It looks as though the Russell Ranch Road parcel that had been at the center of a re-zoning effort in Westlake Village will be developed into an office project after all. Industry sources say that Opus is close to a deal to acquire the property from Lowe’s, which had hoped to develop a retail center anchored by its home improvement store on the site. Officials at Opus would not comment on the reports, but several real estate brokers said that the company is close to a deal for the property. The parcel, north of the Ventura (101) Freeway at Russell Ranch Road, is entitled for a 376,000-square-foot office development, but Lowe’s, together with Rotkin Real Estate, began several years ago efforts to re-zone the property for a retail center. The proposal ultimately went to a citywide vote and was defeated by what many in the city described as a wide margin. By that time, however, Lowe’s had closed escrow on the property. Opus, which has also developed Opus Rye Canyon and Opus Center at Valencia Gateway, along with numerous office and industrial centers across the country, was one of the first developers to begin negotiations for the parcel when it was owned by Richland Communities. Since that time, the office market in Conejo Valley has gone from rather plentiful to virtually rarified. As of the fourth quarter of the year, the vacancy rate in the area was at 5.8 percent, and the Russell Ranch Road property is one of the few remaining large sites entitled for office development anywhere in the region. Vacancy squeeze Office vacancy rates in the greater San Fernando Valley area continued to fall in the fourth quarter of the year, bumping rents up further in most submarkets. According to a Grubb & Ellis report, the overall vacancy rate in the greater Valley remained constant at 6 percent, but rates in several submarkets continued to decline, making it harder and harder for those looking for new office space. The vacancy rate in the Conejo Valley fell to 5.8 percent from 6.5 percent in the third quarter of the year; vacancies in the East Valley declined to 2.9 percent from 3.2 percent in the third quarter of 2006; and in the West Valley, rates dipped to 8.8 percent from 9.2 percent in the third quarter. Office vacancies in Burbank dropped to 3.6 percent, declining from 4.2 percent in the third quarter and from 7.5 percent in the fourth quarter of 2005. Vacancies in the Santa Clarita Valley dipped to 8.1 percent from 8.3 percent in the third quarter of 2006 and from 10.9 percent in the fourth quarter of 2005. At single-digit levels, the market is generally thought to be at full occupancy, meaning that the only space available is odd-sized in a way that the average tenant cannot utilize. Although rents have been inching up very gradually, they have risen significantly since the year ago period. In the Valley overall, asking rates have risen to $2.49 a square foot, an 8 percent increase over the year ago period. Rental rates in the East Valley are among the highest at $2.86 per square foot, reflecting a 9.5 percent increase over the year ago period. So far at least, the only submarket with average asking rates over $3 per square foot is Burbank, where rents have risen to $3.01 per square foot from $2.77 a year ago. Canoga Park purchase Planet Green, a company that provides ink jet and laser cartridge recycling services, has acquired a 30,000-square-foot Chatsworth industrial property for $4.4 million. The company, currently located in Canoga Park, buys empty inkjets and lasers and old cell phones from community groups such as schools, churches and non-profits as well as individuals, refills and otherwise recycles and resells them. The company re-ports that over 1,000 non-profit organizations use its business as a fundraising tool. Jack Schlaifer, a broker with Lee & Associates L.A./ Ventura, represented the buyer. The seller, GSI Properties LP, was represented by Trevor Gale and Ronald Kassan of Beitler Commercial Realty. Multifamily sale A 19-unit apartment complex in North Hollywood has sold for $1,560,000. The property, at 5611 Fulcher Ave., was bought by a private investor. Chris Thompson, a broker with Investment Real Estate Associates, represented the seller, also a private investor. Lease deal Loan Tool Box has leased a 15,000-square -foot space in Westlake Village in a 6-year deal valued at $3 million. The company, which provides mortgage-related services, will occupy a building at 2475 Townsgate Road. Sheryl L. Mazirow of Mazirow Commercial Inc. represented the tenant. The landlord, Townsgate Road LLC, was represented by Marc Spellman, a broker with Lee & Associates. San Fernando acquisition Respond First Aid Systems has acquired a 7,500-square-foot industrial property in the city of San Fernando for $1.2 million. The company will relocate its headquarters, currently in Glendale, to the new facility, located at 599 Fourth Street. Senior reporter Shelly Garcia can be reached at (818) 316-3123 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org .