careamerica/hm/6-23/15 inches1stjc/mark2nd By HILDY MEDINA Staff Reporter CareAmerica Health Plans in Woodland Hills has signed a 10-year, $35 million lease for 162,000 square feet at the new West Hills Corporate Village, three miles away from its current headquarters. CareAmerica spokesman Ross Goldberg said the 200,000 square feet the company now leases in the Trillium Building at 6300 Canoga Ave. is too much space for the 500 employees working at the corporate headquarters. “We currently have 200,000 … it’s actually more space than we need,” said Goldberg. “The (new) space is more appropriate and will allow for the growth of as many as 100 employees.” Goldberg said CareAmerica leased the Warner Center space three years ago in anticipation that a subsidiary company would move in to share the space. But that never materialized. CareAmerica has been in the San Fernando Valley since its start-up 11 years ago. It is now one of the nation’s largest HMOs, with 500,000 members. Earlier this year, CareAmerica was one of five HMOs that threatened to leave the city in a dispute over L.A.’s gross receipts tax. It is seeking a change in the tax code that would result in a $15 million dollar tax break for it and four other HMOs. Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan and City Council members have supported a change in the tax, which they say is unfair because HMOs are taxed on fees that simply pass through the insurer from members to medical providers. Although no change has yet been approved, CareAmerica officials felt confident enough to sign the new lease, Goldberg said. The tax issue was not the only reason for the decision to stay, but “it certainly was a consideration,” he said. The proximity of the West Village location to Warner Center was also ideal, Goldberg said. “We wanted to come up with a location that would have as little disruption (for employees) as possible,” said Goldberg. The new office park was formerly occupied by Hughes Missile Systems. The move is scheduled to occur next year. Jeffrey Dinkin, a partner with Beverly Hills-based Regent Properties, Inc., co-owner and co-developer of the 30-acre office park, credited the city’s actions with sealing the deal. “I can’t say enough about the city in this transaction,” he said. “It’s a great win for CareAmerica, a great win for the community (because) it’s keeping over 500 jobs in L.A.” The 30-acre office park being developed by Regent and Shamrock Holdings Inc. has 420,000 square feet of existing office space that will be renovated for CareAmerica and other tenants. The companies plan to develop an additional 170,000 square feet of new buildings on what are now parking lots, Dinkin said. Total cost for the facelift and new office buildings is expected to be about $100 million and will begin in the next few months, he said. The adjoining 56 acres of the site, now occupied by Coast Federal Bank as its corporate center, is being redeveloped to house a state-of-the-art 911 emergency communications center for the Los Angeles Police Department and a De Vry Institute. The good news for the West Hills Center is bad news for Warner Center, which will lose a major tenant. Bob Pearson, leasing director with AH Warner Center Properties which owns the site being vacated by CareAmerica, said the space will probably be leased out to smaller tenants. The vacancy rate for the West Valley Class A office space, which is primarily in Warner Center, is currently 15.4 percent.