I had the distinct privilege of serving as a presenter at the July 2023 National Conference of State Legislatures (NCLS) Legislative Staff Management Institute (LSMI) event in Sacramento, California. It was an exceptional honor to share my insights and expertise in this esteemed gathering designed for senior legislative staff to develop and enhance their leadership and management skills.
During the event, I had the opportunity to speak alongside former California State Assembly member, Ken Cooley, who represented the 8th Assembly District covering various regions in Sacramento and surrounding communities. Mr. Cooley’s dedicated service in the California State Assembly spanned from 2012 to 2022.
About Ken Cooley
Throughout his illustrious career, Ken Cooley has emerged as a prominent figure, championing critical and multifaceted issues, including public safety, education, and environmental protection. His professional background as an attorney, specializing in insurance matters, has been instrumental in shaping legislative efforts and advancing the well-being of the California community. Notably, prior to his tenure in the Assembly, he served as a mayor and City Councilmember in Rancho Cordova, further enhancing his understanding of local governance.
Mr. Cooley’s unwavering commitment to the California Capitol has been both extensive and enduring. His journey commenced in the mid-70s, where he actively collaborated with fellow professionals on various tasks, significantly contributing to seismic structural upgrades of the esteemed Capitol building. This commitment to enhancing the efficiency and effectiveness of the State Government has been a hallmark of his distinguished career.
During the LSMI presentation, both Mr. Cooley and I addressed the audience providing our extensive experience. The event proved to be enlightening to the attendees who asked many questions related to Capitol projects in general and related to processes to move the Capitol enhancement initiative forward.
The Future of Design for State Capitols
My engagement in the presentation centered around discussing and illuminating the methods and processes utilized to evaluate and envision the future needs for state capitols, often referred to as the “people’s house.” I had the opportunity to share insights and expertise on how to assess the evolving requirements of these critical government institutions and effectively plan for their future development and functionality.
By shedding light on the key factors influencing the design and planning of state capitols, we aimed to foster a deeper understanding of the importance of these structures as vital symbols of democracy and public service. The discussion served to inspire thoughtful consideration and foresight in ensuring that these iconic buildings continue to meet the needs of both legislators and the public they serve for generations to come.
The collaborative efforts of Mr. Cooley and myself brought together diverse perspectives and expertise, making the NCLS presentation a truly enriching and thought-provoking experience for all in attendance.
CSHQA was engaged to fulfill a mission which is best described in the following: “California’s new Capitol Annex should convey to visitors California’s positive, hope-filled outlook, founded upon the deliberative Democracy which unfolds there, by welcoming all Californians, engaging all Californians, safeguarding the future of all Californians, and demonstrating healthful, accessible, and sustainable designs, while preserving the beauty and vistas of California’s legacy Capitol Park and inviting all its guests to explore and take pride in one of the most energy-efficient capitol buildings in the nation.” —Assemblymember Ken Cooley, Chair, Joint Committee on Rules.
CSHQA State Capitol Experience
Our experienced team of design professionals is dedicated to capitol buildings as a specific building type. This same team led the Idaho State Capitol Renovation, Expansion and Historic Restoration that spanned ten years, five legislatures, four governors and cost $120 million. The master planning process for the Idaho State Capitol was revisited several times as the project progressed and was agile enough to endure economic downturns and numerous changes within the owner leadership team. Our team is also working on the Wyoming State Capitol Renovation, Expansion and Historic Restoration, which at completion will span five years and cost approximately $116 million (total project $200 million). In 2015, the project was having difficulties progressing, and CSHQA was engaged to assist in planning and execution of construction documents and to offer advice on the related office building. We have visited many State Capitols to research this unique building type, to learn from others who have been involved in Capitol Renovations, and to gain a deeper understanding of public engagement and legislative processes, as well as best practices.
In Sacramento, CSHQA took on the important task of conducting a comprehensive evaluation of the Capitol Annex’s existing condition. This Annex, an extension added to the State Capitol some years ago, serves as a vital structure for the Capitol by housing public spaces, offices, and hearing rooms. The primary goal of this evaluation was to identify opportunities for improvement in key areas: enhancing public engagement, facilitating access to legislators, and creating an overall improved work environment for the dedicated individuals who tirelessly serve the State of California.
The report prepared by CSHQA delved into the current state of the Capitol Annex, meticulously examining its functionality and user experience. The assessment aimed to pinpoint areas where enhancements could be made to foster more effective public engagement and streamline access to legislators. Furthermore, it sought to optimize the working conditions of the committed professionals who diligently serve the state, ensuring they have an environment conducive to their vital roles.
The recommendations put forth in the report are geared towards creating a much-improved Capitol Annex that aligns with the evolving needs of California and its citizens. By fostering a more efficient and accommodating space, the state’s governance and its commitment to public service can be further strengthened. CSHQA’s diligent efforts in this endeavor reflect its commitment to excellence and innovation in architectural solutions, contributing to the betterment of California’s legislative facilities and the welfare of its people.
CSHQA evaluated the space needs based on considerable input and research, leading us to recommend that the Capitol Annex should be replaced with a new more appropriate building. The decision to replace the Annex was driven by the desire to enhance energy efficiency, utilize sustainable materials, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, update facility’s aging mechanical, electrical, and telecommunications systems. The most significate outcome was the need to improve public access, and enhance engagement opportunities between elected officials and the public and the user’s work environment. Our report provided conclusions and recommendations that allowed the legislature to move forward with a new Capitol Annex building and Visitor Entrance.