The year seemed to end well for San Fernando Valley office landlords, as Class A asking rents rose five cents since the third quarter. But landlords were hardly celebrating.

There was little major activity and most leases consisted of renewals, with tenants shopping for bargains often playing off competitive offers to get lower rates where they were.

Indeed, with the vacancy rate ticking up two-tenths of a point to 17.4 percent since September, according to Jones Lang LaSalle Inc., tenants were the ones with the upper hand.

“The vast majority of deals show tenants keeping the same space or a slight reduction,” said Lee Black, executive vice president at NAI Capital in Encino. “If a landlord can offer additional incentives, such as a higher parking ratio, that’s a competitive advantage in attracting the few relocations available.”

Even when tenants switch buildings, they often stay nearby. For example, Cherokee Inc. announced in November that it would move its headquarters into 10,100 square feet leased at 5900 Sepulveda Blvd. in Van Nuys, less than two miles away from its former Van Nuys headquarters.

However, Dan Sanchez, executive vice president at Jones Lang LaSalle, said that he believes landlords should be able to command higher lease rates by the end of 2012.

“It’s a tenant’s market but that could change this year. When we see job growth, we will see the market rebound,” Sanchez said.

One reason for the optimism: Take out vacancies in the market’s extreme northern end in the Conejo Valley, and the overall market would have done much better instead of recording negative net absorption of 130,449 square feet.

Two buildings at 2380 and 2400 Conejo Spectrum Drive totaling 200,000 square feet in Thousand Oaks were officially vacated by giant drug maker Amgen Inc.

Owner Cusumano Real Estate Group of Burbank has put the buildings up for sale at an asking price of $24 million.

In the industrial market, Jones Lang LaSalle reported a vacancy of 4.8 percent for the San Fernando Valley, the second lowest rate among Los Angeles County submarkets. Recovering auto sales boosted the market. Keyes European LLC, a Mercedes-Benz auto dealership in Van Nuys, spent $35 million on a new 252,000-square-foot dealership, which opened Dec. 5.

MAIN EVENTS

  • An investment fund led by Kennedy Wilson of Los Angeles bought Warner Atrium, a 126,000-square-foot office building in Woodland Hills, for $19 million. The three-story building, at 6400 Canoga Ave., was part of a five-property portfolio acquired from Jamison Properties Inc. of Los Angeles. The portfolio included 16501 Ventura Blvd., a 169,600-square-foot Encino office building, but no price was disclosed for that property.

  • Cherokee Inc. leased 10,100 square feet in Tri-Center Plaza at 5900 Sepulveda Blvd. in Van Nuys. The five-year lease has a starting rate of $2.05 per square foot. The apparel company moved from another location in Van Nuys to a larger space in anticipation of growth.

  • M West Holdings LLC, a Sherman Oaks real estate investment firm, purchased a 73,200-square-foot office building at 4130 Cahuenga Blvd. in Toluca Lake for $15 million. The three-story building caters to entertainment industry tenants. The seller was Cahuenga Plaza LP.

  • Guitar Center Inc. signed a lease for 42,700 square feet of office space at Lakeview Corporate Center, 112 S. Lakeview Canyon Road in Thousand Oaks. The offices will function as an expansion of the music retail chain’s corporate headquarters and provide easy access to the company’s main headquarters in Westlake Village. Industry sources estimated the lease’s value at $5.7 million.

  • AEW Capital Management purchased a 110,000-square-foot industrial building at 14000 Arminta St. in Panorama City from Titan Pacific LLC. Financial terms were not disclosed. The property is part of the master-planned industrial park called the Plant that was the former site of a General Motors factory.

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