Econowatch/ LK1st/dt2nd By JOAN OSTERWALDER Staff Reporter Apartment vacancy rates continue to decline in the San Fernando Valley, dropping to 6 percent in October from 8 percent in October 1997, according to Marcus & Millichap, a real estate investment brokerage. Vacancy rates are expected to keep falling, to 5.2 percent, over the next 12 months, the brokerage estimates. Maya Mouawad, research manager for the Marcus & Millichap, said the drop in vacancies is the result of a confluence of two trends a lack of major construction projects in conjunction with employment growth in the area. The drop was particularly notable in the northeast Valley, long known for double-digit vacancy rates which now boasts a 7.7 percent rate, down from 9.7 percent last year. “Improved economic conditions led families to move to an apartment, breaking away from a previously shared apartment unit,” Mouawad said. The trend originated in prime markets, such as Sherman Oaks and Studio City, as well as Glendale, Burbank and Pasadena, which have a vacancy rate of about 4 percent. The West Valley, Van Nuys and North Hollywood have a similar number. Meanwhile, rents in the Valley have increased by 2.3 percent since the beginning of the year, the report found. The average rent per unit hovers at around $768, but is expected to increase by 1.5 percent to $779 over the next 12 months. Among the cities leading the increase are Glendale and Burbank, where the growth of the entertainment industry led to higher rents for luxury apartments, Mouawad said.