Summary of Constitutional and Statutory Support for Preservation of the Capitol

There are at least three sources of constitutional and statutory support for preservation of the Capitol, each of which is summarized below: (1) the Historic State Capitol Commission and its statutory foundation, (2) Article IV, Section 28 of the California Constitution, and (3) the State Historical Building Code.  

(A) Statute Establishing the Historic State Capitol Commission

In 1981, the Legislature voted to create the Historic State Capitol Commission (the “Commission”) “to provide a permanent, official body to be charged with advisory review of the maintenance, restoration, development, and management of the historic State Capitol.[1] Importantly, the same statute establishing the Commission evinces a clear intention to preserve the Capitol building and grounds. Specifically, Section 9149 of the California Code states that “[t]he Legislature finds and declares that the historic State Capitol is a state historic and architectural legacy which must be preserved and maintained in a manner befitting the significance of the structures to the history and people of California.”[2]

Further evidence of support for the protection and preservation of the Capitol exists in Resolution No. 35, which established the need for the creation of the Commission.[3] Resolution No. 35 recognized the unique nature of the Capitol. That legislation provides:

Whereas the Capitol restoration program is the most extensive and complex preservation effort of its kind in the nation. . . [t]his outstanding example of classic design is an incomparable symbol of our state government and cultural heritage whose political, social, economical and cultural significance is of transcending importance to this state . . . [t]his historic Capitol is an irreplaceable landmark, the most important historical building of its kind in California, and is a monument of the art, architecture and craftsmanship of our past . . . .[4]

Thus, at numerous points in the recent past, the Legislature has underscored the unique cultural significance of the Capitol.

(B) Article IV, Section 28 of the California Constitution

The desire to preserve the historical design and significance of the Capitol is also evidenced, at least in part, in Article IV of the California Constitution. Article IV, Section 28 of the California Constitution sets limitations on bills taking effect as “urgency statutes,” where they include alterations or modifications of certain portions of the Capitol building. Section 8(d) defines urgency statutes as “those necessary for immediate preservation of the public peace, health, or safety,” and under Section 8(c)(3), urgency statutes go into effect immediately upon enactment. Specifically, Section 28 provides that a bill cannot take effect as an urgency statute:

if it authorizes or contains an appropriation for either (1) the alteration or modification of the color, detail, design, structure or fixtures of the historically restored areas of the first, second, and third floors and the exterior of the west wing of the State Capitol from that existing upon the completion of the project of restoration or rehabilitation of the building conducted pursuant to Section 9124 of the Government Code as such section read upon the effective date of this section, or (2) the purchase of furniture of different design to replace that restored, replicated, or designed to conform to the historic period of the historically restored areas specified above, including the legislators’ chairs and desks in the Senate and Assembly Chambers.[5]

This limitation on urgency statutes further evidences some legislative recognition of the historical and cultural significance of the Capitol Building and a desire to preserve and maintain the same.

(C) The State Historical Building Code

The State Historical Building Code (“SHBC”) also evidences a desire to preserve historical properties, including the Capitol Grounds, though the Capitol is not expressly referenced therein. The SHBC establishes regulations and standards for the rehabilitation, preservation, and restoration of historical buildings.[6] The statute incorporates the definition of “qualified historical building” in Health and Safety Code § 18955 to include buildings or locations “deemed of importance to the history, architecture or culture of an area by an appropriate local, state or federal governmental jurisdiction” and includes buildings on the National Register of Historic Places and California Register of Historical Resources, among others.[7] As a historical building on the National Register of Historic Places, the Capitol Building is subject to the requirements of the SHBC. The heightened standards of the SHBC “are intended to facilitate the rehabilitation, restoration, or change of occupancy so as to preserve their original or restored architectural elements and features.”[8] The SHBC, therefore, expresses a purpose akin to the statutory foundation for the Commission discussed supra, namely, the preservation of the original character of historical buildings, including the Capitol Complex.

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The People of the State of California, through their elected representatives in the Legislature, have demonstrated repeatedly their desire that historically-significant landmarks, including the Capitol Building, be preserved and protected. By creating the Commission, and as further evidenced by the California Constitution, the special regulations contained within the State Historical Building Code, and its placement on state and national registers of historic places, the Capitol Building has been deemed to be of singular historical significance.

[1] Cal. Gov’t Code § 9149 (Westlaw, 2021).

[2] Id. (emphasis added). The definitional section of the statute defines “Historic State Capitol,” as “the building housing the state legislative offices and chambers, situated in the area bounded by 10th, L, 15th, and N Streets in the City of Sacramento, including the portions of the State Capitol Building Annex that contain historic fabric .. .” Id.

[3] Resolution No. 35, Cal. Leg.(1976).

[4] Id. (emphasis added).

[5] Cal. Const. Art. IV § 28 (emphasis added).

[6] Health & Safety Code Part 2.7,Division 13, §§18950—18961 (WestLaw, 2021).

[7] Id.

[8] See supra footnote 7 at §18951 (emphasis added).