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The Real Deal Los Angeles

Owen Fileti of LA Realty Partners on tech’s real estate takeover

Tech broker talks unicorns, yoga rooms and Santa Monica’s comeback

Owen Fileti (via LA Realty Partners)

Last year was one for the Westside commercial real estate books, with five properties trading hands for more than $400 million a piece. It was also, accordingly, a busy year for Owen Fileti, the senior executive director at L.A. Realty Partners who specializes in tech and entertainment leases. The broker closed 51 transactions in 12 months, he told The Real Deal.

In February, Fileti represented Facebook in a lease for 35,000 square feet at Playa Jefferson — and later in its expansion into 50,000 square feet, sources told TRD. He is rumored to be Facebook’s local L.A. broker, although Fileti declined to comment on anything related to the social media giant.

Fileti also repped landlord Clarion Partners in its 87,000-square-foot lease with AwesomenessTV at the Pen Factory; Lyft in a lease for 4,500 square feet in the Arts District; and the drone company DroneBase in its 3,500-square-foot Santa Monica lease.

Before joining LA Realty Partners eight years ago, he spent five years with Colliers International.

We sat down with the broker — who sits on the Board of Directors for the Century City Chamber of Commerce, Los Angeles Commercial Real Estate Association and the Urban Land Institute — to talk tech, Silicon Beach and what this year has in store for L.A.’s office market.

Where did you grow up?

Ann Arbor, Michigan. It’s a unique multicultural university town, an awesome place to grow up.

When did you arrive in L.A.?

Summer of 2003, with three phone numbers in my pocket. My folks were worried I would become a beach bum. I had just graduated Colgate. I made so many calls, and got 21 interviews and three offers in a down market. I first joined Colliers for corporate services. We were working on portfolio strategies for Toyota as well as local development and local leasing.

How did you go from that to tapping into tech deals?

It was 2013 when I first started to recognize a trend in my business shifting towards more entertainment and media-oriented companies. It was happening organically. I started receiving calls from San Francisco to help global companies with their L.A.-based searches. From there, it kept spinning. The L.A. tech ecosystem is interconnected.

What’s going on at the Pen Factory?

[Clarion’s] redevelopment strategy is going great. They landed a fantastic anchor tenant that really fits with the brand, and enhances the project, AwesomenessTV, which is a division of Comcast. Their 87,000 square feet will be completed in August and will be arguably one of the coolest creative offices space in L.A. It will have 31-foot high ceilings and an amazing industrial shell. They will add floor-to-ceiling glass. We think [what remains to be leased] is the last big block of space in that pocket of Santa Monica. It’s 132,000 square feet.

Besides high ceilings and glass, what other trends have you noticed in companies’ buildouts?

Companies are not developing the space for clients or visitors but for employees, because [they are] the biggest or second-biggest expense and best asset. Everyone is fighting for talent. So maximizing indoor/outdoor space; phonebooths; meditation and yoga rooms; and media lounges are much more ubiquitous.

What are you working on now?

I have tech-heavy requirements. One is a unique search for a company with an R&D focus that involves flex space and is an absolute pioneer. Another is a really exciting media company at the center of content and entertainment that received a significant funding round and is adding to the content ecosystem with the biggest entertainment folks in Hollywood behind them.

Where are these tenants looking for space?

A lot of these groups as heavily focused in the traditional Silicon Beach market. We’re now seeing an increase in demand in Hollywood, which to me is one of the most exciting submarkets because it is the true confluence for entertainment tech. It has been rejuvenated by hotels, ten new office buildings — so much going on.

Why is Santa Monica, also, seeing so much happening now?

You have large tech companies betting and investing in L.A.: Oracle, Amazon, Facebook, all have expanded. Santa Monica’s vacancy was slashed in half in a four-month period. That much absorption speaks to the demand for the labor pool in that area. It hits on mass transportation now that expo line has now connected Santa monica to Culver City and Downtown and then residential in that pocket.

What do you forecast for 2017?

Other cities are seeing things slow down. We’re still seeing an uptick in tenant activity, positive absorption. One reason is the general expansion of tech in L.A. I had breakfast this morning with a CEO, and number of his friends in San Francisco view L.A. as a deal relative to S.F. pricing. But the L.A. market is also being viewed through a different lens from a venture capital standpoint.  

How so?

There are more VC shops in L.A. than there used to be, and they are deploying more capital, with some targeting L.A. companies exclusively. CrossCut Ventures was one of the original VCs. Now, there are more players in the marketplace. L.A. is finally creating its own unicorns — from Snap [Inc.] to the Dollar Shave Club.  

Seems like L.A. Realty has stayed out of this past year’s broker-poaching drama. Why, and how does the brokerage compare to the other L.A. firms?

We have a significant market share without doing poaching. This office operates very much as a family-style business. It is only 17 brokers, six principals. We are not focused on forecasting reports or shareholders or any red tape. It it all client-centric. Every person who ever joins our shop needs to be approved by all other 17 people. A number of my colleagues and friends even attended my wedding.

When did you get married?

In 2013. My wife and I now have a daughter who is 17 months old.

Where do you live?

I live in the South Bay, Redondo Beach.  

Do you have any vices?

Technology is certainly one, ordering on Amazon. I think I broke down over 20 boxes to recycle this week. I love playing tennis — I played in college. I love traveling with my family — this year we went to Croatia and a wedding in South France. My daughter got to swim in the turquoise water.