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High Visibility : Power Has Its Privileges, and Increasingly for the Valley's Elite, That Means a Top-Flight View From a Tall Building

March 02, 1989|BARBARA BRONSON GRAY | Gray is a Van Nuys free-lance writer.

Looking down the 17 floors of the Trillium building, Robert Norton knows the view from the top has its privileges. He can wow new clients, find quick inspiration and, in the late afternoon, check out the traffic on the Ventura Freeway. All it takes is a power window.

"I turned my desk so I could look out at the view," said Norton, vice president for business and legal affairs and administration for Celebrity Home Entertainment in Woodland Hills.

For Norton and a growing number of high-rising executives, a high-profile office means having a window with a spectacular view of the San Fernando Valley.

Some are attracted to the tallest buildings because they want a sense of power and success. Others like the great views because, as Norton said, "they help you remember the rest of the world."

It doesn't have to be a 17th-floor view for people to lust for the window. Mike Boyer, a leasing broker with Zugsmith & Associates in Studio City, said he recently watched two partners vie for the view in a four-story structure.

'2 Corner Windows'

"I leased a small office in Sherman Oaks; the nicest office had two corner windows, one overlooking Greenbush Avenue and the other facing Ventura Boulevard. The president of the two-person company got the corner office, but the vice president arranged to make his office bigger, to make up for losing the window," Boyer said.

The greater demand for better views is reflected in the cost of the office space. The higher you go, the more expensive the space. The monthly rent at the 35-floor MCA/Texaco building runs $2.16 per square foot for the first 15 floors, but $2.83 per square foot above that, Boyer said.

David DeFore, associate vice president of Coldwell Banker Commercial Real Estate Service in Sherman Oaks, said upper floors in new buildings--generally above the midpoint--cost 20% to 25% more than the low-visibility levels.

"It's some kind of sense of power that you're up that high; it makes you glad you came to work," Barry Gross, president of Gross Enterprises and owner of the 12-story 16000 Ventura Blvd. building in Encino, said of his view from the top floor.

In fact, Norton said the great views make recruiting easier. "It does have a value in terms of attracting employees," he said. "A number of employees came up to the top of the building last July to watch the fireworks from Pierce College."

'Afraid of Heights'

Yet some purposefully avoid the power windows. "There are some people who tell me they don't want to be high in a building because they're afraid of heights. One attorney specifically didn't want to be higher than the fourth floor," said DeFore. "But most want to get as high as they possibly can."

According to George Rand, associate professor of architecture and urban design at UCLA and a clinical psychologist, "the window symbolizes a sense of control over the environment. And when you look at it that way, it's like a scepter or a symbol of power."

Rand said the way power is symbolized in our culture is by high visibility--the person who can see everything--coupled with protection from being seen. "The window creates this whole mythological system," he said.

"Windows have two functions: They allow light into the room and they allocate importance and power," Rand said. "People are sensitive to that; they learn the difference between windows that are there for light and those that illuminate power. It's the configuration. The power windows are the corner offices."

The impact of the corner office is rarely missed by the client or visitor, attorney J. Scott Matthew said. He said no one has ever walked into his southwest-facing corner office for the first time without commenting on the view from the American Savings building at Ventura and Sepulveda boulevards. Some people are too afraid to look down or to venture too near the window.

Avoid Distractions

Matthew placed his desk so he couldn't look at the mountains because he didn't want to be distracted by the "inspirational and occasionally mystifying" view, he said.

According to Larry Daniels, a broker at Cushman & Wakefield in Woodland Hills, the view in many top executive offices is dwarfed by the luxury of the suite. They are called "ego suites" by the brokers "because the only thing bigger than the guy's ego is his suite," Daniels said. The executive offices include a private underground garage and elevator, a wet bar, conference room, kitchen, sauna, shower, Jacuzzi and workout room. "In an office like this, the view just adds to the amenities," he said.

Are power windows worth the additional cost?

"For me, it really gives a relaxing distractiveness that eases the mind and allows me to be productive," Norton said as he looked out his corner window at the Santa Monica Mountains on a wind-swept, crystal-clear day.

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