The State Worker

State building defects will take years to repair, officials say

Massive defects so riddle a state office tower in downtown Sacramento that it will take five years before they’re fixed, according to a new government estimate.

The paperwork for rehabilitating the Board of Equalization’s headquarters will take two years to complete, the agency said last week. Then tack on three years to get the work done.

The state has figured the fixes and employee relocation during reconstruction will cost up to $115 million, plus lost productivity from disrupting the tax-collecting agency’s operations.

Deputy Director Edna Murphy said during a board meeting last week that video and lab tests confirmed wastewater-pipe corrosion first identified a year ago on three floors actually runs throughout the 24-story high rise. Meanwhile, the replacement of some 2,000 suspect glass panels on the building’s exterior still needs to be done.

Taxpayers have already spent more than $60 million to repair the skyline-shaping tower at 450 N St. The state has thrown money into fixing leaky windows, removing toxic mold and repairing erratic elevators. The agency spends about $1 million per year monitoring air quality in the building, where trace amounts of toxic chemical substances have been found. Some employees have blamed illnesses on the sick structure.

The latest twist came last month when officials found a pump that directs water for the building’s fire-sprinkler system was defective. The state fire marshal put the building under a “fire watch” until the pump could be repaired. The order forced the state to assign staff who do nothing but walk the building looking for potential fire hazards.

Lawmakers are considering a measure that would earmark money for the state to explore moving the 2,200 employees out of the tower into a new facility.

Murphy’s report prompted a round of fuming by board members who were angry at the state’s inability to find a lasting solution for a building that has been defective since its opening 22 years ago.

“Even though my lawyers told me not to say this,” said board chairman Jerome Horton, “I don’t think it’s safe.”

Board member George Runner said the building represents “the great hypocrisy of the state,” noting that the danger a glass panel might again fall forced officials to ring the tower with scaffolds.

“If this building was owned by a private entity, the city would not allow it to be standing there with scaffolding around it,” Runner said. “They’d insist it be fixed. But since this building is owned by the state, they can’t.”


Column Extra VIDEO: The California Board of Equalization HQ saga

New problem for Board of Equalization building in Sacramento