The Assembly on Thursday unanimously approved a measure that would nudge the state toward leaving its problem-plagued Board of Equalization building.
The bill by Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, would authorize the Department of General Services to spend up to $3 million to pick a site and develop agreements for a new building. The facility would house 2,200 employees now working in the board’s N Street headquarters, plus about that many more in satellite offices around the area.
Assembly Bill 1656 now goes to the Senate.
The measure is far less ambitious than an earlier version that would have committed the state to a move – and would have cost upwards of $500 million, according to an Assembly Appropriations Committee estimate.
The measure also absolves the board, which collects a variety of taxes, from any obligation to pay rent on the 24-story building after its employees move out. Board lease payments service bond debt on the building, currently around $77 million. The bond terms say the building must be occupied with a rent-paying tenant. Dickinson has said he believes a deal for a new facility could be packaged with the sale of the current headquarters so that the state wouldn’t have to dip into other resources to pay off bondholders if the building is emptied.
The 22-year-old equalization building has a long history of defects, from exterior glass panels that have crashed on the sidewalk to corroded waste-water pipes, leaking windows and toxic mold. The state has spent about $60 million on repairs to date. Future fixes will cost up to $40 million, according to a recently-updated state estimate, plus another $75 million to temporarily move employees during repairs.