California Preservationists, Environmentalists, and Small Business Supporters Call for a Stop to the Extravagant and Unnecessary Capitol Annex Demolition
As California reels from humanitarian and economic crises, Save Our Capitol! urges Governor Newsom and the Legislature to pursue less costly Capitol restoration alternatives and direct critical state funding to struggling communities
SACRAMENTO, Calif., Oct. 30, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- While countless Californians are jobless, unhoused, and face an uncertain future due to COVID-19, catastrophic wildfires, and a $54 billion state budget deficit, preservationists, environmentalists, and small business advocates today launched an effort to halt plans for an extravagant renovation project at the State Capitol which would demolish the Capitol Annex. The project will cost more than $1 billion due to cost growth and revenue bond interest. The Legislative Analyst's Office estimates an increase of 33% above base cost of a project using revenue bonds.
Save Our Capitol! is urging Governor Newsom and lawmakers to stop the demolition and to restore the historic Capitol Annex instead.
The Legislature's billion-dollar demolition and rebuild plan, known as the "Capitol Annex Project," will drastically reshape the historic Capitol and surrounding grounds to build a private underground parking garage for state officials, as well as a new, underground and above ground visitor center which will block existing access to the Capitol's West Steps, the gathering place for the public to assemble and exercise constitutional freedoms. The project is slated to destroy as many as 100 historic trees in Capitol Park – some of which are more than a century old. The governor recently directed his Department of General Services to rehabilitate instead of destroying three other historic state buildings. However, no analysis was done to determine whether the Annex should be rehabilitated to meet the Legislature's needs and comply with existing building codes. Instead, the Annex simply was slated to be demolished, despite its being a nationally registered historic building and a mid-century modern architectural icon.
"The Capitol Annex is in need of upgrades and repairs, but the California Legislature's Joint Rules Committee – which is in charge of maintaining the building – has put off making those upgrades and repairs for nearly seventy years," said Dan Visnich, former Senate Representative and currently Executive Secretary of the California Capitol Historic Preservation Society. "Intentional neglect by the Legislature should be addressed by restoring the historic East Annex. Destroying California history is not a solution."
Communities of concerned citizens including Public Accountability for our Capitol, Save Our Capitol!, and the National Federation of Independent Business are questioning the project and the escalating cost which has doubled in just three years. The Historic State Capitol Commission, required by law to review and advise the Legislature on any changes to the Capitol, was denied information and kept out of the development process of the billion-dollar project. As a result, two commissioners resigned in protest of being obstructed from performing their lawful duties. Additionally, in public comments, tribal communities have raised concerns that the preservation of their ancestral artifacts has not been adequately addressed as required by law.
"While Californians suffer from record unemployment, illness and homelessness, and our state continues to burn, our politicians worked behind closed doors to build themselves a hugely expensive monument to power," said Karen Jacques, Board Member of Preservation Sacramento and Member of Public Accountability for our Capitol. "We are calling upon Governor Newsom and lawmakers to halt the demolition project immediately and to address the priorities in California – the people in need, and the need to restore the historic Capitol Annex to ensure its safety and security for everyone who works there or visits this important California landmark."
Request California Legislature's Joint Rules Committee retain an independent, qualified team to evaluate the restoration of the existing Annex for a lower-cost that meets the needs while preserving the Capitol and its grounds – the landscaping that has become part of the Golden State's history;
Relocate legislative offices to the Swing Space Building (10th & O Streets) on a permanent rather than temporary basis;
Upgrade the entire Capitol and its grounds for safety and security;
Require all construction processing and expenditures to have oversight from the Office of the Auditor General, the Legislative Analyst's Office, and to be open for public review.
"As every Californian is being called upon to sacrifice in this unprecedented time, we are asking the governor and lawmakers to set aside this lavish project and focus on addressing the needs of struggling families and businesses," said John Kabateck, California State Director of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB). "Replacing the current project with a design that is more fiscally responsible is unquestionably the right thing to do."
About Save Our Capitol! Save Our Capitol is dedicated to preserving the historic Capitol and its surrounding Park as the center and symbol of Californians' right to truth, transparency, and trust in our form of self-governance. Follow Save Our Capitol! on Twitter and learn more by visiting www.SaveOurCapitol.org.