State’s Housing Solution Starts Happening

By Tom Elias, Columnist

It’s happening. Despite the best efforts of California’s highly ideological, developer-financed state legislators, the solution to this state’s widely acknowledged housing shortage is coming fast, driven more by market forces than by state laws.

Even local bureaucrats who had long ignored the obvious solution are now gradually having to recognize it.

That solution: Convert or repurpose the vast amount of square footage in office buildings and towers that has become vacant over the 20 months since the coronavirus pandemic set in and changed the work habits and environments of millions of white collar employees and their bosses.

All over California – and nationally, too – businesses from stock brokerages and law firms to insurance companies and medical billing services revised their workspace requirements, downsizing quarters or simply letting their employees work from home.

This allows moves by thousands of workers, who now need only rarely appear in company offices, from high-rent areas to more countrified housing where they get more square footage, more fresh air and more freedom for much less money.

It’s one reason San Francisco and other large cities have seen rents and their populations drop during the pandemic. It’s a reason rents and housing demand are up in the Fresno area, where prices nevertheless remain much lower than in coastal areas.

But a move back to cities is coming, as more and more urban and suburban housing promises to become available – with no detrimental effects on existing neighborhoods, unlike the two major housing bills that became law in September. Those measures may be overturned by an impending ballot initiative. The two laws, known as SB 9 and SB 10, aim to densify single family neighborhoods while lining the pockets of developers who finance the campaigns of many legislators.

As this column first noted in March 2020, barely a month after the pandemic began in earnest, conversions of existing office space to housing have been inevitable since workers discovered the joys of operating from home and employers saw their productivity generally remaining high.

For as office leases expired or were cancelled, the value of myriad large buildings and the stock prices of real estate investment trusts that own many of them became endangered. That meant space would be repurposed. The same realities also were bound to threaten city and county finances all over California. When large buildings become vacant and are assessed downward for tax purposes, they sharply reduce property tax revenue that is the base of local government finances.

At first, this was all theoretical. But now it’s going big, with much more to come. As of early November, the Los Angeles area alone had seen approvals for conversions of office space into more than 4,300 apartments and condominiums, with plenty more in the pipeline, according to a report from the rent-tracking group Rent Cafe. Statewide, an estimated 12,000 units have been approved for conversion.

By contrast, only about 200 such conversions had been approved by the end of 2020. The converted housing units will be finished much sooner and with far less environmental impact than new structures.

Conversions also allow a great variety of housing, from luxury penthouse condos with ocean views to far smaller studio apartments on lower floors where residents might hear some street noise, but pay far less than folks on the top floors.

The number of units approved so far in Los Angeles is the highest in the nation, in part because pandemic lockdowns and changes began here first.  But New York City, for one other example, officially expects many thousands of conversions within the next two years.

Said Emil Malizia, a faculty member in the University of North Carolina’s highly-rated Department of City and Regional Planning, “The most compelling reason to choose adaptive reuse for apartments versus new apartment construction is the much lesser environmental impact.”

This was clear from the first days of the pandemic, when, for example, a stock brokerage in Pasadena that had recently remodeled office space to handle 95 employees daily suddenly realized only five were using all that space.

It didn’t take a genius to see change was coming. Now it’s high time this state’s top officials take the lead in shaping and encouraging it.

Email Thomas Elias at tdelias@aol.com. His book, “The Burzynski Breakthrough, The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It” is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit www.californiafocus.net

Related Posts

Michelle Bisnoff Arrested for $2 Million Investor Fraud Scheme

July 19, 2024

July 19, 2024

CEO of ESOS Rings Faces Securities and Wire Fraud Charges A Boca Raton woman was arrested today on charges of...

Judge Issues Final Ruling in Favor of Barrington Plaza Tenants Association

July 17, 2024

July 17, 2024

Decision against Landlord Finds Intent Does Not Meet Ellis Act Standards The final ruling in the case of the Barrington...

Los Angeles Woman Sentenced to 35 Years to Life for Murder of Michael Latt

July 15, 2024

July 15, 2024

35 Years to Life for Woman Who Killed Social Justice Advocate Jameelah Michl was sentenced to 35 years to life...

LAPD Detectives and LASD Nab Group Responsible for Over 30 Residential Burglaries

July 10, 2024

July 10, 2024

“Reflector Vest Crew” Burglary Suspects Arrested in Los Angeles In collaboration with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Major Crimes...

Eight-Bed Vance Street Property Hits Market at $39M

July 4, 2024

July 4, 2024

The listing emphasizes the home’s modern design and spacious interiors A newly listed home at 212 Vance Street in Pacific...

Los Angeles City Council Designates Marilyn Monroe House as Historic Cultural Landmark

June 27, 2024

June 27, 2024

Unanimous Vote Preserves Brentwood Home Where Iconic Actress Marilyn Monroe Lived and Died The Los Angeles City Council has approved...

Judge Blocks Barrington Plaza Evictions, Citing Legal Violations

June 20, 2024

June 20, 2024

Owner Douglas Emmett Inc. Sought to Evict Nearly 600 Tenants Last Year, Citing Safety Upgrades The eviction of hundreds of...

Texas Man Sentenced to 33 Months for Threatening U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters

June 18, 2024

June 18, 2024

Gaherty Targeted the Congresswoman With Racist and Violent Threats  A Texas man was sentenced to 33 months in federal prison...

Brand New, Six-Bed Palisades Mansion Hits Market at $34M

June 16, 2024

June 16, 2024

The lower level boasts a bar, lounge, wine tasting room, home theater, and a full spa with a gym A...

Chris Pratt and Katherine Schwarzenegger Cut Price on Palisades Home by $6.5M

June 12, 2024

June 12, 2024

The couple purchased the property in June 2018 for $15.6 million and extensively remodeled it While actor Chris Pratt’s box-office...

Lawsuit Filed Over Pacific Palisades Property Foreclosure: Report

June 11, 2024

June 11, 2024

The Dispute Over the Site Dates Back to 2014 The owners of a Pacific Palisades residential site are fighting to...

Ivy-Covered Mansion on Amalfi Dr. With Eight Bedrooms Hits Market at $38M

June 4, 2024

June 4, 2024

Situated on One of the Largest Lots in Riviera, the Property Includes a Two-Story Guest House A luxurious estate designed...

TripAdvisor Ranked This Santa Monica Hotel #1 in America

May 23, 2024

May 23, 2024

The Ranking Honored the Highest Level of Excellence in Travel, Recognizing Those Who Receive a High Volume of Exceptional Review...

Los Angeles County Rent Relief Program Opens Second Round of Applications

May 21, 2024

May 21, 2024

Applications Accepted Until June 4, Funding and Support Have Been Increased  The Los Angeles County Rent Relief Program (LARRP) has...

Three-Story Complex Opens in Santa Monica, Offers Tenants “Creative” Office Space

May 15, 2024

May 15, 2024

The Building Is Divided Into Two Wings, Connected by a Glass-Enclosed Walk-Through Bridge Structure C.W. Driver Companies, has officially completed...