Announcement of Headquarters Move Ends Limbo : No News Was Bad News for Phone Company Workers

Times Staff Writer

The news that General Telephone Co. of California will move its headquarters from Santa Monica to Thousand Oaks was greeted as a mixed blessing by many of the 2,200 employees who will be affected.

Workers may be reluctant to leave the Westside with its beachfront amenities, but said that Monday's announcement brought an end to months of agonizing uncertainty.

For many, the move will mean major changes--looking for a new job, commuting longer distances or moving to Ventura County. Employees who do not live within reasonable driving time of Thousand Oaks will receive relocation benefits.

For others, the new offices will be closer to home. Officials said that about 40% of the company's headquarters employees live in the San Fernando and Conejo valleys.

The move will affect about 2,200 headquarters workers, while an equal number will remain in the Westside to provide phone services and sales.

Employees have known for about six months that the company planned to consolidate its headquarters at a single site from 14 Westside locations--including its main office at 100 Wilshire Blvd., a picture-postcard site overlooking Palisades Park and the Pacific Ocean.

The choices finally were narrowed down to Santa Monica or Thousand Oaks, according to David Anderson, president and chief executive officer.

At a news conference Monday, just after employees had been notified, Anderson said the company decided it would be too costly to remodel or build new offices in Santa Monica.

Also, he said, the expense of Westside housing (with home prices starting at about $150,000 and ranging up into the millions) has made it difficult for the company to attract and retain employees here.

The "most affordable option" the company found was to buy, for $67.5 million, a three-story office building on an 85-acre site owned by Prudential Insurance Co., he said.

Starting this summer and continuing through 1986, headquarters employes will be moved to the Thousand Oaks site, he said.

Workers said they will miss Santa Monica's coastal location, but are glad that they can finally start to make plans.

Lorrie Mikkelsen, a compensation analyst who has worked for the telephone company for 16 years, said she and her husband, Ron, bought a house in Manhattan Beach just two years ago, and they had hoped to make that "a place where we could have children, and eventually retire."

But the drive to Thousand Oaks would be prohibitively long, so they plan to move. Fortunately, she said, her husband also works for the phone company as a marketing and planning specialist, and both are being transferred to Thousand Oaks.

Mikkelsen said that she and her husband have checked out housing in the Thousand Oaks area and found "you can get more for your dollar out there."

When the news that General Telephone might move first surfaced, "I felt like somebody had come into my nest and shaken me to the roots," she said. "But we will adjust. . . . It is a relief to know definitely (where the company will move). We can do something now."

Among those who plan to commute is Diane Graham, a management staffing representative who has worked for the company for about three years.

She lives in Santa Monica Canyon, only a mile from the present headquarters.

"I am going to try to commute, at least give it a chance," she said. If the drive up the coast highway and inland to Thousand Oaks proves too long, she said, she will consider relocating.

Graham said that her plans are affected by school and child-care arrangements here for her 6-year-old. Her husband is in the motion picture business and has to work in various areas, so where they live is less crucial in terms of his work place, she said.

"We decided that whoever has to go to work the most often would be closest to work," she said.

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