Editorial: State’s tower of horror in downtown Sacramento is nice for bats, but not humans

07/24/2014 12:00 AM

09/19/2014 5:34 PM

People hoping for a speedy solution to the unholy mess that is the State Board of Equalization tower will be disheartened by the news that the rented scaffolding surrounding the N Street building is coming down.

And will be replaced with scaffolding that the state is buying.

Though it makes good economic sense to invest $100,000 for equipment that could be reused rather than using $10,000-a-month rentals, it does indicate that no one expects the building to be repaired or dispatched from state service anytime soon. After two decades of problems, it seems more likely this unlucky building will disappear into a giant sinkhole before it is transformed into something acceptable for human habitation.

Meanwhile, 2,200 state workers have been left to endure horror after horror. That’s unacceptable. The first priority, even before finalizing the sale of the new scaffolding, should be starting the relocation process.

Sacramento Bee reporter Jon Ortiz chronicled the numerous unpleasantries that BOE workers have had to endure, including bats, water leaks, mold and periodically plummeting sheets of glass. Honestly, it’s a bit of a miracle that no one has been killed by the falling windows.

The 24-story downtown building has been nothing but trouble since it was built more than 20 years ago by the California Public Employees’ Retirement System and occupied shortly afterward by the BOE. It was unappealing to the eye and was built on the cheap. The state has been paying for it ever since.

And it will continue to cost taxpayers; there’s just no way of getting around it. The state, which made a bad situation worse by buying the building from CalPERS in 2006, owes $70 million on this lemon. If the state decides to repair it, it would follow $60 million in public money down the hole. If it sells it, it would probably be at a huge loss.

In any case, keeping workers there could be costlier than moving them to another location. A $50 million lawsuit already has been filed claiming that the building is not safe for workers, opening the door for more.

Whatever else state officials decide to do with this white elephant, they should relocate the BOE workforce. Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, has crafted a bill that would designate $3 million for moving. The bill passed the Assembly, and the Senate and governor should seriously consider endorsing it.

After years of unwise decisions, perhaps it is time to move the humans out and leave the tower to the bats.

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