Politics & Government

The State Worker: Where should California move its Board of Equalization operations?

The answers are in to a query tossed out in September: Where should the state move more than 4,000 Board of Equalization employees?

The California Department of General Services gave respondents until Halloween to answer its “request for information.” Some of the ideas are obvious. Sacramento’s railyards. The Township 9 project along Richards Boulevard. West Sacramento. Business parks on the Highway 50 corridor.

Landowners in tiny Rancho Murieta, population 5,500, want a taste, although it’s hard to imagine sending thousands of state workers to the golf-and-gated community each day. Imagine a few thousand cars speeding twice daily down Highway 16, the two-lane tether between the east Sacramento County community and Sacramento proper.

California State University, Sacramento, suggested revitalizing the old California Youth Authority property south of Highway 50, which conjures the image of state workers laboring at a former detention center.

Those are a few of the 25 ideas sent to General Services for consolidating Equalization’s 450 N St. operations in Sacramento with a handful of satellite offices. The downtown tower is maxed out with more than 2,000 employees, according to a recent state analysis, so why not move and put everyone together?

Besides, the 20-year-old building has become the state’s unofficial money pit. Taxpayers have spent $64 million since 2005 to fix everything from toxic mold infestation and leaking windows to unreliable elevators, burst water pipes and corroded bathroom plumbing.

If you’re driving in the area, look for the office building festooned with scaffolding for a $4 million project to replace 3,911 exterior panels. That’s because one of them popped off in 2012 and shattered on a sidewalk eight floors below.

Even so, there’s a catch to moving employees out. The state has about $100 million in bond obligations on the building that won’t be paid off until 2021. Money from the board’s lease pays that debt.

So to move sooner, the state would have to cash out bondholders, find a new facility and rehab the Tower of Terror. General Services estimates the 463,000-square-foot building could sit empty for a couple of years just to repair it.

The state asked for ideas about untying that financial knot, but those details weren’t available this week. Responses ranged from “a cover letter with aerial photos,” said General Services spokesman Brian Ferguson, “to an 80-page binder,” so the department wasn’t ready to release details.

No doubt the proposals include new construction. According to a state analysis, no building on the market is big enough to suit the board’s needs.

Unless ... what about this? There’s a huge building in Natomas that’s supposed to be torn down in three years. Enormous parking lot. Gigantic video screens. Freeway access. Concessions.

You could put up some walls, throw down carpet, add cubicles ...