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THE NOONER for April 1, 2016
THE ANNEX: As the Department of General Services prepares to implement the Governor's proposal to remodel and expand the Capitol Annex--where most legislative offices and all hearings are held--continues to take shape, the big question is where will staff and members be housed during construction. With the improved economy, there is limited office space in Sacramento, and state office space are already bulging at the seams.
The first thought was giant tents on the north lawn of the Capitol, but issues like weather, power, wifi and port-o-potties made that infeasible. Additionally, it would be loud and tnterfere with construction.
The latest plan is to rent out the entire The Citizen Hotel (now operated by Marriott, which took over from joie de vivre), the boutique hotel two blocks from the Capitol that remade the old "do-gooders" run-down building for mostly non-profit organizations. The 196-room hotel would provide accomodations for all legislators and administrative offices, even if it has some downsides.
The biggest downside aside from the cost is that there is no idea how long construction would take. Construction of the Annex began in June, 1949 and ended in January, 1952. The money in this year's budget is for the initial study and the actual architectural plans will give a better idea of the timeline.
Each member would continue to receive their per diem, and staff would receive a $50 allowance per day for food and beverages and free parking in the city garage on 10th between J and I or a light rail pass. For those trying to maximize their $50, there are negotiations for either taco trucks adjacent The Citizen or food stands in Cesar Chavez park.
The challenge will be the cramped, albeit luxurious, quarters members and staff will be located in. Each member and staff will be allocated one room, with the Budget and Appropriations committees being allocated suites. Chairs from the ballrooms will be moved into the rooms, along with card tables. (Beds would be temporarily removed to make room for the tables. Beds don't belong in legislative offices.) Unfortunately, the banquet tables won't fit, a Citizen spokesman said.
While floor sessions would continue to be held at the Capitol as the historic side of the Capitol will remain open, large committee hearings would be held in ballroom space at The Citizen, while some smaller committee hearings could be held in the smaller committee rooms in the old side of the Capitol.
"While I will miss the old Capitol Annex, this sounds like a good plan," said one Capitol staff member, who preferred not to be identified as she continued, "although it will a bit gross using the same restroom as my boss. I just hope he remembers to put the seat down, and I hope they provide us with air freshener."
Generally, however, staff were relieved they won't be working in the grass on the north lawn. Construction will likely last a long time, including during cold and rainy months. And, with the staff per diem, they'll be enjoying the Grange over the 6th floor cafeteria. "Plus, we'll be much closer to Temple," said another staff member.
Lobbyists are not so crazy about the plans. "I go to the Grange to get my martini and get away from members and staff. Now they are going to be here all day?" said one oil industry lobbyist who was having his 2pm martini at the Grange bar. "I do, however, look forward to a modern bathroom on the 6th Floor, instead of that closet we currently use for relief," he continued.
Some people are asking why The Citizen would be interested in this. Hotels operate on occupancy. To have a long-term guarantee of 100% occupancy, even at a negotiated rate would be golden for the Citizen. Additionally, the near guarantee of increased business at the Grange restaurant would also be lucrative, both because of the legislators and staff working there, but also the bar business who like to have their cocktails celebrating a committee victory. Further, The Citizen would be able to take on the moniker as "California's second Capitol."
While Jerry Brown (and future governor) would get to work in the atrium ballroom space, the other constitutional officer housed in the Capitol, the Lieutenant Governor, would get a campaign-style bus parked on 10th Street.
#CAKEDAY: Happy birthday to Jacquie Atkinson, Justin Fanslau, Patrick Martinez, Leslie Smith, and Rick Wathen!
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