Save the annex, save half a billion dollars

By Quentin Kopp, San Francisco
January 13, 2022

Re “Good riddance to state Capitol’s ugly annex”; Commentary, Dan Walters, Dec. 6, 2021

Putting Dan Walters’ personal architectural opinions aside for a moment, he makes a valid point that the long-neglected Capitol annex needs improvement. That fact is not in dispute by anyone.

Those who oppose destruction of the annex claim that while the building needs health and safety improvements, the job could be done for less than half the current estimated price. So why won’t legislators consider spending at least $500 million fewer taxpayer dollars on a safe and functional office space? It’s hard to know since the approval process ignored the California Environmental Quality Act.

Revered former Democrat state Sen. Jim Mills, a champion of Capitol preservation who sadly passed away in March 2021, was also opposed to the destruction of the historic annex. He stated in November 2020 that the project “involves the imminent destruction of historical state property, the senseless expenditure of $1 billion … and apparently numerous violations of state law and regulations.”

Since its completion in 1952, the annex has been lauded as an architectural triumph, seamlessly uniting moderne and mid-century modern design characteristics with the Capitol dome’s neoclassical architecture. The building, filled with marble and crisp geometric lines, was designed by architect Alfred Eichler – the same designer of Sacramento’s iconic Tower Bridge.

Since lawmakers don’t yet appear willing to rehabilitate the historic annex, for half the cost of destroying it, a number of superior court lawsuits to stop destruction of the building and its surrounding parkland have been filed. Hopefully soon, the only thing we’ll be bidding “good riddance” to is the questionable process that brought us to this point, and the annex building, and half a billion in taxpayer dollars, will be saved.

Quentin L. Kopp is president of the San Francisco Taxpayers Association, a former San Francisco Supervisor, state senator and Superior Court judge.