SACRAMENTO —Downtown areas will be preferred sites for state office buildings across California under an executive “smart growth” order signed Wednesday by Gov. Gray Davis.
The action inserts one of the state’s biggest real estate players into local campaigns to revive and preserve the state’s urban cores.
The governor said Wednesday that consolidating far-flung leases into downtown office locations cut costs, make it easier for people to find state offices and reduce traffic congestion and air pollution.
The act is modeled on a similar order used by the federal government’s General Services Administration. Cities frequently cite the order to keep government buildings downtown or keep them from leaving.
“It formalizes something we started doing some time ago,” said state Department of General Services spokesman Rob Deignan.
Davis signed the order after vetoing for the second straight year a similar, but less flexible bill passed by the Legislature.
Davis called its goals laudable, but said rigid standards could have unintended consequences, invite lawsuits and jeopardize real estate negotiations.
Andrea Jackson, aide to the bill’s author, Assemblyman Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, said, “It doesn’t matter if it’s done via the Legislature or executive order. Whatever leads to better use of state buildings in urban cores, that’s what we’re after.”
The State of California owns 40 offices statewide containing about 12 million square feet of space, Deignan said. The state also has 2,100 leases for 16 million square feet.
Davis’ order is not mandatory, but aims to ensure that state architecture and siting decisions are environment-friendly, convenient to transit and affordable housing. Plans also are expected to explore a mix of uses in the same building and be consistent with local government initiatives to promote smart growth.