San Francisco Mid-Market Makes a Comeback

When PMI first started looking to purchase office buildings in 2003 in San Francisco, a couple of brokers tried to sell us buildings in San Francisco’s Mid-Market areas.  They said it was going to make a comeback.  Most others said that they had heard that for years.  The area had a large population of homeless people, homeless shelters, and single room occupancy housings.  We were told by all the cognoscenti to stay away.

In 2010, San Francisco boomed with tech tenants.  Super star tenants found it difficult to find very large blocks of space in prime areas like SoMa.  One of our tenants, Twitter, started in 6,000 square feet.  They were a runaway success and started shopping for 150,000 square feet with expansion options for another 150,000 square feet.  Twitter threatened to move out of San Francisco because of a city payroll tax that would tax stock options upon their exercise.  San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee set up Mid Market as a payroll tax-free zone.  Real Estate magnate Shorenstien Properties then purchased a million square foot clunker of a building in Mid Market, planned a creative office renovation, and made Twitter a deal they could not refuse.

Another one of our tenants, Zendesk, moved to Mid Market because we were out of space in our SoMa building.  Zendesk got a great deal and achieved their rent objectives.  Yammer, who is also our tenant, moved into the same building that Twitter did after Kilroy wanted too large a letter of credit as security (Yammer was recently purchased by Microsoft–who knew).

So why is it that Mid-Market succeeded this time?  Primarily it is because Twitter became a magnet that attracted other tech tenants.  Mayor Lee and Shorenstien Properties offered Twitter such a fantastic deal they would have been crazy not to accept it.  This was done during a market where creative space was running low because tech business was booming.

In the New Geography of Jobs, Berkeley professor of economics Enrico Moretti comments that super star companies attract other super stars and even “wanna-be” companies like a magnet.  Indeed, he attributes the success of Seattle in tech to the fact that Bill Gates decided to relocate there to scale Microsoft.  In San Francisco, Twitter was the super star and it attracted other companies, like Yammer, among others.  The payroll tax-free zone and a landlord willing to give a cost leader to attract a super star helped.

Here is an article from Reuben and Junius expanding more on the rebirth of Mid-Market.

Video Content Companies Make their Mark in West Los Angeles

Los Angeles is behind such cities as New York, Boston, and San Francisco in digital technology. However, in the niche market of video content for the web, Los Angeles may be number one.  Los Angeles is flexing its content muscle to spawn startups involved in original content made for the web.  This movement is as old as the dot-com boom itself.  Since high-definition web video is so inexpensive to create, there is a renewed interest in producing new and innovative original programming for the web.  YouTube started adding over 100 new channels with all original content creators in 2011.  Netflix launched an original show on its platform in February of 2012, with plans to add more programming in 2013.  Hulu.com announced it will also start creating original programming for its users.  Many users of both sites have expressed their excitement and support of this creative action.

Web content companies are forming in different pockets all around Westside Los Angeles and Hollywood. Another prominent area where web content companies are clustering is around the Hayden Tract in Culver City.  PMI recently leased 13,000 square feet to Mahalo.com and 15,000 square feet to Sugar Publishing Inc.  Mahalo.com is a video and web company specializing in instructional content.  Recently, Mahalo started producing instructional applications for the iPad.  Sugar Publishing, Inc. is the parent company of the popular video site Popsugar.  Maker Studios, a YouTube content company, recently leased 18,000 square feet a few blocks away from Mahalo and Sugar at 5877 Rodeo.  According to this article from The Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong’s Four Wall Studios leased space at Conjuctive Point, adjacent to Mahalo and Sugar Publishing, and is allegedly building a $20 million studio in Culver City.

YouTube also recently leased 30,000 square feet for a studio in Playa Vista.  One of our previous tenants, Machinima.com, occupies 30,000 square feet in Hollywood.  They started with 150 square feet in one of our creative executive suites at 10951 Pico Boulevard in 2007.  They are now the most watched channel on YouTube.

Due to the fact there is so much interest in creative office space on the Westside, and especially in Culver City, now is the perfect time for solutions to be developed and executed in regards to the demand for parking.  Culver City must work to help supply the parking these incoming companies require.  Tenants are starting to make parking a large priority before they lease office space.  A broker representing one 50,000 square foot tenant recently called PMI’s offices to ask advice on how to handle their parking needs if they leased space in the Hayden Tract.  Culver City expressed a desire to ameliorate the parking situation and has already made some commitments to facilitate this resource.  In addition, improving the lunch time amenities for the increasing workforce would also be beneficial.

Some large content firms are rumored to be sniffing around Culver City for creative space.  We can’t say at this time if any or all of these firms will be successful in the long run.  PMI has had their share of tenant failures and successes in the past.  We are privileged to share that some of our previous tenant successes have included Twitter, Yammer, Eventbrite, Stylespot, and Applied Semantics.  Despite the challenges PMI has faced in its leasing history, we feel that leasing space to any growing technology company is worth the risk in this economy.

From the Dark Days in SoMa to a Bright, Booming Future

In 2003, after the dot-com bust, PMI sensed an amazing purchasing opportunity in San Francisco. The area south of Market, known as SoMa, had vacancies reaching upwards of 40%, leasing brokers  began describing the area as “toxic.” SoMa looked like a promising area to recreate the magic acquisitions PMI assumed in the Los Angeles Westside during the mid-90s property grab.

By 2003, entertainment, advertising, and media companies on the Westside of Los Angeles had helped the area stage a rapid comeback from the tech crash. Late in 2003, PMI sold a 75,000 square foot Santa Monica creative office property to a Texas-based realty pension adviser. It was the first time an institutional buyer purchased a Westside creative office building. Soon after, the buying frenzy started and creative offices were being bought and sold at record prices. Comparatively, in SoMa during 2003 and 2004, only residential converters were buying creative office buildings and for under $125 per square foot.

PMI targeted San Francisco as a prime place to purchase creative office buildings for several reasons:

  1. The city has an incredibly large workforce of highly educated individuals.
  2. The city has one of the greatest concentrations of software engineers in the world.
  3. Two of the top universities in the country are located in the area.
  4. The city is dominant in venture capitalism.
  5. We took into account Richard Florida’s “Creative Class,” in which he argues that the world’s power and wealth will be concentrated in super regions of knowledge workers. We agreed with his theory and believed San Francisco  fit the paradigm perfectly.
  6. We considered the study of the history of innovation, which shows that the discovery of disruptive technology tends to end in a bursting of bubbles and is followed by an even greater and more mature expansion of the technology (a cycle that can happen many times).

While San Francisco seemed a great arbitrage, we were too frightened to buy anything in 2003. It wasn’t until late 2005 that we bought our first property, with the tenants and cash flow in place at the time. The deals were not as good as buying empty buildings, but they were a lot better than the creative office deals on the Los Angeles Westside. Rents climbed from $22 modified gross per square foot in 2005 to $36 modified gross per square foot in 2007and then collapsed below $22 modified gross per square foot in 2009.

With rents at an all time low and a building half vacant, we went on a search for the best start-up companies we could find and made them deals they could not refuse. Our first two takers were Eventbrite and Yammer. In another building, we leased a space to a startup called Twitter.

As described in this article from the San Francisco Business Times, things got much better in San Francisco. Rents are now well over $40 modified gross per square foot. The arbitrage between San Francisco and the Los Angeles Westside is no more. REITs and institutional investors dominate the business now.

“My warning,” says Jeffrey Palmer of PMI Properties, “is that this is a very volatile business. At some point in the cycle–both on the rise and fall, what you are experiencing may be volatility.”

Opower, an Energy Efficient Software Company, is PMI’s Newest Tenant at Harrison Property in San Francisco

Our newest tenant on the second floor of 642 Harrison in San Francisco has a goal to make the world more energy-efficient.  It’s a pretty lofty goal for a company only founded in 2007.  Opower is a software as a service company that partners with utility companies to promote energy efficiency.  According to their website, Opower is a new customer engagement platform for the utility industry.  It reinvented the way utilities interact with customers—from the quality of the information provided to the way it’s presented and delivered.  It helps people use energy more efficiently and ultimately save money on their energy bills.  And it vastly improves the overall customer experience by making energy use personally relevant.  For example, when monthly invoices arrive at a customer’s home, they can see the average utility bill cost in their neighborhood, along with suggestions on how to reduce their energy consumption.  If they are well over the average compared to other homes in the area, they then have Opower’s suggestions right at their fingertips to help alleviate some of their energy costs.

Opower decided to PMI Properties’ 642 Harrison would be a great candidate for their next office because of its size and prime location.  Opower’s decision to choose Harrison in the competitive SoMa market was featured in this article as well: Big Race for Space in SoMa, Wall Street Journal, January 26 2012.

They also have established an online presence with social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter, as well as having their own, “Hey, it’s OPOWER!” blog.  Their website has many interesting and innovative ways to share information about their vision and what the company has accomplished.  There is an “OMeter” page that keeps a running tab on how many kilowatt-hours Opower has saved, and lists some interesting facts on what could be done with all that energy.  Opower also finds ways to engage and entertain their employees.  Their website lists activities such as a quarterly company outing, innovation day, soccer and ping-pong teams, and the ability to bring your dog to work.

Photo courtesy of Opower's website.

Opower was founded in 2007 by long-time friends Dan Yates and Alex Laskey.  When they started their company, lots of people were excited about cleaner energy production using renewable energy sources, like the sun and wind.  Dan and Alex knew that these sources wouldn’t be tapped in the short-term, even though they are important.  Their answer to reducing carbon emissions right now was curbing wasteful use of the types of energy produced today.  By utilizing the 1.4 billion utility bills that are mailed to customers each year, they would be able to send energy-saving ideas to hundreds of millions of households.  After creating a prototype, they went to two of America’s major energy markets, California and Texas.  The amount of interest they received from utilities, state legislators, and environmental groups soon led to first round venture capital funding from MHS Capital.

Photo courtesy of Opower's website.

They have garnered support from other green centered companies, as well as President Barack Obama. He visited their headquarters in Arlington, Virginia in 2010 and praised their work ethic and success during the hard economic times in addition to their ability to provide clean energy jobs.  They have been featured in articles from The Wall Street Journal, Techcruch, CNN, and Green Tech Media, to name a few.

You can visit Opower’s website at http://www.opower.com. You can read their blog at www.heyitsopower.com and follow them on Twitter @Opower and Facebook: www.facebook.com/heyitsopower

Past and Present PMI Tenants– Join the Ranks of the Best

Ever since it’s inception, PMI Properties has been home to many up and coming creative companies.  From video games and film to advertising and software designers, we’ve had the pleasure of housing all types of creative companies.   A social networking company exploded into society’s consciousness from our offices. They now have over 300 million users and changed the way we communicate in 140 characters or less online.  They also reinvented the meaning to the word, “tweet.”  That company is none other than Twitter.  Applied Semantics, producer of software applications for the online advertising, domain name, and enterprise information management markets, invented AdSense in a PMI Property office space.  AdSense has since been acquired by Google, and is now responsible for over 25% of their revenue.

It’s been said that our Properties Motivate Innovation.

A few more you may have heard of include Columbia Pictures, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck’s Project Greenlight, HBO Entertainment, Google, Wes Craven, Summit Entertainment, Sony Electronics and Ubisoft.

To gain a larger sense of our scope and variety of amazing tenants, check out our complete list of past and present PMI tenants below.

Entertainment

  • Bruce Lee Enterprises
  • Concrete Pictures
  • Franklin and Waterman (Film)
  • Imperial Entertainment
  • Infinite Monkey Entertainment
  • Nalin (Film)
  • Public Interest Films (Film Production)
  • Sony Pictures
  • Strand Releasing (Movie Distribution)
  • Trimark Films (Film/Merged with Lionsgate)
  • David Koz (Musician)
  • Domo Records (Music Publishing)
  • John Erhlich (Music Editing)
  • Music Choice (Internet Music)
  • Rick Knowles (Music Production)
  • Tonos (Music Website/Carol Bayer Sager)
  • Varese Sarabande (Music Publishing)
  • Vibe (Music Publishing)
  • Fox Entertainment
  • Gurin Company (Television Production)
  • Millionaires Club (Television)
  • Mixed Signals (Interactive Television)
  • Termite Art (Television Production)

Production 

  • Tangerine Entertainment (Commercial Production)
  • Halon Entertainment (Pre Production)
  • Animal Logic (Post Production)
  • At The Post (Post Production)
  • Goodspot (Post Production)
  • Jack Fx (Post Production)
  • King and Country (Post Production)
  • Liquid (Post Production)
  • Moxie Pictures (Post Production)
  • Propeller (Post Production)
  • Radium (Post Production)
  • Rex Edit (Post Production)
  • Safehouse (Post Production)
  • Sol Design (Post Production)
  • Superior Assembly (Post Production)
  • On Line Off Line (Video Production)

Software

  • Applied Semantics
  • Apture (Web Software)
  • Codehost (Software)
  • Coding Technologies (Software)
  • Double Click (Web Advertising Software)
  • Epoch-Paycom (Digital Payment Web Software)
  • Guardian Edge (Web Software)
  • Ingrooves (Web Music Software)
  • Insync (Web Music Software)
  • IOTA (Web Music Software)
  • Jaspersoft (Software)
  • Limelight (Software)
  • Opendns (Software)
  • Outlook
  • Playdom (Software)
  • Radar (Web Software)
  • Retix (Software)
  • Supersig (Web Software)
  • The Brain (Software)
  • Xobni (Web Software)
  • Yammer (Saas Collaborative Software)
  • Yola (Web Software)
  • Zendesk (Web Software)

Advertising

  • Bright Design
  • Bush Communications
  • Click Media (Digital Advertising)
  • DCA
  • Deep Focus
  • Domozog
  • Expert Communications
  • Grange Advertising
  • Ideology
  • McElroy
  • Murphy Obrien
  • Point Blank
  • PR 21
  • Rocket Studios
  • Spelling Communications
  • Woo Advertising

Video Gaming

  • Outspark
  • Playdom
  • Six Degree Games
  • Sony Computer Entertainment
  • Sulake
  • Ubisoft
  • Workshop Entertainment

Digital Marketing & Publishing

  • AZ Razorfish (Digital Marketing)
  • Carbon Five (Digital Marketing)
  • Maholo (Digital Publishing)
  • Scribd (Digital Publishing)
  • Techcrunch (Digital Publishing)
  • Threshold (Digital Marketing)

Web

  • Eventbrite (Web Ticket Sales)
  • Google (First LA Offices/AdSense)
  • Motoreyes (Website)
  • Top Tutor/Idealabs (Education Website)
  • http://www.com (Website)

Miscellaneous

  • Dunket–Shaquille O’Neal (eCommerce)
  • Savings.com (eCommerce)
  • Sony Electronics (Electronic Consumer Hardware)
  • Diamond Multimedia/Rioport (Electronic Hardware)
  • NatureEner (Green Technology)