Commercial Vacancy Levels May Drop in Wake of Quake


Visions of an earthquake-related boom in commercial real estate haven’t materialized, but Ventura County brokers expect vacancy levels to decrease somewhat in the wake of the disaster.

“In the panic that immediately followed the earthquake, lots of business people rushed out here from the Valley,” said Jerry R. Pelton, senior vice president in charge of the CB Commercial office in Ventura. “But within a few days, many of them found that their plants weren’t damaged as badly as they’d feared--and they canceled their moving plans.”

Small and medium-sized firms have been especially cautious about pulling up stakes because of the steep costs involved, Pelton said. The few larger companies that have moved to the county since the quake had incurred severe damage and also had deep pockets, he added.


Rick Principe, chairman of Westcord/Westlake Commercial Group in Westlake Village, said his brokerage has several leasing proposals pending for medium-sized office and industrial properties. The deals, mainly in the Conejo Valley, are about evenly divided between companies that were or were not affected by the quake.

Principe expects already low commercial vacancy rates to continue declining between Camarillo and the Los Angeles County line. Within 90 days, he believes vacancies will fall to the 8% to 10% range for both office and industrial space.

If the trend continues, speculative commercial development should return to Ventura County for the first time in years, Principe predicted.

One type of commercial property, retail space, probably won’t benefit much from the earthquake, Principe believes. “You can move an office or a factory miles away and keep on doing business, but when you move a store, you’ve left your customers behind.”