The State Worker

State identifies three worst local office buildings

A state agency is recommending that three aging Sacramento-area office buildings be significantly renovated or replaced by new construction. Perhaps surprisingly, the notorious downtown headquarters of the state Board of Equalization is not among them.

In a report to be released Friday, the state’s Department of General Services says the three are the worst of 29 state buildings in the area when it comes to overall condition and health risks to employees and others.

The recommendations are based on a long-awaited study of the long-term suitability of state office properties conducted by the international HOK architecture firm. The $2.5 million study was the result of a bill authored last year by former Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento.

The report identified the 51-year-old Resources Building, at 1416 Ninth St., as the top candidate for renovation or replacement. The 656,625-square-foot building is occupied by more than 2,300 employees of the Natural Resources Agency.

Next on the list was the 61-year-old state Personnel Building, at 801 Capitol Mall, with 230 occupants, followed by the Paul Bonderson Building, at 901 P St., with 500 occupants, mostly from the Department of Water Resources.

Notably, the high-rise headquarters of the state Board of Equalization ranked in the middle of the pack at No. 16 despite being the subject of employee complaints and lawsuits related to water leaks, toxic mold and falling glass panels, among other issues.

“There may be some evidence that this building is in better condition than its press clippings would lead you to believe,” said Brian Ferguson, spokesman for General Services.

He noted that the 23-year-old BOE headquarters, at 450 N St., is not nearly as old as those identified for immediate action, and that it has received tens of millions of dollars in improvements in recent years.

That assessment was challenged by George Runner, the BOE’s vice chairman.

“I’m not aware of another state building that has temporary scaffolding around it to protect employees and pedestrians (from falling glass) as they walk down the sidewalk,” he said. “I’m also not aware of another building that has had lawsuits costing taxpayers millions of dollars and an ongoing history of building failure, leaks and damage, every time it rains.”

Ferguson said HOK and state employees will be spending the next several months evaluating the top three buildings and will make a recommendation to the governor by this fall.

“We have these existing facilities that are habitable but require upgrades,” he said, adding that the task ahead is to determine whether it makes more sense to fix them up or undertake the first new local state office construction in nearly two decades.

“Where is our bang for our buck?” he said.

The final recommendations – for office renovation or new construction – will likely be included in the governor’s 2016-2017 budget proposal, to be released in January.

The HOK building report totals more than 4,000 pages, according to Ferguson.

All of the 29 properties being studied were determined to be “safe, serviceable and functioning.” But in terms of building condition alone, nine were deemed “poor” and another four – including the BOE headquarters – were determined to be “fair.” The remaining 16 were classified as “good.”