West Steps Rally - Saving Democracy


Richard Cowan, Historic State Capitol Commission, Chair, 2014-2020

The Capital Annex Project was well begun by Assemblyman Ken Cooley. He, Ken, has an idea that government will be better if he can get all of the standing committee staff in the same building with the legislators.

But unfortunately, the project that he began got off on the wrong track with some bad advice and  has turned into an idea to demolish the historic Annex building behind the 1860s here, and replace it with a taller, longer, wider building, I know you won't believe it, completely wrapped in glass. That project would also add a two-story parking garage underground in your Capital Park, threatening about 180 of the trees in our Capital Park Arboretum.

It would also completely demolish this area where we're gathering today­––the traditional place here in Sacramento for us to speak about our democracy and exchange our ideas. We think the solution, the alternative, is to rehabilitate the existing historic Annex. The state knows how to do this. Just look at the Unruh building and the Library and Courts building across the street. Avoid the underground parking garage idea by using the Swing Space building, which is already paid for, and which has the parking spaces aimed at those legislators and executive branch staff and not demolishing this area but using what is the current garage in the existing Annex as its Visitors Center. We believe all of that could be done for less than half of the money currently planned. Instead of 1.2 billion, we think about a $500million budget would be adequate.

Michael Leighton, Architect & Security Consultant

Building a glass facility here in the Capitol is, from a security standpoint, not the best of ideas, certainly, in this age. But as you, you look around town you see there's plenty of glass everywhere. So why are we worried about the Capitol? Well, I, I know from my special forces training, that things such as the Capitol, they’re the attractive nuisance. They’re, they’re the prize. You, you get a lot more political capital, if you’re a terrorist, if you blow up something like a state capital than you do a commercial building.

Anne Fenkner, California Urban Forest Council

You know this park is considered done of the most beautiful state capitol grounds in the nation. The original intent, dating back to 1861, was to create a landscape with trees from every nation on earth. It took a lot of coordination. Yet here it is. This is a one-of-a-kind arboretum. It has more tree species than any other state capitol over 800 trees representing 210 species that live here. Many of these trees were gifts from other nations. Some of them were planted to honor our veterans, our heroes. One even circled the moon. So, when this plan, this Annex plan, came to my attention, the initial EIR stated that only 20 or 30 trees would be removed. Now that is concerning. But now, we are learning that 60 trees will be permanently removed. Additionally, 74 trees will be transplanted including 49 historic palms on N and L for a parking lot––a parking lot.

Ralph Propper, Council of Sacramento, President

Yeah, so, they're gonna pave paradise and pay for a parking lot. I didn't want to sing, but yes… We can't let that happen. We're going to have ah, greatly increased heat and we need trees. The effect they have on cooling the heat island that will be increasing in the Sacramento area is extremely dramatic. We need more trees for that reason. In addition, they're really important, based upon the research that I manage, for removing toxic air pollutants in the air removing fine particulate matter which comes from cars and trucks and buses that have major health impacts.We find out every year more research about how damaging those health effects are, causing          asthma, low birthweight babies, coronary heart disease, earlier death, especially for older people like me.

I know the city doesn't have authority over what happens at the Capitol, but the city's current Climate Action Plan references in over 20 places the importance of trees in so many respects. But they don't get respect. In spite of the Climate Action Plan the city adopted saying how important trees are, they’ve made it easier––they've passed ordinances to make it easier to chop them down. And once again, we see we're not getting respect for the trees here. So, as I leave here, I'm gonna hug my friends, the trees. And I hope you will do the same. 

Karen Jacques Ph.D., Preservation Sacramento

All of this will be gone. They will put in a giant, cement, walkway/ramp leading down to the entrance of the visitor center. So, they will do that. We will have a giant ramp. No place to gather anymore.

No place to demonstrate. No place to celebrate. No place to put the beautiful tree just a ramp.

The steps of the capitol will become like a deck over the entrance to the Visitor Center like Disneyland or maybe the entrance to any airport anywhere. I mean, that's what your eye will be drawn to. And it will just wipe out the character of this incredibly beautiful building façade.

And I want to end by saying that Preservation Sacramento and the rest of the members of PAC, Public Accountability for our Capitol and SOC, Save Our Capitol––all of our coalition partners, emphatically do not see this Annex project as a done deal. So don't let anybody tell you that it's a done deal and it's not worth your time or your money to stop it.

Jack Frost, Sacramento Taxpayers Association, Executive Director

So, I'm going to challenge those of you, I know you're busy, I know you've got things to do, but after this is over, I want you to meet me over at that table. I want you to pick a flyer and I want you to follow me around this building and inside, and we're gonna go upstairs to Assemblyman Ken Cooley's office and we're going to give him all the reasons why this is really, a really a bad idea.

This meeting was organized to send a message to our elected representatives. $1.2 billion to spend on a Taj Mahal for them to improve their quality of life when our quality of life is going down the drain––is not appropriate. Our businesses are suffering. Our communities are suffering.

We're suffering across the board. People are leaving the state of California because their legislators are not paying attention to the needs of our community, and we're going to stop and we're going to spend $1.2 billion. Well, I mean $1.2 billion and $1.4 billion at some point it, it actually adds up to real money.

He doesn't listen to the people. He doesn't. And I know that he's supposed to be some kind of a moderate in the building.

Andrea Headstrom, Neighborhood Activist

This is not moderate to spend $1.4 billion to tear down a historic monument. This is not moderate. This is extremism. He knows we're here. He doesn't want, he doesn't want to be. And I think that's part of the design of this building. To keep, the new building will keep the people at arm’s length. It's so wrong.

Milford Wayne Donaldson FAIA, State Historic Preservation Officer, 2004-2012, Chairman of Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, 2010-2019

One of the problems that we have is we've never had a chance to take a look at a rehabilitation project with the Annex itself. And I can tell you, with my experience that I had back in DC, is that a lot of the office buildings now are decreasing in their size. They're not increasing. COVID has shown that people can work at home almost better than coming in, and especially trying to attend meetings, flying to other cities and all that. So, even the, even the federal government is looking at downplaying that. We've been asked for this kind of information.

Whether or not they have actually taken a look at the redesign, and we just simply can't get it. The 2018 MOU we just got, just a few months ago, after asking for it all this time. And now, it's finally a public document that we can share with others. They made the determination, during that MOU to demolish the building. They had one line in there. They just said it wasn't practical to keep the old building because it's not going to work for their program––although we've never seen the program. So, most of us in the preservation world, especially architects, we haven't had a chance to even take a program that they think they need and try to see if the Annex building would work.

And you can see that the Annex building when it was built back in 1952…look at the materials in here…the marble, all the bronze, the openings, the stainless-steel doors, and all this. I mean, they built this building to last. Just like the federal government and most state governments built their buildings back then. Because they weren't letting architects from the public sector come in here and then do, start to do things, like taking down the cost, substituting this for linoleum or something like that. So, this is a quality building meant to last and it can easily be adaptively reused. Also, they mentioned in there that the thing doesn't follow the codes and stuff. Well, that's another BS.

And the reason is, is we have this, the California Historical Building Code which I was chairman of 10 years after the founder Ray Girvigian. That code came in the 70s to protect historic buildings from coming down and show cost savings on how you can restore ‘em. And yes, we want to make this a much better building in terms of the HVAC system, better access for persons with disabilities––we're not denying that. But this is such a great building in incredibly good shape that it can easily be done for good cost.

But I had a chance when I was a state historic preservation officer to work with DGS, and I found them to be very receptive, especially when we did the Library and Courts building. We did the Unruh building and we brought that up to speed. We seismically retrofitted, and we did all the things that you normally have to do. I was also the SHPO when we had to make the bridge to West SAC accessible for people with, with disabilities.

So, I found them very good, but their hands are tied. It's the legislators now that are controlling it, especially Mr. Cooley’s office.

Tim Holliday, Community Activist

As a citizen, apart from just being a member of this group, I'm appalled that the West side of the Capitol, where citizens have come to redress grievances, to celebrate occasions really, it's, it's kind of the heart of Sacramento and in that sense it's the heart of the state of California.

They want to tear that out and, in its place, build an underground entrance into sort of a Disneyland like souvenir filled, extravaganza that has no dignity and, and really doesn't belong here.

And you really come to the conclusion there's one true purpose––it's to keep the people of California out of their own house, and that is an outrage, and it's unacceptable.