$3m in taxpayer money to move offices!?

To understand how a government agency operates, there’s a saying anyone with a background in investigations has heard countless times: follow the money. In the case of the Bay Conservation and Development Commission, it is a state-level agency in California with a regional authority. The BCDC is not self-sustaining; the money it takes in from permit fees and enforcement actions is not kept by the BCDC, but instead goes to Sacramento and the state’s general fund. In return, California’s state budget provides for the operation of the BCDC.

If you dig through California’s state budget, you’ll find the line item for the BCDC under the state’s Department of Natural Resources. Over the last few years, the BCDC has counted on a budget of anywhere between $8 million and $8.6 million from the state. For the 2018-19 fiscal year, that figure jumps to $11.6 million, and there’s a big reason why: the state and the BCDC have earmarked $3.02 million for a relocation of the BCDC’s offices from the Hiram Johnson state office building on Golden Gate Avenue in San Francisco, completed in 1999, to the $200+ million Bay Area Metro Center on Beale Street, completed in 2016 and where the BCDC has held its public meetings for the past two years.

Think of it this way: imagine the Giants wanting a new stadium to replace AT&T Park, a gem of a Major League Baseball stadium that opened in 2000. Sounds ridiculous, right? Even extensive renovations would be unnecessary! In this case, the BCDC wants to trade in its offices in what, by all accounts, is a perfectly serviceable setting for the supposed latest and greatest thing just because they can and no one has been around to stop them. Until now.

From the looks of it, the BCDC has been waiting for this money (and this move) for a while. If you go to the Bay Area Metro Center’s website, it mentions the BCDC moving there in late 2017. It hasn’t happened yet, but now that the BCDC has this money in hand, they are poised to move to their new digs on the building’s fifth floor soon, probably sometime in 2019.

Now, some of the BCDC’s commissioners have asked why this number is so high. In a budget presentation earlier this month, the commission’s leadership stated that $2.5 million is for “tenant improvements” and that it is part of an ongoing negotiation between the building’s owners and the California Department of Finance. How does a brand new building require tenant improvements? Or is that the BCDC’s share of paying for the cost of the building? It remains unclear.

For an agency and a state that pride themselves on conservation, our question here at the SF Bay Stewardship Alliance is this: wouldn’t this $3 million be better used to actually help protect the Bay? Remember, this money does not come from the revenue taken in by the BCDC, meaning it comes from your pocket and your tax dollars.

If you agree, join our fight. Here’s how.

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