Boom looms for state office construction

The state Capitol in Sacramento, viewed from 10th Street toward the West Steps.(Photo: Timothy Boomer)

Build it and they will come.

A surge in state government office construction looms for downtown Sacramento, including the replacement or renovation of the Capitol’s 64-year-old annex.

State officials say cramped space, safety and efficiency issues and the need to modernize old structures is driving the construction plans.

Central Sacramento is a bureaucratic hive, with hundreds of thousands of square feet in office space.

“A study of state office buildings documented serious deficiencies with existing buildings that will require renovation or replacement, including inadequate fire life and safety systems,” according to the state Department of General Services, which serves as the state’s business manager, administering state contracts and riding herd on office space.

Gov. Brown has proposed setting aside $1.5 billion in the 2016-17 budget to build replacements for — or modernize — the iconic Resources Building at 1416 9th Street near N, as well as two major buildings nearby — the Paul Bonderson building at 901 P Street and the Gregory Bateson building at 1600 9th. Other buildings are further down the priority list. The money would be placed in an account called the State Office Infrastructure Fund, which would be tapped to pay for the projects’ costs.

Central Sacramento is a bureaucratic hive, with hundreds of thousands of square feet in office space.

The governor’s plan, which requires legislative approval, also is looking at the troubled Board of Equalization headquarters building at 5th and N Streets, which has experienced structural problems for years – including flooding, flaking drywall and falling windows. It also may include the buildings housing the State Personnel Board and the Employment Development Department on Capitol Mall, among others, a spokesman said.

One is the construction of a “swing space” building on the south side of the Legislative Office Building at 10th and N Streets to house the tenants of the Capitol Annex.

The major, top-priority projects are:

–A new 650,000 square-foot-office building to house the tenants currently working in the Resources and Bonderson buildings. The site for the new building hasn’t been decided, but the goal is to place it downtown, or close to it.

“We want to make sure it’s in the greater downtown area,” said DGS spokesman Brian Ferguson, “wherever we can get the best deal without taking those buildings too far from the urban core.”

The 17-floor Resources building, which houses the Resources Agency, the Department of Water Resources, the Forestry and Fire Protection Department and numerous related government offices, was built in 1964.  The Bonderson building, completed in 1983 and named after veteran state water expert Paul K. Bonderson, is in need of at least $10 million in repairs, according to one study. The Resources and Bonderson buildings ranked in the Top 5 of the buildings found to be in poor condition by the downtown office infrastructure study financed through the 2014-15 budget.

The existing annex is “undersized to meet current demands and is antiquated.”

–A new 205,000-square-foot office building for tenants of the Bateson building, which would be located on the site of an existing vacant state building on O Street.  The Bateson building currently houses the Health and Human Services Agency as well as some of its member departments.  This building also ranked among the top five 5 buildings needing renovation or replacement in the 2015 infrastructure study. The building is named after Gregory Bateson, a social scientist and philosopher who Brown appointed to the U.C. Board of Regents in 1978. The structure dates from Brown’s earliest terms as governor and was the state’s first official energy-efficiency building, but it has been plagued by problems over the years requires an estimated $16 million in fixes.

–The six-floor state Capitol annex, which contains a warren of offices attached to the restored, older structure of the Capitol, was completed in 1952. The renovation/reconstruction plan offers at least two options, the state said.

One is the construction of a “swing space” building on the south side of the Legislative Office Building at 10th and N Streets, which currently is a parking lot, to house the tenants of the Capitol Annex while the annex is being renovated. The second option is to construction a new office building in Capitol Park to house all the existing tenants of the annex. Under this option, the new building “would be connected to the   original Capitol via an underground tunnel and, once completed, (the state would) demolish the annex and reconstruct the east façade of the historic Capitol building.”

The Capitol's apse, now the east steps, prior to its 1949 demolition.

The Capitol’s apse, now the East Steps, prior to its 1949 demolition.

The existing annex is “undersized to meet current demands and is antiquated,” with “systems that are prone to failure and expensive to maintain,” the state said. “The state Capitol is visited by millions of people each year and this important government building requires significant modernization to continue to serve the state in the future.”

Details of the construction plans have yet to be worked out. Outside the Capitol, Department of General Services will take the lead in administering the program, as it does with other state office construction.  Inside the Capitol, a steering group composed of legislative leaders, the Joint Rules Committee and the governor’s office is expected to be formed.

Moving ahead with the Capitol-linked projects “is going to be more complex,” Ferguson said. “The Senate, Assembly and governor’s office will be making the larger decisions on how this will proceed.”

Ed’s Note: Corrects 5th graf to show that $1.5 billion is proposed for 2016-17 budget, not spread out over time.


Want to see more stories like this? Sign up for The Roundup, the free daily newsletter about California politics from the editors of Capitol Weekly. Stay up to date on the news you need to know.

Sign up below, then look for a confirmation email in your inbox.


Support for Capitol Weekly is Provided by: