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Local chapter of national real estate group got more political in 2004

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The local chapter of a national organization of owners, brokers and managers of industrial and office properties has spent the past year getting more involved in the political arena than ever before.

Jeff Burges, the outgoing president of the San Diego chapter of the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties (NAIOP), gave this assessment of his tenure in office during this week's national NAIOP conference at the San Diego Marriott towers downtown.

During the past year, NAIOP has solidified a relationship with the Building Industry Association that originally began three years ago. This alliance has allowed the two organizations to join forces to deal with such issues as development impact fees, stringent storm water regulations and the vagaries of multiple habitat conservation plans.

Burges said while in the past it made tentative efforts in the legislative arena, today's NAIOP chapter will be committed to shaping policy, and won't be afraid to lobby for what it believes.

"We're going to fight for the needs of the development and ownership community," Burges said. "We want to have an accelerated legislative focus."

Burges said this new effort needs to be applied to combat a move by local governments to place more of the infrastructure burden on commercial and industrial development than they have in the past. The danger here, he said, is that if fees or mandates become too onerous, they will kill the very businesses a municipality may wish to foster.

NAIOP can have a major impact on a community, Burges said.

For now, unlike the Building Industry Association, NAIOP has stopped short of making formal endorsements. Burges did not rule out the possibility that this would be happening in the near future, however.

Burges said its members have been working hard to pass Proposition A, a half-cent sales tax TransNet extension, which would yield about $14 billion for roads, freeways and mass transit between 2008 and 2048.

Looking at the broader picture, Burges said his membership simply cannot afford to think of land in the same way.

"We need to begin to change the way Southern Californians think. Our future depends on urban, infill re-use," Burges said. "We don't have to look further than New York or San Francisco. The City of Villages is a start ... but mixed-use projects are very difficult to finance."

Burges suggested the San Diego Spectrum in Kearny Mesa, which has office, retail and residential space at close quarters, at least begins to realize the City of Villages dream. He added that Sunroad Enterprises also helped the effort by facilitating residential, without compromising the office segment on its portion of the plan.

Burges said he wants NAIOP to be part of the City of Villages efforts, but concedes that it hasn't been yet. "We have to be brought to the table, but we haven't been knocking at the door to get into the room," he said.

There are many other issues confronting NAIOP. "The energy cost issue is a huge one for us," Burges said. Rent projections can be an absolute nightmare unless there is some stability in electricity rates, he said.

Above all, Burges, who is a commercial property manager and investment manager, said he is bullish on what is happening in San Diego, particularly the urban renaissance happening downtown.

"You must consider the residential aspect in San Diego. The same thing is happening in L.A. and Vancouver," he continued. "We booked two bus tours, one by Centre City Development Corp., and one is a biotechnology tour. The downtown tour was sold out in a nanosecond."

Meanwhile, Burges said the NAIOP here and nationally is involved in any number of charitable causes. One of these is called HomeAid, an operation affiliated with Interfaith Communities that provides transitional housing for the homeless, among other services. NAIOP-sponsored fund-raisers have provided everything from bedding to counseling.

As for his own business, Burges Property + Co., Burges said he has been purchasing buildings from Orlando to El Segundo that not only have fiber optic cable, but complete data centers with co-located servers.

In many of these cases, the companies that originally built these tenant improvements no longer exist, but that doesn't mean the improvements weren't exceedingly costly. "They are about $1,000 to $1,200 per square foot more expensive, or about six times more expensive than a biotechnology building," he said.

The tenants that occupy such high-tech buildings include AT&T (NYSE: T), Verizon, Google (Nasdaq: GOOG), E-Bay (Nasdaq: EBAY) and Coca-Cola (NYSE: KO).

Burges said there are only about 50 buildings this sophisticated in the entire country.

Burges will be succeeded as president by Michael McNerney of hotel owner and developer Lowe Enterprises in 2005.

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