Assemblyman Says State Capitol Annex is Riddled with Hazards

SACRAMENTO -- A local lawmaker says a big portion of the state Capitol building is a hazard to the one million people who visit each year.

The historic state Capitol is in large part a museum. Attached to it is the 1952 annex, which also has popular exhibits as well as hearing rooms and legislative offices. But it was designed for a part-time legislature with far fewer visitors.

“You’re like a salmon trying to swim upstream to get your way through the throng of people here," said Assemblyman Ken Cooley, D-Rancho Cordova.

Cooley heads the Joint Committee on Rules, which commissioned a study of the shortcomings of the 66-year-old Capitol Annex.

Wheelchair ramps are too few and hard to use, it’s not earthquake safe and stairwells are not to code and are too steep and narrow for six floors of people who have to exit through just three narrow doors.

“The multi-purpose room for the Rancho Cordova Elementary School has more exit doors than the entire Capitol complex on the ground floor," Cooley said.

You have to navigate the hallways filled with cabinets and copiers to get to the exits.

“It’s confined, it’s tight, it would be difficult for two wheelchairs to pass by each other," Cooley said.

Not only does it violate the Americans with Disabilities Act rules, the annex has no fire sprinklers and people would have to wrestle with an extinguisher or hose in an emergency.

“Most staff would not know how to access the fire hose and use it," Cooley said.

To understand the chances of a fire, one just has to take a look at the band-aid fixes over the years to accommodate modernized electronics. Not only is there makeshift ventilation to reduce fire danger, but modern video gear gets overheated in cramped quarters.

Other mechanicals tucked away from the public are rotting away. Sewage leaks are difficult to find, let alone fix.

Several million dollars are budgeted for repairs and upkeep.

Cooley’s committee will be revealing proposed solutions next week. One option is tearing it down and rebuilding.

“You cannot fit the ADA issues in this Capitol to the greatest degree possible keeping this building," Cooley said.

Cooley wants a welcoming state Capitol, but safety comes first.

The cost of the options, including renovating the existing structure, will also be revealed next week. The proposed construction of a new Sacramento County courthouse stands at a relatively comparable size and was budgeted at about $500 million.