California lawmakers move to make way for new building

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The California Legislature will meet again in about a month, but staff are busy this week building boxes instead of bills as they struggle to quickly leave their offices before the scheduled demolition of their space. nearly 70 years work.

The California Capitol was completed in 1874, and at the time it was large enough to house most of the state government, including the legislature, the executive branch, and the state Supreme Court.

But as California became the most populous state in the country after the Gold Rush and two World Wars, the state government grew with it. Agencies moved as new buildings sprang up around the Capitol. In 1952, the annex was connected to the Capitol, where it housed from the offices of legislators, including the governor.

This ends this year as part of a plan to demolish the annex and replace it with a more modern structure that will meet new rules designed to withstand earthquakes and fires while making the building more accessible to people. People with Disabilities.

In the meantime, the state has constructed a $ 423.6 million office building about two blocks from the Capitol to house lawmakers and their staff during construction. The legislature will always meet in their respective chambers at the State Capitol. But their offices, instead of a few floors down, will be about two blocks away until at least 2025.

This is if everything goes as planned. Unforeseen construction delays could keep them there for much longer. And some environmental and historical preservation groups have taken legal action to block the project, worried about its impact on the surrounding Capitol Park and some of the few trees and plants that live there.

Lawmakers say Capitol Park’s most important trees will be protected. This includes “the moon tree” – a redwood tree that grew from a seed that went to the moon on Apollo 14 and is now about 120 feet (36.5 meters) high – and a thicket of ‘trees planted in 1897 that were taken from the famous Civil War battlefields of Gettysburg and Fredericksburg.

It was mostly quiet inside the condemned annex on Monday, as some offices have already moved into the new office space. This includes the large bronze statue of a grizzly bear that stood outside the governor’s office. The bear, affectionately known as the “bacterial bear” for its ability to attract the fingers of schoolchildren, has been a staple for tourists ever since former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger personally paid to install it more. ten years.

In MP Evan Low’s office, Chief of Staff Gina Frisby worked alongside a mini-fridge that had been cleaned and unplugged. She packed her bosses’ office, famous for its paneled walls that are widely hated by lawmakers.

“I don’t know how many times over the years he complained about wanting to have that taken out,” Frisby said.

Inside the office of Assembly Member Adrin Nazarian, Chief of Staff Dan Savage was a little nostalgic as he recounted his 25 years in the building – almost his entire working life as an adult.

“I can’t tell you how many times I slept on my desk and woke up with a pinch in my neck,” Savage said as cardboard boxes lined the walls and coffee cups mingled with cleaning supplies on a nearby desk.

Nazarian was chairman of the legislative budget committee that considered the annex replacement proposal, so Savage knows all about the building issues that he says make demolition necessary.

But closing the annex will likely be Savage’s last act in state government, as he plans to retire at the end of December.

“Not only is the building up and running, but I’m going,” he said. “I will never be able to return to this building.


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