions as it answered.

Many German business leaders have been fretting about what they call Industry 4.0—the sweeping changes created by machine learning, automation, the “internet of things,” and big data—innovations they categorize under the umbrella of “digitization.” The waves of change triggered by this digital shift are going to be felt for generations to come, as more and more jobs are capable of being done by machines. Will we need humans at all? Will we create a superintelligence that finds us an unnecessary burden?

But going back to the present, Sascha Friesike, professor of digital innovation at VU Universität Amsterdam, wondered why urbanization continues to grow even as we increasingly decentralize work. If jobs can be done from anywhere, why do we still largely choose to move to cities?

Klaus Dederichs of Drees & Sommer was wary about the rush to incorporate the internet of things into properties. Tests have shown that the current generation of smart devices, which usually operate over wi-fi, is easy to hack. “They are compromising buildings’ cybersecurity,” he said. “What if terrorists attack smart buildings rather than drive into crowds?”

But Dederichs did also note some potential for buildings to get smarter, optimizing energy use being one of them. Building information modeling (BIM) is another promising field in the world of smart buildings. This digitizing of the planning, construction, and maintenance of buildings increases efficiency and extends the life of a project. Thus far, BIM has not seen huge adoption rates in Germany; the industry is hesitant largely because of the financial investments and the additional training needed for workers.

Blockchain came up in practically every discussion, as did artificial intelligence. It is difficult to find the middle ground between viral anxiety and tech evangelism, said Thomas Metzinger of the Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz. “What do we do when a smart city crashes? And it will crash. We need graceful degradation,” referring a web design term that refers to designing a project to continue to function even if some features fail.

“We aren’t going to build houses that aren’t future-proof anymore,” said Martin Rodeck of EDGE Technologies, owned by OVG Real Estate. You cannot risk a new building being outdated within five years. And you should not jump on a trend like blockchain or virtual reality just because everyone else is doing it—you need to focus on how to solve the problem at hand.

Read more on Urban Land Institute

 

Oakland housing developers turn to new ways of building to reduce costs

Rising construction costs are pushing Oakland developers to rethink traditional construction methods to make sure much-needed housing continues to get built.

“It is an issue right now that we are all facing increased construction costs,” UrbanCore Development CEO Michael Johnson said during Bisnow’s recent Oakland Construction & Development Update event. “What will happen is some projects will not move forward as a result of that.”

Double-digit increases in the cost of new construction projects are not driven solely by increases in material costs, but also by higher profit margins and greater labor costs as contractors struggle to find a qualified workforce, he said.

Several developers have turned toward using modular units, designing more efficient floor plans and creating new building technologies.

OWow is developing a type of unit that can adjust the number of bedrooms with a push of a button. Mechanized, acoustically rated walls would raise and lower to create up to four bedrooms, oWow founder Danny Haber said. His company has been building macro-units in Oakland that use efficient design to cut down on construction costs.

Other developers have been pursuing modular construction. UrbanCore Development decided to go modular on its Coliseum Connections project about five years ago, Johnson said. Conventional construction was more expensive, and an analysis estimated about a 10% cost savings on a $40M construction budget, he said.

The modular units are expected to be fully in place by Friday and the 110-unit mixed-income housing project is expected to be completed in January.

 

Read more on Bisnow