PG&E eyed S.F. exit for years before downtown Oakland tower deal: court records

$892 million downtown Oakland deal includes $420 million purchase price for Oakland tower

300 Lakeside Drive office tower in downtown Oakland, the proposed site of PG&E’s future corporate headquarters. PG&E sought for years to find ways to exit its inefficient San Francisco headquarters complex and transplant its head offices to the East Bay before striking a deal for a downtown Oakland office tower, bankruptcy court records show.

By GEORGE AVALOS | | Bay Area News Group

PUBLISHED: June 15, 2020 at 5:45 a.m. | UPDATED: June 15, 2020 at 8:57 a.m.

OAKLAND — PG&E sought for years to find ways to exit its inefficient San Francisco headquarters complex and transplant its offices to the East Bay before finally striking a deal for a downtown Oakland office tower, bankruptcy court records show.

Court documents also reveal PG&E’s official estimate for the number of workers the utility expects to deploy to the new Oakland headquarters: 4,500.

PG&E’s deal for a lease with an option to buy a 28-story office tower perched on the shores of Lake Merritt is intricate, according to documents in PG&E’s $58 billion bankruptcy case that’s now in its final days.

Yet it appears the deal is a win for PG&E customers, the utility, and for TMG Partners, the veteran developer that intends to ultimately lease and sell the highrise to PG&E.

“For PG&E ratepayers, it’s a smart deal for the company to make. For TMG, it’s a brilliant deal,” said Edward Del Beccaro, an executive vice president with TRI Commercial/CORFAC International, and Bay Area managing director for the commercial real estate firm.

The utility’s deal for the downtown Oakland office tower includes a base rent of $57 a square foot per year, which works out to $4.75 a month per square foot, U.S. Bankruptcy Court files show.

“That rental rate is very low for downtown Oakland office space,” Del Beccaro said. “I would have predicted it would have been $70 a square foot per year.”

PG&E is poised to shell out up to $892 million if the utility buys the 300 Lakeside Drive tower, which totals 910,000 square feet, from TMG Partners.

The $892 million is an over-arching “all-in cost” with several components. Court files state the elements are: $420 million as the basic purchase price to acquire the office tower; $141 million for required code improvements and building improvement costs; $171 million for development fees, carrying costs, and transaction fees and expenses; and $160 million in allowances for custom-tailored tenant improvements that  include technology systems, security, floor arrangements, and seismic work. These work out to $230 a rentable square foot.

Since the early 2000s, PG&E has been mulling what to do with the San Francisco office buildings, executives stated in court records.

“Many of the utility’s (headquarters office complex) employees commute to San Francisco from the East Bay area, where the cost of living is far more affordable than in downtown San Francisco,” PG&E said in a court filing.

Plus, the San Francisco headquarters complex has become steadily more expensive to operate.

“The costs of maintaining a headquarters in San Francisco have continued to increase due to both the growth of the local real estate market and significant costs PG&E would face to upgrade and maintain the San Francisco office complex,” the utility stated in court documents.

By early 2018, PG&E intensified its efforts to extract cash from the San Francisco properties and hired TMG to evaluate the company’s real estate prospects in San Francisco and the East Bay. In September 2018, PG&E tasked TMG with finding an East Bay site for the future headquarters, bankruptcy papers show.

“The utility most recently began evaluating a number of specific options to monetize the San Francisco General Office headquarters complex, including a full or partial sale of the San Francisco offices, in early 2018,” PG&E stated in the bankruptcy court records.

The PG&E office complex in San Francisco consists of 77 Beale St., 215 Market St., 245 Market St., and 45 Beale St., court records show.

TMG and PG&E scouted an array of East Bay sites, including the Bishop Ranch business park in San Ramon and a portion of the redevelopment project at the Concord Naval Weapons Station. No deal materialized.

“By mid-2019, PG&E had been unable to locate a satisfactory property in the East Bay area that could meet the utility’s various business needs,” the court records stated.

PG&E pondered selling 77 Beale St. and moving workers into 245 Market St., or the reverse. But 245 Market was deemed too small, and 77 Beale was too large.

Then came a break. In November 2019, realty firms Swig Co. and Rockpoint Group put on the block the 300 Lakeside Drive tower along with an adjacent mixed-use office building and a big parking garage.

Well aware of PG&E’s unrequited ardor for a new East Bay headquarters, TMG raced to make Swig and Rockpoint an offer.

“The utility quickly investigated and determined that the Lakeside Building would provide significantly greater economic benefits” than retaining a San Francisco headquarters. the court papers stated.

In January 2020, PG&E agreed to a deal for 300 Lakeside. A month later, Swig and Rockpoint picked TMG as the buyer of the tower, the mixed-use building, and the parking garage.

TMG negotiated a purchase of the complex while well aware PG&E was waiting in the wings as a 300 Lakeside tenant after the departures of tenants BART and the University of California Office of the President.

“PG&E intends to use the Lakeside Building as its new company headquarters, where it can consolidate approximately 4,500 employees currently located in San Francisco and at least two satellite offices in the East Bay,” the court records state. The East Bay sites are in Concord and San Ramon.

The 300 Lakeside renovations are slated to start in 2022.

“It is currently anticipated 3,200 employees will be relocated to the Lakeside Building by early 2023, approximately 600 employees in 2025, with the balance of the space to be made available for an additional 600 employees beginning in 2026,” the bankruptcy files stated.

TMG, after selling the tower to PG&E, would retain the parking garage and smaller mixed-use building. Those sites have a large enough footprint that they could be developed into one or more towers.

Obstacles remain. TMG must buy the site. A bankruptcy judge must grant approval. PG&E’s track record of a string of fatal disasters that include an explosion and wildfires creates uncertainty.

“You can’t always predict what will happen with PG&E,”  Del Beccaro said.

Read original article on Mercury News here.