California’s main Capitol building in Sacramento was completed in 1874. It is a historic treasure, but after World War II it became obvious it wasn’t large enough to handle the needs of our growing state. An annex attached to the Capitol was completed in 1952, and at approximately 325,000 square feet, the space problem was solved for decades.
But, problems have developed over the years. The annex was designed to last just 50 years for a part-time Legislature. With six floors, the annex doesn’t line up with the historic Capitol, which has four. If you’re in the old building and need to go to a “higher” level in the annex, you have to go downstairs. Safety issues are a major concern since the building contains hazardous materials like asbestos and lacks adequate fire protection. There are wiring issues, and deteriorating galvanized sewer and drainage lines. The building is overcrowded by modern standards and fails to meet Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessibility standards. Built long before the computer age, many of the halls are lined with empty wooden phone booths.
Upgrades to the historic Capitol were made in the 1970s and 80s, but did not include the annex. In 2018, the Legislature authorized construction of a new building. Like the annex, the new building will house offices of the Governor, the Legislature, with added space for committee hearings and caucus meetings.
Last year, executive and legislative offices were relocated to nearby office buildings and the annex is now vacant. Preliminary cost estimates for the replacement project are $506,858,000, with $6,409,000 for a new parking structure, and $29,964,000 for a new visitor center.
Some non-structural construction work has begun, but there is no projected date for completion. Once completed with enhanced visitor access, modernized technology and upgraded safety compliance, the “people’s house” will finally move into the 21st century.