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Capitol annex faces $755 million redo

A grizzly bear statue guards the front doors of the governor's office on the ground floor of the Capitol annex. (Photo: Nagel Photography)

The Capitol’s six-story annex is a functional, granite hive of lawmakers’ offices, committee hearing rooms and assorted legislative staff offices, joined at the hip with the domed Capitol. One factoid: The third floor of the annex matches the second floor of the historic wing, which leads to no end of confusion for visitors trying to navigate the labyrinth.

But change is coming.

The state budget allows $1.6 billion to build new government structures in downtown Sacramento, including $755 million to replace the 66-year-old annex. State officials say cramped spaces, safety and efficiency issues drove plans to eventually tear down and replace the annex, which originally cost $7.4 million to build in 1952. To date, there is no definite time frame for the project.

“This was built with a vision. Pineapples served in homes were an extraordinary act of hospitality because they were a gift from Hawaii.” — Ken Cooley

Assemblymember Ken Cooley, D-Rancho Cordova, is a key advocate for a rebuilt annex.

“We are a full-time Legislature that operates nine months out of the year and we receive 1.5 million visitors every year,” Cooley said. “Let’s make it a welcoming building.” He authored Assembly Bill 2667, urging construction plans to incorporate elements of the Capitol’s architectural symbolism.

The current ornate West Wing doors feature owls of wisdom, the bundle of sticks carved into stairwells symbolize wealth and power in numbers. Cooley thinks fondly of the pineapple carvings hanging from some Capitol stairwells, placed in 1870.

“This was built with a vision. Pineapples served in homes were an extraordinary act of hospitality because they were a gift from Hawaii,” Cooley said.

A group of Civil War-era trees that were hauled from Capitol Park last year will have a role in the new project. The trees – an 85-foot-tall American elm, a 90-foot-tall tulip tree  and a box elder – were cut down, taken to Placer County and stored. They will be cured and sliced, than used in parts of the project, including benches.

The building is not compliant with the current Americans with Disabilities Act, offering little room for those with wheelchairs and crutches.

According to the Department of General Services, a previous study of state office buildings documented serious deficiencies, including inadequate fire and safety systems.

The checklist of red flags include deteriorating water and sewer lines and structural damage from water. The fire hazards include the building’s inability to allow smoke to rise in case of a fire, and the lack of areas built to block the spread of fire and keep it from critical areas.

The annex also stretched to its electrical capacity because of old wiring.

The building is not compliant with the current Americans with Disabilities Act, offering little room for those with wheelchairs and crutches. Stairwells are not equipped to accommodate large amounts of people and elevators are too small for gurneys to fit safely inside.

Staff members often will group together in hallways to have discussions and chat, creating little space for groups of school children and other visitors to pass through.

The other new projects include $420 million to build temporary staff offices on O Street during annex construction. The O Street offices would later be used by other government agencies.

Cooley said he hopes plans include a better visitor’s center, with bathrooms immediately available and separate exits for staffers and visitors to create more space. Updated technology, like electronic maps, agenda access, electronic directories, and vehicle charging facilities are also included in a list of ideas.

Last year, the redesigned Los Angeles federal courthouse was opened, resembling a “floating cube.” The 10-story building incorporates a variety of sustainable design features, like solar panels. The design of the transparent north and south facing glass panels maximize natural sunlight inside the courthouse.

The annex is the most expensive of three projects funded by the 2018-2019 state budget.

The other new projects include $420 million to build temporary staff offices on O Street during annex construction. The O Street offices would later be used by other government agencies. More than $489 million will go toward building a 53-courtroom building to replace the Gordon D. Schaber courthouse. That project is expected to start in the summer of 2019 with a completion date in summer 2022.

According to the Department of Finance, four other courthouse projects in Glenn, Riverside, Sonoma and Stanislaus counties are on the funding list with more than $972 million in plans.

But the heart of the construction plans is the state Capitol.

“The annex is the People’s House…it needs to be updated for efficient participatory democracy,” Cooley said.

 

 

 


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