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SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA IN TRANSITION
I love Southern California.It’s my home—and it’s core to the foundation of my professional and personal identity. I was born in 1958 and have seen Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego and the surrounding communities evolve over the years.In my role as the head of CBRE’s Southern California business, I have had the privilege to lead a team of 2,500 professionals covering a region from the Mexican border to Santa Barbara, including even Hawaii. Every day, I get to talk with property developers, investors, employers, entrepreneurs, policymakers, leaders in the social services and nonprofit communities, and my colleagues.From these interactions, I’ve observed what inspires people and companies to move to Southern California; what makes a neighborhood a great place to work as well as live in; how our universities serve as magnets for talent, innovation and development; how bold ideas have transformed industries and communities; and what motivates domestic and overseas investors to spend billions of dollars to get a piece of this action.The pace of change across the region is faster than I have ever seen during my 35 years of experience in Southern California real estate, and the numbers show it. North America has been the preferred destination for global real estate investors over the past two years, according to CBRE’s annual Global Investor Intentions Survey, and Los Angeles has been by far the top destination in North America—not New York, Toronto or San Francisco.Global Investor Intentions Survey 2017What’s changing?I see a number of factors driving all this interest and transformation in Southern California, including our people, technology and the ways we want to work and play.First, this region is one of the most diverse in the world—thanks to our location on the Pacific Rim, our ports and trade infrastructure, our entrepreneurial spirit, our climate, our universities and our openness to people from across the globe. This translates into economic and social dynamism.Orange County, for example, ranked #9 on CBRE’s list of tech talent momentum markets, as measured by the change in tech job growth, in our fifth annual Scoring Tech Talent report. The Greater LA area, including the OC, is in the top three for the number of tech degree completions between 2014 and 2015.Scoring Tech Talent 2017Second, while we often look north when we think about technology, clearly Southern California has several major tech hubs of its own: life sciences in San Diego; medical devices and fintech in Orange County; and media, entertainment and aerospace on the Westside and in Downtown LA. About two-fifths of all office space in LA County is now occupied by technology and creative firms, according to our research. And if you want to know where to find the newest housing, retail and office startups, not to mention young and ethnically diverse populations, look for the tech hubs.Third, in the old days, we used to measure office productivity by the number of people in seats, but technology has untethered us, enabling people to work from wherever, whenever. This is radically reducing the volume of office space companies need (while motivating them to use what they have more flexibly and smartly), and it’s forcing building owners to offer more unique environments and amenities.If you know me, you’ve probably heard me talk about CBRE’s Southern California offices and how we borrowed a model from the Netherlands and transformed stodgy spaces into creative, collaborative and productive hubs. Technology has allowed us to get rid of paper, we’ve ditched the corner office so all can enjoy the views, and we’ve focused on wellness. I’m extremely proud that our experiment has helped us attract and retain top talent and that we’ve become a model workplace for Southern California and beyond.Finally, this region pioneered and perfected car culture, the long commute and suburban living. But today, I see people seeking more of a sense of connection and community. People want to work near where they live and play. And they want to be inspired by others and their surroundings.The keyword at the forefront of my mind these days is “experience.” We see this shaping the explosion of development and the remaking of Downtown LA, Glendale and Playa Vista. The Grove and The Americana epitomize the importance of experience in retail, while CrossCampus and WeWork bring this concept to life in co-working.Our shared challengesI’m a positive person by nature and always see the tremendous potential of Southern California. But I’ve also seen many people and businesses leave the region in frustration.We face a number of well-known challenges, which I believe prevent Southern California from reaching its true potential as one of the world’s best places to live: grinding traffic, overstretched infrastructure and public services, and the high cost of living.We need to be more compassionate and take better care of our people, especially the homeless: The United Way estimates that there are 26,000 children without secure living arrangements in Orange County alone! We need to unite in purpose and strong leadership to address some of these challenges and to think boldly and execute on our grand ideas.“We need to unite in purpose and strong leadership to address some of these challenges and to think boldly and execute on our grand ideas.”In the coming months, I will be writing about the Southern California I know and love—emerging trends and opportunities, risks to our shared future, and ways we can do things better. In addition to the themes I have touched on above—people, technology and experience—I will also explore some broader themes I am passionate about, namely the social responsibilities of business and leadership. I welcome your thoughts in exchange.
Justin Burnham is a real estate veteran of over 10 years. As a life-long resident of Orange County, Justin has a deep knowledge of its neighborhoods, schools and business areas. This, along with his s....