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2,000 Jobs May Move Downtown : Government: Wilson says plan to consolidate state offices in Civic Center area would bring long-term savings and an economic boost for L.A.

September 18, 1993|JAMES RAINEY and JEFFREY L. RABIN | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

In what one official called "an extraordinary statement of faith in the future of Los Angeles and its Downtown core," Gov. Pete Wilson is preparing to announce a plan to move more than 2,000 state workers from around the Los Angeles Basin to offices near the Civic Center.

Wilson on Tuesday is expected to provide details of a seven-year plan to consolidate 37 agencies that are now scattered at 40 locations around Los Angeles County.

The newcomers will join about 1,500 other state workers whose agencies are already Downtown in a complex of new offices and renovated historic structures just south of City Hall.

As many as 3,500 jobs in construction and related fields will be created, while the state will save as much as $102 million over 50 years by reducing its office needs by 21%, according to a report on the proposal.

State officials said the project will help reverse the city's downward spiral since the riots of 1992 and will serve as a magnet, drawing other government and private offices back to a neighborhood that has fallen on hard times after years as the city's commercial hub.

"The social disturbances of a year and a half ago were very much on our minds as we planned this consolidation effort," Dan Rosenfeld, who manages the state's public facilities, said Friday. "We wanted to make a strong and positive statement about the true qualities of Los Angeles."

The precise location for the new state offices will be selected from a dozen vacant properties and historic structures in a six-square-block area, running west and south from the Ronald Reagan State Office Building on Spring Street.

The plan also calls for demolition of an existing state office building nearby, at 1st Street and Broadway. The building has seismic and fire safety shortcomings, and employees have complained it is infested with cockroaches and rats. It will be replaced by a new office building at the same location.

Few public services will be offered at the new complex, where workers will perform mostly administrative duties.

Among the newcomers will be workers from the state Health and Welfare Agency, which will move from 12 locations in the county to just one Downtown.

Other offices slated for consolidation Downtown are Alcoholic Beverage Control in Cerritos, Department of Commerce in Hollywood and Pasadena, Food and Agriculture in Norwalk and El Monte, the Franchise Tax Board in West Los Angeles, Toxic Substances Control in Burbank and the Water Resources Control Board in Monterey Park.

The state will need 21% less office space if it groups employees and provides smaller work spaces, similar in size to those in the private sector, the report says.

The plan will leave another 2,860 state workers in offices around the rest of Los Angeles County, including Department of Motor Vehicles employees and others who directly serve the public. Under Wilson's directive, though, they may also eventually be brought together in regional office centers in an effort to save money.

The path for the massive undertaking was cleared this summer when the Legislature passed a bill that will permit condemnations, if necessary, and the sale of bonds to pay for the work. Wilson is expected to sign the legislation before Tuesday's announcement, officials said.

The cost of the offices and relocation, estimated at up to $383 million, will be financed through a 25-year bond issuance by the Los Angeles State Building Authority, a three-member panel appointed by the governor and the Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency.

Property owners in the target area will be asked to submit proposals within two months to have their land or buildings included in the state complex, Rosenfeld said.

A spokesman for Wilson declined to discuss details of the plan Friday, confirming only that the governor would make an announcement Tuesday about something "good for California and good for Los Angeles, with lasting long-term benefits."

Wilson's initiative comes two years after he issued an executive order that requires state agencies to consolidate offices, to promote efficiency and save money. On Tuesday, Wilson is scheduled to outline office consolidation proposals in several other counties, as well.

In Los Angeles, the State Building Authority 10 months ago commissioned a survey on how to consolidate offices Downtown. Dozens of property owners, government bureaucrats and elected officials were consulted in the study, which promises to bring relief to a Downtown real estate market reeling from recession.

"At this point, this is really the only game in town," said one Downtown property expert, who asked not to be named. "There isn't a lot of movement with other types of tenants, so it's like the vultures are swirling around this."

A team of consultants headed by Albert C. Martin & Associates finally settled on a plan, to be released by the governor, that saves less than some other alternatives but is supposed to provide myriad other benefits.

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