The State Worker: California takes a small step toward exiting troubled high-rise HQ

jortiz@sacbee.comOctober 11, 2013 

In 2005, windows fell out of the Board of Equalization building downtown. Now, the state has confirmed that the headquarters' pipes are corroding on at least four floors.

JOSÉ LUIS VILLEGAS — Bee file, 2005

California officials have put out feelers for what it would take to leave the state's unofficial money pit -- AKA the Board of Equalization headquarters -- with an Oct. 31 deadline for responses from developers, landowners. politicians (hello, mayors of Rancho Cordova, Elk Grove, West Sacramento, etc.) and any other interested parties.

The "request for information" from the Department of General Services asks for ways to consolidate board operations that now spread more than 4,000 employees across several facilities in the Sacramento area, about half of them in the notorious 24-story tower at 450 N Street in Sacramento.

You can expect lots of ideas to build new space, since "there is no facility currently available in the Sacramento region that is large enough to house a consolidated BOE operation," Government Operations Secretary Marybel Batjer told Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg in this Sept. 26 letter obtained by The State Worker.

Steinberg, a Democrat whose Sacramento district includes the 20-year-old high rise, chairs the committee that confirmed Batjer's appointment to the newly-created agency in August. The BOE building came up during that hearing.

Fiscal and marketing obstacles are in the way of moving BOE, however, and the timeframes and costs are subject to change.

Bond debt on the facility stands at around $100 million and it's supposed to be paid off with BOE lease money by 2021. The state would have to pay the bondholders earlier to leave sooner and ante up funding for a new facility. State officials have estimated the 463,000-square-foot building could sit empty for a couple years to rehab it for new tenants.

Assuming that any could be found. The tower has a long history of well-known troubles, from leaking windows and toxic mold to faulty elevators and corroded plumbing. Workers are currently replacing hundreds of exterior panels after one popped off last year and crashed to the sidewalk below.

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