Demolition-by-Neglect: How the California Legislature Plans to Destroy State History

The California Legislature neglected the historic Capitol Annex for 70 years and is now violating state law to demolish it

(Sacramento, CA) – Save Our Capitol! issued the following statement in response to the California Legislature’s claim that the Capitol Annex, one of the state’s most significant historic governmental buildings, is too damaged to rehabilitate:

“The Capitol Annex is in need of significant repairs to ensure the safety of legislative and executive staff; however, much of these repairs could – and should – have been done over the past 70 years. In 2005, the Department of General Services (DGS) prepared a plan to upgrade and modernize the building, but the Legislature decided not to move forward with it. Now, lawmakers say it’s too damaged to rehabilitate. That’s simply not true.

“After they neglected to properly maintain the building, and without conducting a rehabilitation feasibility study, DGS and the Joint Committee on Rules (JRC), lead on the project within the Legislature, decided demolition was the only option. They had no basis upon which to conclude that the building could not be rehabilitated to modern standards.

“In fact, the State knows exactly how to rehabilitate older buildings. The original Capitol, Library and Courts Building, and the Jesse M. Unruh Building have all been successfully rehabilitated. They are all older buildings than the Annex. And, claims that asbestos abatement is impossible for the Annex are misleading. The Unruh Building contains asbestos, as do many older buildings, and crews are able to properly remove it or rehabilitate around it, which is very common with historic buildings. The Environmental Impact Report for the Unruh Building contains plans for how crews will properly remove and dispose of hazardous materials such as asbestos and lead-based paint, and even calls on “restoring the building to the Secretary of the Interior Standards and Guidelines for the Restoration of Historic Buildings.” The same standards the State is refusing to comply with for the Capitol Annex Project.

“Clearly, the State is capable of preserving and rehabilitating—rather than demolishing—when it wants to, so why are lawmakers choosing to destroy Capitol Park, the West Steps, and the Annex to the tune of $1.2 billion when rehabilitation is estimated to cost around $500 million?

“The choice is between erasing or embracing a central part of California’s history. It’s clear to us which side the Legislature and DGS should be on, but without Governor Newsom’s engagement, state history will be erased and every Californian will lose the ability to walk the halls of their Capitol Annex and gather or protest at the West Steps.

“With the support of California voters, taxpayers, small businesses, preservationists, and environmentalists, we will continue to fight to save the historic Annex, Capitol Park, the West Steps, and the entire west side of the original Capitol.”