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Jerry Brown chooses a trendy loft near the Capitol

The governor-elect and his wife, Anne Gust Brown, will occupy a 1,450-square-foot downtown apartment. They'll also keep their Oakland hills home.

December 22, 2010|By Shane Goldmacher, Los Angeles Times

Reporting from Sacramento — Gov.-elect Jerry Brown, who famously slept on a mattress on the floor when he was governor the first time, has picked out an upscale loft only blocks from the Capitol as his home away from home in Sacramento.

After weeks of touring downtown buildings — including a much-ballyhooed stop at the mansion he grew up in more than a half-century ago, when his father was governor — Brown settled on a slice of converted auto showroom with a brick facade and industrial-chic interior.

Ever careful to nurture the incoming governor's franchise on frugality, Brown's campaign staff declined to say how much he would pay for the 1,450-square-foot apartment. A similar-sized unit was listed online for about $2,300 a month.

California is one of a handful of states not to offer an official residence to its governor. After Schwarzenegger spurned the idea of settling in the capital, Brown's choice of residence had been the source of much intrigue here.

The day after being elected, Brown equivocated on whether he'd live in Sacramento full time, bruising the egos of local denizens. He and wife Anne Gust Brown, he said, would be keeping their $1.8-million home in the Oakland hills.

Their new residence is at the intersection of two busy thoroughfares in the heart of what passes for a hip downtown. There's a sushi spot downstairs and a fancified burger joint down the block that offers Mac-N-Cheese as a topping.

"It's still a very modest residence for the governor" of the nation's most populous state, said Mark Friedman, one of the building's developers.

Neighbors seemed pleased by the addition of the Browns, no matter the coming inconveniences of stepped-up security and media interest.

"Who wouldn't want to have the governor in the same [building]?" said Doug Elmets, who runs his public relations shop out of a second-floor office.

Brown's fondness for low-budget living has long been interwoven with his political persona. During his governorship in the 1970s, there was the sparsely furnished bachelor pad and the blue Plymouth he drove, having spurned a state car. As Oakland mayor, he lived in a communal loft with roommates who included a recovering drug addict. He later moved with Gust into a loft in a downtrodden part of the city.

Because there is no official governor's mansion, state regulations allow Brown to use campaign funds to pay the rent for one year. Brown spokesman Evan Westrup said "no decision has been made at this point" about how the loft will be paid for.

In recent years, Schwarzenegger has had a specially formed nonprofit pay for his stays in a penthouse suite at the Hyatt hotel, though the state's ethics watchdog agency recently tightened the rules on the practice. Most nights, Schwarzenegger chartered flights back to Brentwood to see his children and wife, Maria Shriver.

Brown joked often on the campaign trail that the biggest difference between his last term as governor and his upcoming one will be his marriage.

"I now have a wife; I come home at night," he said during a gubernatorial debate. "I don't try to close down the bars in Sacramento like I used to do when I was governor of California."

He'll also have furniture. "Jerry Brown is no longer a bachelor and no longer will be sleeping on a mattress on a floor," Westrup said.

But it seems even Brown's wife can't fully take the bachelor out of him. A Sacramento magazine once called the digs at their new address "The Ultimate Bachelor Pad."

shane.goldmacher@latimes.com

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