The State Worker

Jerry Brown’s budget plan: $1.5 billion to repair, replace state buildings

The plan replaces the Natural Resources building, seen here in 2008, and makes Capitol Annex improvements.
The plan replaces the Natural Resources building, seen here in 2008, and makes Capitol Annex improvements. Bee file photo 2008

Gov. Jerry Brown proposed building two new state office buildings in downtown Sacramento on Thursday, part of a $1.5 billion infrastructure plan that would also remodel a portion of the Capitol.

The plans, part of Brown’s proposed 2016-17 budget, were hailed as a shot in the arm for the central city, which has seen little in the way of new office development in spite of a rejuvenation sparked by construction of Golden 1 Center.

In response to a report on the state’s crumbling office inventory, Brown proposed transferring $1.5 billion from the state’s general fund to a new State Office Infrastructure Fund. First up would be a new $530 million, 650,000-square-foot office building for the Natural Resources Agency.

It would be the first major state office building constructed in the Sacramento area since the CalSTRS headquarters opened in West Sacramento in 2009. Brown did not specify where in downtown the new Resources building would go. Also on tap is a $226 million project to replace a vacant state building on O Street “to better use that existing parcel of state-owned land,” the governor’s budget summary says.

State officials last year identified the current Resources building at 1416 Ninth St. as the most dilapidated and unsafe of 29 state-owned or state-operated office structures in the Sacramento area. More than 2,300 employees work in the 657,000-square-foot building. The new Resources building would also house employees who work in the Bonderson building on P Street.

However, Brown’s budget does not earmark any money for repairs to the Board of Equalization headquarters, the downtown Sacramento tower infamous for a long history of defects. That brought groans from the likes of George Runner, the board’s vice chairman.

“It’s good to see the governor address the problem of aging state infrastructure, but it’s obviously disappointing that a state building surrounded by scaffolding to protect people from falling windows didn’t make the list,” Runner said.

Downtown real estate experts, however, were enthused with Brown’s plans for two new office buildings.

“It’s a huge deal for downtown Sacramento,” said Chris Strain of Cushman & Wakefield. He said downtown is clamoring for new office space.

“It’s the one piece of the puzzle that’s been missing from this renaissance,” he said, referring to new hotels, entertainment venues, residential complexes and other developments that have been ushered in by the development of the new Kings arena.

Strain also noted the contrast between Brown and his predecessor, Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger, who attempted a massive sell-off of state buildings to help cope with massive budget deficits.


Worst state buildings

Click on these links to read more:
1. Natural Resources Building
2. Personnel Building
3. Paul Bonderson Building
4. Gregory Bateson Building
5. Jesse M. Unruh Building
Source: EMG report

This is hardly the first time the state has tried to replace the Resources headquarters. A $250 million plan to build a new headquarters, once known as the West End project, was mothballed in 2007 because of concerns over the state budget.

For years, state lawmakers have let public properties go to seed while spending on other programs took precedence, Brown said, drawing an analogy with a family’s budget.

“It’s always a temptation to let the roof deteriorate while you go on vacation, send the kids to college or go out to dinner,” Brown said Thursday. “Maintenance is not dramatic. (State maintenance projects) are not the show horses, but you’ve got to fix your buildings.”

Inspectors last year reported that the Resources building needs everything from $5,900 in new toilets to bring their heights up to Americans with Disabilities Act standards to $63 million to replace the structure’s leaking exterior walls. In total, bringing the building up to standards would cost nearly $150 million, inspectors estimated. That doesn’t include the cost for moving employees and their work during repairs.

Brown also proposed $2.9 million to study needed repairs and expansion to the Capitol Annex, the six-story wing added to the statehouse in 1954. The annex, the summary states, “is undersized to meet current demands for legislative hearings and office space, and its antiquated building systems are prone to failure and expensive to maintain.”

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