How two governors in a bathroom changed the California Capitol

SACRAMENTO – The great domed white Capitol of California is a grand and inspiring building. But the California governor’s office? How ...

SACRAMENTO – The great domed white Capitol of California is a grand and inspiring building. But the California governor’s office? How to say that with delicacy?


That’s how Arnold Schwarzenegger put it this week as he recalled the grand tour outgoing Governor Gray Davis gave him shortly after Schwarzenegger won the 2003 election in which Davis was recalled.

The cramped quarters. The drab decor. The way you could walk right past the entrance – in a bland six-story space completed in 1952 – without even knowing its occupant was the leader of one of the world’s largest economies.

“He showed me the bathroom and I was like, ‘How do you have enough room to even pull your pants down?'” Schwarzenegger recalled, chewing a cigar and laughing during an interview on FaceTime from his home in Brentwood. “It wasn’t at all what California is. It was embarrassing.”

From that “pathetic” first impression a plan was born which, nearly two decades later, came to fruition: a redesign of the mid-century office wing known as the Capitol Annex where the Governor, Lieutenant -governor, all but five legislators and more than 1,000 staff members are concerned with the affairs of the people. Or at least a plan that will bring him into line with the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Schwarzenegger commissioned a serious study which was spearheaded by the Great Recession. His successor, Governor Jerry Brown, reignited the problem and secured legislative funding for building upgrades. In 2017, Assembly Member Ken Cooley, a Sacramento-area Democrat who heads the joint legislative committee overseeing these issues, took the reins of what has become a Renovation project of more than $ 1.2 billion.

Now, in view of the start of the works, the occupants of the Capitol annex have started to move to temporary quarters. “We took an Elvis page and left the building,” joked HD Palmer, deputy director of the state’s finance department.

Cooley said the new $ 450 million public building one block away is already an improvement because “there are no niches” – every legislative office has a window. A member of the legislative staff before joining the Assembly, he views change as a strategic investment in good government.

The renovation, when completed, will not only solve the obvious problems of the annex – leaky plumbing, lack of sprinklers, hallways and bathrooms that are not suitable for wheelchairs, floors that do not match the floors of the neo monument. -classic nineteenth century on which the Annex is attached. It will also expand office space and create suites large enough for committee chairs and their staff to be close to each other, so they can think better.

“We shape our buildings,” Cooley said, quoting Winston Churchill. “And then they shape us.

It is not known when the annex will fall: several lawsuits contest the dismantling. Among the objections is the fact that the new project uproots historic trees, lacks alternatives to demolition and does not consult with those responsible for historic preservation. In a chorus that has upset California developers for decades, one accuses the remodel of violating the California Environmental Quality Act.

The litigation will not however stop the first works, such as asbestos removal. “These projects will be needed anyway,” Cooley said. The goal is for the new addition to be ready to open by September 9, 2025, the 175th anniversary of California’s independence.

Despite Schwarzenegger’s annoyance with the annex, he was well-known as a guest there during his years in the governor’s office, which is built around a courtyard and colloquially known as “the horseshoe”.

He brought a large statue of a grizzly bear from a gallery in Aspen and set it up outside the Governor’s Gate, where it has become a very popular attraction for visiting school groups. (So ​​many little hands stroked him before he was surrounded during the coronavirus pandemic that he became known around the Capitol as “Bacteria Bear”; he now sits outside the excavations of the new governor.) He also established a tent in the courtyard to accommodate the cigar. smoking. Later, Governor Gavin Newsom, who has four children and many staff who are young parents, set up a playhouse.

Brown, who is notoriously spared, has not complained personally about the accommodations, although a 2016 report by his administration called the annex “dated, inefficient and inadequate.” But Schwarzenegger would ostensibly meet with visiting world leaders in Santa Monica in his large personal office, lined with showbiz memorabilia, rather than in Sacramento, where he said the governor’s suite could not accommodate entourages.

“When you visit the governor in a large office, there is a different respect and you can negotiate,” he said.

Most of the time, however, he said, he felt the existing offices underexposed the spirit of California.

“Small offices produce little,” he said. “You are not surrounded by a grand vision. This state has a history of great visions. We are the might of the United States.

For more:

  • The main building of the California Capitol, built between 1860 and 1874, was renovated in 1982 and reopened in a howling rainstorm. “A cake made to look like the Capitol was sliced ​​by Assembly Speaker Willie L. Brown Jr., who couldn’t resist licking a finger he had dipped in the icing,” our correspondent wrote.

  • In addition to the renovations to the annex, The San Francisco Chronicle reports that Cooley is also overseeing about $ 100 million in improvements to Capitol Hill security as a result of the January 6 riot in Washington.

  • Schwarzenegger was in demand this year as Newsom fended off an attempted recall. We talked to him in his Los Angeles mansion and shared the delicious food here in california today.

    Shawn Hubler is a reporter for the New York Times, based in Sacramento.

A father and his son were arrested suspected of having started the Caldor fire.

This sandwich treat raspberry jam between two layers of butter cookies.

Today’s travel tip comes from Lisa von Schlegell:

“I have rediscovered the bike now that I am retired, I feel like I am flying. A particularly pleasant, completely off-road and relatively flat bike ride is in the pipeline. Fort Bragg in Mendocino County.

From the Noyo Headlands Park parking lot next to Cypress Street, one can fly past the bluffs overlooking the Pacific on the Ka Kahleh trailhead, then continue on to the Ten Mile Beach trailhead for incredible beach and ocean views. There are always birds and flowers, and in season, migrating whales spring out to sea. Sometimes the trail becomes impassable at MacKerricher Beach, but most of the time it can be done in total about 15 miles round trip. Bikes can be rented at Fort Bragg Cyclery, downtown, with easy trail access.

Then nothing beats the Princess Seafood Restaurant at the end of Noyo Harbor, where one can sit outside on the deck overlooking the mouth of the harbor, watch seals and fishing boats, and eat grilled, caught fish. locally. They have plenty of craft beers on tap and in bottles including the local North Coast Brewing Co.

Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to We will share more in future editions of the newsletter.

The best 2021 songs.

Of the many beloved holiday traditions that were canceled last year due to the pandemic, few were as disheartening to Southern Californians as the loss of the annual boat parades in Orange County. The nocturnal processions of light boats, more than a century old in at least one city – every year attracts an audience of millions of people, who encourage yachts, sailboats, motor boats, Duffy boats and humble kayaks.

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Newsrust - US Top News: How two governors in a bathroom changed the California Capitol
How two governors in a bathroom changed the California Capitol
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