In September 2019, the California Department of General Services (DGS) published the Capitol Annex Project Draft Environmental Impact Report (Draft EIR), which assesses the potential environmental impacts of implementing the proposed Capitol Annex Project. The project would involve three primary components: (1) construction of a new Annex, (2) construction of a new underground parking garage serving the new Annex, and (3) construction of a new underground visitor/welcome center. DGS prepared the EIR in collaboration with the Joint Committee on Rules (JRC) of the California State Senate and Assembly, which is the entity that would implement the project.
The Draft EIR was circulated for public review and comment for a period of 45 days that began on September 9, 2019 and ended on October 24, 2019. Additionally, an informational workshop was held on September 17, 2019, and a public hearing was held on October 15, 2019. During the review period, written and oral comments were received on the Draft EIR. DGS reviewed those comments to identify specific environmental concerns and began preparation of responses to those comments. However, after the end of the Draft EIR public review period, the design of the new visitor/welcome center was further developed to include an approach to the entry to the visitor/welcome center that was different from what was analyzed in the Draft EIR. The refined visitor/welcome center design proposed using ramps rather than stairs and elevators to enter the facility.
DGS considered the refinement to the visitor/welcome center design a sufficient modification of the project to warrant preparation of a Recirculated Draft EIR. The Recirculated Draft EIR re-evaluated environmental effects for issue areas potentially affected by modification of the visitor/welcome center design; Utilities and Service Systems; Archaeological, Historical, and Tribal Cultural Resources; and Aesthetics, Light, and Glare. A Recirculated Draft EIR was distributed for public review and comment for a period of 45 days that began on January 17, 2020 and ended on March 2, 2020. An informational workshop was held on January 22, 2020, and a public hearing was held on February 26, 2020. During the review period, written and oral comments were received on the Recirculated Draft EIR.
DGS reviewed the combined comments on the Draft EIR and Recirculated Draft EIR to identify specific environmental concerns and determine whether any additional environmental analysis would be required to respond to issues raised in the comments. Responses to all comments received on the Draft EIR and Recirculated Draft EIR were prepared and included in the Final EIR. The Final EIR was certified, and the project was approved by the DGS on July 20, 2021. The Draft EIR, Recirculated Draft EIR, Final EIR, and supporting documentation are collectively referred to as the 2021 EIR in this document.
Between distribution of the Recirculated Draft EIR and completion of the Final EIR, modifications to the design of the Annex and parking structure were made and more detailed designs were developed for these facilities. These modifications were evaluated in the Final EIR. The primary new information related to the Annex was selection of a “Double-T” building configuration and exterior surfacing of mostly glass (see Chapter 3 of this document, “Project Description,” for more information). The underground parking garage location was changed from the south side of the new Annex and Historic Capitol to an area immediately east of the new Annex underneath the 12th Street walkway alignment and its maximum capacity was reduced to 150 vehicles. Entry and exit ramps were proposed on both L Street and N Street. The project’s boundaries along the sides of those streets was expanded to accommodate the ramps. In addition, project impacts to trees and landscaping were further clarified. The Final EIR identified that an estimated 56 trees would be removed and replaced and 77 would be transplanted. It was also identified that as the visitor/welcome center design further progresses, some of the 56 trees identified for removal may be transplanted instead.
In the final EIR, DGS determined these project modifications would not result in any new significant impacts or substantially more severe significant impacts than those addressed in the draft EIR and the recirculated draft EIR, and they would not require any new or different mitigation measures. DGS also concluded that none of the modifications constituted “significant new information” requiring recirculation of the EIR; thereby allowing a decision to be made on EIR Certification and project approval. After the project was approved in July 2021, the groups Save our Capitol! and Save the Capitol, Save the Trees (Plaintiffs) challenged DGS’s approvals, filing petitions for writ of mandate contending the EIR analysis did not comply with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) for numerous reasons. The Sacramento County Superior Court rejected all of Plaintiffs’ arguments and upheld the adequacy of the EIR. Plaintiffs appealed the decision. On January 18, 2023 the Third District Court of Appeal partially reversed the trial court’s decision. The ruling directed the trial court to enter a new judgement issuing a preemptory writ of mandate directing DGS to vacate partially its certification of the EIR and to revise and recirculate the deficient portions of the EIR consistent with the Court of Appeal’s ruling (Ruling). (See Save Our Capitol! v. Department of General Services (2023) 87 Cal.App.5th 655.) The Ruling, which is included as Appendix A of this document, identified deficiencies with regard to the EIR’s project description, its analysis of the project’s impacts on historical resources and aesthetics, and its analysis of alternatives. In all other respects, the Ruling affirmed the Superior Court’s judgement.
DGS has prepared this Draft Revised EIR (REIR) to address the CEQA adequacy issues in accordance with the direction provided by the Ruling. This Draft REIR specifically addresses the impacts and issues identified in the Ruling and provides supplemental information and new analysis as needed to comply with CEQA. Contents of the 2021 EIR that the Court found to be adequately addressed, and/or that were not subject to the lawsuits, are not included. For example, this Draft REIR does not include information or analysis related to Biological Resources because the Court did not overturn any aspect of the 2021 EIR’s Biological Resources analysis. Also see the discussions of Public Resources Code (PRC) Sections 21168.9(b) and 21167.2 and res judicata below regarding the appropriate content for this REIR and the legal adequacy of past CEQA review. The content of this Draft REIR provides sufficient detail and clarity such that the public and decision makers can make an informed decision regarding the adequacy of the issues discussed in this Draft REIR.
As discussed below, DGS will consider comments received on the contents of this Draft REIR within the public comment period and prepare written responses as required by CEQA. Under CEQA and other legal doctrines, including res judicata, DGS need not address comments on issues that were covered in the 2021 Final EIR and that were not overturned by the Ruling.