Capitol Alert

Should California renovate part of the Capitol – or tear it down?

The Capitol annex was built when Earl Warren was governor in 1951. Lawmakers are deciding whether to renovate or rebuild the 65-year-old annex, whose problems range from lack of space to inadequate ventilation.
The Capitol annex was built when Earl Warren was governor in 1951. Lawmakers are deciding whether to renovate or rebuild the 65-year-old annex, whose problems range from lack of space to inadequate ventilation. Sacramento Bee file

Today members of the California Senate and Assembly Rules committees will meet for a hearing in the same room for the first time since 2002.

What special topic prompted the rare appearance of both sides of the Joint Rules Committee? The future of the Capitol annex, an outdated building that houses the offices of most of the 120 lawmakers in Sacramento.

The Capitol annex hasn’t been significantly renovated since it was constructed in 1952, despite longstanding gripes that a structure dreamed up in an era of typewriters no longer meets the needs of a modern-day Legislature.

The Department of General Services reports that the building’s systems – heating and cooling, electrical and plumbing, to name a few – are well beyond their expected life cycle. The state says the annex contains asbestos, lead-based paint and other hazardous materials. It isn’t exactly compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, either.

“We know we need to do something,” said Debra Gravert, chief administrative officer for the Joint Rules Committee. “We have no idea what it’s going to cost, but we have a house that is falling apart and we need to fix it.”

A law signed last year authorizes the Joint Rules Committee, headed by Assemblyman Ken Cooley, D-Rancho Cordova, to decide whether to renovate or tear down the deteriorated structure.

The hearing, which starts at 10 a.m. in room 4202 of the Capitol, launches the process of figuring it all out. David Hart, whose architecture firm MOCA worked on the renovation of the Minnesota State Capitol, is expected to present and answer questions.

The joint committee will convene two additional meetings before the session ends in September.

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Taryn Luna: 916-326-5545, @TarynLuna

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