By Matt Prichard
February 3, 2022
Matt Prichard: California lawmakers are moving ahead with a plan to demolish the Capitol’s East Annex, but new polling shows that most Californians are against the $1.4 billion idea. To discuss this a bit more, we’re joined by the former President of the California Preservation Foundation, Wayne Donaldson. Wayne, thanks so much for joining us.
Wayne Donaldson: Thank you.
Prichard: Tell me a little bit about the East Annex. What is this in the first place, and what role has it played through the decades?
Donaldson: Today I’m representing the Capitol Historical Preservation Society as well—as president of that. The Capitol Annex Project calls for spending about $1.4 billion of taxpayers’ money to demolish the historic Capitol Annex, designed by Alfred Eichler who was a state architect in 1952, and build an extravagant new legislative office space, a visitors’ center and an underground parking place. It’s also going to affect the entrance to the historic capitol itself—not just the Annex—by providing a sort of Walt Disney visitors’ center entrance to it.
Prichard: I’m just curious, when it comes to the East Annex in particular, what role has it played, because I know that in the past, way back when, they all had to work in that one building, and this really sort of revolutionized the way they do their job.
Donalds: You know, it’s interesting because times are changing—the Annex is a nationally registered historic building, and mid-century modern architectural icon. It really represents our government in California. I’m finding that especially with COVID where everyone is working remotely—just like how we’re using zoom right now, I didn’t have to fly down to my home town of San Diego to meet with you—is that the amount of space that people need is just not there. I know even in Washington D.C., when I was back there as the Chairman of the Advisory Council of Historic Preservation—appointed by President Obama—is that now a lot of the offices are double teaming. They’re not building new, and don’t need to be building new. The building will adequately fit. All we have to do is do a rehabilitation on it.
Prichard: Yeah, I know that when I read through the proposal it essentially says that there are a number of issues; ADA compliance, among other things. Is your view that they should take those certain issues, fix them instead of having to demolish and rebuild an entirely new building?
Donaldson: Absolutely. In my 44 years as a preservation architect, I’m probably done over 2,000 buildings in my office, especially when it was down in San Diego. You know the ADA, the security and all this—one of the problems is the legislators has never taken account, they just sort of abandoned that building over time. But, under the California Historic Building Code—which is unique for California, starting in 1978—is that we have not only have had ADA accessibility for all the buildings, we’ve also brought them up to modern earthquake code as well, and made sure that they’re strong in case another event should happen; and we also found out that even all the other codes that we have, in terms of dealing with hazardous materials and everything else—we’ve been able to do this. In fact, in Sacramento under DGS—who I really like a lot because I’ve had the chance to work with them over the years—we did the Library and Courts building, and the Unruh building. Both buildings are older than the 1952 Capitol Annex, and they did wonderful jobs, as well as greening them to begin with.
Prichard: Well Wayne before I let you go, and I am running out of time. I do want to ask you: how can people get involved with this effort to try to save the East Annex—Is there a place they can go?
Donaldson: Yeah absolutely. Probably the best place is www.SaveOurCapitol.org
Prichard: Perfect. Wayne thank you so much for stopping by this is incredibly interesting and we’ll be keeping close tabs on it. Thanks