Second Mixed Use Plan for Ventura Boulevard Gets OK REAL ESTATE By Shelly Garcia A second plan for a mixed-use residential project on Ventura Boulevard has passed a major hurdle. AvalonBay Communities Inc.’s project on the southeast corner of Noeline Avenue and Ventura Boulevard in Encino, was approved by the planning commission after about 18 months spent working with the community and the city to gain support for the idea. The commission’s decision to green light the project was unanimous, said Larry Scott, regional vice president for AvalonBay. “This is a perfect mixed-use location,” said Scott. “You’re walking distance to the grocery store, walking distance to employment. It has all the characteristics of a mixed use, urban infill location.” The project, located on a site that currently houses the Plaza del Sol shopping center, will include 137 one- and two-bedroom units of luxury rental housing and 12,000 feet of ground floor retail as currently designed. It will be called Avalon Encino. The specific design of the units has not yet been determined, but the exterior will be built in an Italian Mediterranean style and the complex will house amenities such as a pool, fitness facility, recreation center, media room and game room. “We really want it to be a resort atmosphere.” Scott said the company has been actively seeking a site for a residential project in the San Fernando Valley for about three years. Avalon Bay will replace a shopping center that has been largely vacant, and was not listed on the market for sale when AvalonBay began discussions for the purchase with the private investors who had owned it for the past four years. Although the project did not require any zoning changes, the approval process was arduous, Scott said. The company held 22 meetings with the community, including two homeowner groups and the area’s neighborhood council and revised the site plan five times from the original concept. Avalon Encino is the second mixed-use residential project to gain approval on Ventura Boulevard. The developers of the first site, also in Encino, currently have their entitled property on the market for sale. But despite the apparent interest in developing apartment units along Ventura Boulevard, Scott said he does not expect the Valley’s most famous street to become a prominent residential address in the same way that other cities like New York or San Francisco have married commercial and residential real estate projects along major corridors. “Smart growth is a Utopian belief,” Scott said, referring to the growing trend to create urban villages along commercial corridors. “I think the opposition will grow stronger as more projects are proposed.” The idea behind “smart growth,” is to place housing in close proximity to jobs and transportation, reducing the number of commuters and encouraging self-contained communities that provide amenities like restaurants and groceries for residents. But such projects in the Valley have often met with strenuous community opposition from homeowners who believe that apartment dwellings are too dense and will create more traffic for the neighborhood than would, say, a shopping center. AvalonBay is currently developing another mixed use project along the mid-Wilshire corridor. Universal Acceptance The Centrum, a 137,000-square-foot office building in Universal City, has been sold for $28 million. Jamison Properties, an L.A. based real estate investment firm with about 60 properties including numerous holdings along the Wilshire Corridor and several properties in Encino, among others, acquired the building, at 3575 Cahuenga Blvd. from EP Investment. The building is about 85 percent occupied, mostly by entertainment companies. Manfred Schaub, a broker with Cushman & Wakefield, represented the seller. Jamison represented itself in the transaction. Van Nuys Sales A Nearon Enterprises unit has divested two San Fernando Valley buildings in the 500,000-square foot master-planned business park in Van Nuys. Nearon Van Nuys Industrial LLC sold a 60,000-square-foot industrial building for $5.8 million. The building, at 7801 Hayvenhurst Ave., was sold to E & S; International Enterprises Corp., a distributor of consumer electronics. The second site, a 34,000-square-foot industrial property in The Commerce Center at Van Nuys Airport, was sold for $3.5 million. The buyer, City Art, is a non-profit art gallery. Mike Tingus and Randy Kobata, brokers with Lee & Associates’ L.A. North division, represented Nearon in both deals. The buyer of the Hayvenhurst Avenue property was represented by Darren Cline and John DeGrinnis of Colliers Seeley. City Art was represented by Plaza Loans. Apartment Outlook Soaring home prices will boost demand for apartments during the second half of the year, according to a just released report from Marcus & Millichap. The report notes that the loss of jobs from the recent recession has not stemmed population growth in the Los Angeles area, and the growing population, coupled with the declining affordability of homes, will drive decreases in the apartment vacancy rates and increases in rental rates. About 16 apartment projects are expected to be completed this year in the San Fernando Valley, adding a total of 755 apartment units to the housing stock in the region. The report noted that there are only three large projects on the drawing board in the Valley for 2004. The balance of projects in the coming year are under 30 units in size. The limited supply of new housing stock is expected to result in a dip in the vacancy rate for apartments in the Valley to an average of 2.8 percent by year end. Vacancies are lowest in Granada Hills, Sherman Oaks and Chatsworth, the report said. Rental rates are expected to grow by 6 percent this year to an average of $1,133 a month in the Valley. Senior reporter Shelly Garcia can be reached at (818) 316-3123.