Capitol at Risk

Restore or not to Restore?

Although the completion of the East Annex in 1952 provided more spaces for legislative offices, the state continually made changes to the original West Wing of the Capitol. By 1970, the Capitol had gone through three significant remodels and in many ways did not resemble the original Capitol Building.

Additionally, there were growing concerns regarding the building’s structural integrity.  In 1972, a seismic study found the building unsafe to occupy in the event of a moderate earthquake and that the efforts to modernize the building had weakened the structure as a whole. By 1974, all personnel had moved out of the West Wing. The Senate and Assembly continued to use their chambers for official business on the assumption that they understood the safety risk.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, there was a continued debate over a proposal to replace the Capitol building. Senator Randolph Collier proposed a new modern building consisting of two glass towers, named “Collier Towers.” Indeed, it looked as though the original Capitol building might be destroyed.

However, in light of the recession of the 1970s, changes in legislative leadership, and an increasing desire to preserve this remarkable California landmark, the argument to save the building finally won out.  By 1975, Assemblyman Leon Ralph authored Assembly Bill 2071 calling for the restoration of the Capitol building, estimated at the time to cost $42 million. By 1976, the state appropriated the funds for the restoration, officials signed the contracts, and restoration was underway.