The State Worker

$4 billion in state government construction getting underway in Sacramento

It’s going up fast. Drone video shows state’s new Sacramento high-rise

Construction is well underway on the state of California's new Natural Resources Building. Drone video from Thursday, June 13, 2019, shows the progress on the 20-story, $520 million building scheduled for completion in fall 2021.
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Construction is well underway on the state of California's new Natural Resources Building. Drone video from Thursday, June 13, 2019, shows the progress on the 20-story, $520 million building scheduled for completion in fall 2021.

California state government has launched a historic building boom in Sacramento, scheduling roughly $3.4 billion worth of new construction and renovations over the next five years with more to follow.

Throw in plans for new towers for the state’s pension funds, and the spending will top $4 billion.

“Something like this — this amount of square footage, this amount of resources, this amount of comprehensive refresh — I think is unprecedented,” said Jason Kenney, who is overseeing most of the projects as deputy director of the Department of General Services’ Real Estate Division.

A 2015 survey by an outside firm identified the buildings most in need of replacement, and DGS drafted a 10-year plan based on the results. The Legislature approved a first round of funding the following year.

The new buildings will allow DGS to move employees out of some of the state’s oldest Sacramento offices — one dates to 1929 — and start renovating. Once each office is renovated, employees can move in from another old office, freeing up another building for renovation in a process Kenney likened to “a giant domino game.”

Kenney said he expects workers will prefer their new offices — outfitted with modern furniture and amenities and open spaces — over their old.

“They get better views, better access to sunlight and energy reduction in the buildings,” he said.

Plans include child care facilities and ground-floor tenants such as restaurants and retail stores.

Contractor crews have started building three new state offices downtown with a combined price tag of $1.2 billion. Demolition could begin as early as fall for a state-owned building on Richards Boulevard in North Sacramento to make way for a $915 million campus.

Three renovations of old state offices will follow, with a combined price of about $513 million. The state Legislature is working separately from DGS on a $755 million tear-down and rebuild of the 67-year-old Capitol Annex used by legislative and executive officers that has an expected finish date of 2025.

1215 O St.

An 11-story, $274 million building at 1215 O St. should be finished at the end of next year, Kenney said.

About 1,150 employees from the California Health and Human Services Agency, the Department of State Hospitals, and the Department of Developmental Services will move to the new building.

Plans include a pedestrian plaza, a food court and retail space on the ground floor.

New Natural Resources building

A 21-story, $520 million building on the block surrounded by 7th, 8th, O and P streets is scheduled to be finished in fall 2021.

The building will host about 3,450 employees from the California Natural Resources Agency, the Department of Water Resources, the Department of Parks and Recreation, the Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, the Department of Conservation, the California Conservation Corps and the Wildlife Conservation Board.

The building will have a childcare facility for up to 120 children, the state’s largest to date, according to DGS.

10th & O streets

About 1,250 Legislative and executive officials and their staff will use the 10-story, $432 million building, which is expected to be finished in fall 2021, while the Capitol Annex is renovated. Construction on the building started just seven months after DGS started planning it — the fastest construction start in the department’s history, Kenney said. About 2,200 legislative and executive staffers will continue to use the building after the annex renovation is complete.

Richards Boulevard

Demolition of a 500,000-square-foot building could begin as early as this fall on a 17-acre site in North Sacramento to make way for a $915 million “mega-campus,” Kenney said. The building hosts the Office of State Publishing, which is moving to a smaller space in West Sacramento this summer. Construction of the mega-campus is slated to conclude in 2024.

The campus will host roughly 6,000 employees from departments within the Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency and the Department of Tax and Fee Administration.

Gregory Bateson Building Renovation

The Legislature approved some funding this year for a renovation of the 1600 9th St. building, built in 1981, which currently hosts the workers who will move to 1215 O St. The renovation, with an expected cost of about $131 million, is expected to start in spring of 2021 and to be finished in 2024. It will host departments within the California Natural Resources Agency. Specifics are still being worked out.

Jesse M. Unruh Building

The building at 915 Capitol Mall, built in 1929, is scheduled for a $70 million renovation that is expected to begin in fall 2021 and wrap up in early 2024. It will serve as headquarters for the State Treasurer’s Office.

Resources building

The building at 1416 9th St., built in 1964, is scheduled for a $312 million renovation expected to conclude in 2024. The Employment and Development Department will move in.

CalSTRS and CalPERS

The California State Teachers’ Retirement System plans to finish building a second, $300 million tower in the winter or spring of 2022. The California Public Employees’ Retirement System is still looking for an anchor tenant for a planned $550 million tower on a long-vacant site on Capitol Mall. The planned tower would be Sacramento’s tallest.

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‘Ambitious timeline’

The 10-year plan from DGS calls for more renovations that haven’t yet received funding, ultimately including 11 buildings. The department’s schedule calls for each of the projects to be completed four to five years after construction starts, a timeline the Legislative Analyst’s Office called “ambitious.”

“This timeline is significantly faster than other state building projects,” the office said in an analysis. “While DGS has not initiated the construction or major renovation of any state office buildings over the past ten years, it has generally taken the department at least six years to complete new state office building and major renovation projects in recent decades.”

The department is using a new process in which it contracts with a firm to design and then build each building, rather than the more traditional process of contracting separately with a designer and then a builder. Kenney said the new process is roughly 12 months faster on average.

The buildings will meet “zero net energy” targets, including being powered exclusively with solar power through an agreement with SMUD, Kenney said. At present, about 25 percent of the square footage of DGS buildings meet the renewable energy targets, he said.

The buildings will also reduce the state’s water usage by treating and reusing “gray” water for air conditioning and other non-potable uses, he said.

Wes Venteicher anchors The Bee’s popular State Worker coverage in the newspaper’s Capitol Bureau. He covers taxes, pensions, unions, state spending and California government. A Montana native, he reported on health care and politics in Chicago and Pittsburgh before joining The Bee in 2018.
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