Los Angeles County supervisors Tuesday approved a novel way to cut air pollution and traffic congestion: They will shut down an entire county building one day a week.
Supervisors voted to put all 1,600 employees who work at the 12-story Department of Public Works headquarters in Alhambra on a four-day, 10-hour-a-day work schedule Monday through Thursday and close the building on Fridays. The schedule will take effect in September.
Supervisor Pete Schabarum, who cast the lone vote against the plan, said that it sends a message to the public that "the county of Los Angeles is only in business four days a week."
Supervisor Ed Edelman expressed concern that employees will arrive after the new 7 a.m. starting time and leave before the 5:30 p.m. quitting time. But he supported the plan to "give it a chance" after public works Director Thomas A. Tidemanson assured him that managers will closely monitor employee arrivals and departures.
Tidemanson said he proposed closing the building at 900 S. Fremont Ave. in response to a directive from the South Coast Air Quality Management District that major employers reduce travel by employees.
"We believe that . . . closings of public buildings will become commonplace due to the combined lack of public financial resources, need for more services and traffic and air pollution concerns," Tidemanson told supervisors.
Tidemanson said closing the building will have little effect on public services since most public business, such as issuance of permits, is conducted at the department's field offices, which will remain open five days a week. The headquarters are primarily used by contractors and developers, he said.
The public works director said the new work schedule will save $1.7 million a year by increasing employee productivity, including eliminating two breaks per employee per week, and reducing building operating costs.
Supervisors expressed concern that public works officials may be difficult to reach if an emergency, such as an earthquake, occurs on a Friday. But Tidemanson said the department maintains a 24-hour-a-day operation to respond to emergencies.
"Here you have an opportunity to eliminate as many as 1,600 automobiles from the road, which is going to help alleviate congestion and improve air quality," said Supervisor Mike Antonovich.
Tidemanson said that a poll of employees who work in the building showed overwhelming support for the new schedule.
Richard B. Dixon, the county's chief administrative officer, said the new work schedule will be evaluated to determine whether it should be expanded to other public buildings. He said that longer hours Mondays through Thursdays could resolve an often-heard complaint that "you can't deal with government unless you take the day off."