Preservation, environmental groups press for Capitol project restraint ahead of “imminent” demolition

By Sarah Downey
Northern California Record
February 1, 2022

With demolition of the Capitol Annex slated to begin in the next few weeks, opponents of the plan contend it’s beset by lack of transparency and have filed litigation to stop the estimated $1.4 billion project from moving ahead.

A new poll also found that more than three-quarters (76 percent) of Californians surveyed are against the plan as proposed, Dick Cowan, former chair of the California State Historic Capitol Commission, told the Northern California Record.

“It validates what we've suspected – that this is a very poorly planned and poorly put together project that ignores the important things that are happening in California right now, ignores the value that Californians place on our parks, our historic buildings and, quite frankly, on how our money is being spent,” Cowan said. “We’ve got lots of valid needs – homelessness, wildfire readiness, climate change readiness.

“But unfortunately, we've been given notice that in two weeks’ time, on February 15, they start sawing down the trees that would enable them to move in to demolish the annex and start digging the underground parking garage.”

It’s estimated roughly 120 trees will be lost for the parking project, Cowan said, adding that lawsuits have been filed to stop the tree removal.

Cowan noted that numerous environmental, taxpayer and other stakeholder groups have long pressed for more transparency from lawmakers, concerned that a commitment to demolition was made without thorough review.

Historic Capitol Commission members have also asked for consultation from preservation-skilled architects, Cowan said.

As the lawsuits by environmental groups await ruling, the lawmakers and staff have been moving into the swing space building, CapRadio reported.

“The swing building a block away from the Capitol has all the parking spaces for the legislators and the governor built into it – that's where they’re parking right now,” Cowan said. “So we say, do not rip up the trees – use the parking garage you just paid for and that's a great solution.

“And secondly, please allow a preservation architectural team to study how we would provide you the space you require in the existing annex, while saving a Nationally Registered Historic building and grounds.”