As California struggles to overcome a $54 billion budget deficit and the devastation caused by COVID-19 and catastrophic wildfires, the Governor and Legislature in Sacramento still plan to move forward with a secretive, $1 billion project to demolish and rebuild the State Capitol Annex building. While politicians claim their costly project is necessary, facts prove otherwise.
FICTION #1: The billion-dollar demolition and rebuild is the only way to address safety concerns at the Capitol Annex building.
FACT: Leveling an historic building, destroying upwards of a hundred trees (including rare species), erecting a new visitor center that keeps the public away from the steps and halls of our State Capitol, and building a new parking garage exclusive to politicians and bureaucrats are not necessary to upgrade the safety of the Capitol Annex building. Experts from the Public Accountability for our Capitol (PAC) have concluded that necessary safety upgrades can be made to the existing building at a fraction of the billion-dollar cost of the politicians’ plan.
FICTION #2: The Capitol Annex project has been transparent and welcomed input throughout the process.
FACT: The Capitol Annex project has been anything but transparent. Legislators even kept the Historic State Capitol Commission out of the planning process, with a legislator leading the project claiming the Commission’s involvement was “not a mandatory consultation role.” Additionally, in public comments, leaders in Native American communities have raised concerns that the preservation of their ancestral artifacts has not been adequately addressed as required by law.
FICTION #3: The Capitol Annex project has been approved and is a done deal.
FACT: Legislators pushing the $1 billion project to build their elaborate new workspace was just passed and signed by Governor Brown in 2018. No ground has been broken and no final plans have been approved. The plan is far from set, and considering the state’s COVID-related humanitarian and economic crises, it is the responsibility of our elected officials to revisit and revise the project so that precious resources can be directed to where they are needed most - helping struggling Californians.
FICTION #4: The state estimates that just 30 trees will need to be removed to make room for the politician’s private, new parking garage.
FACT: The state may claim that just 30 trees will be destroyed to build the politicians’ private parking garage, but depending on the final design, over 100 trees could be removed or significantly damaged, including rare and historic ones in Capitol Park and the surrounding area. Since the mid-1800s Sacramento has taken pride in being known as the “City of Trees,” making the self-serving destruction of the Capitol Park trees that bring beauty, promote clean air, and support critical wildlife habitat all the more disturbing – and insulting.
FICTION #5: The Capitol Annex project aligns with California’s strict environmental protection rules.
FACT: In another blatant example of the “rules for thee, but not for me” mindset among politicians, provisions of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), which requires that our state’s environment not be damaged by building projects, were changed for the Capitol Annex project. Specifically, the Legislature passed a law removing judicial authority, except in the most extreme circumstances, to halt the project if it is determined the project is likely to violate CEQA. This means that by the time a court issues a final ruling that the project is causing substantial harm to the environment, the damage may already be done.