Downtown. And down in the dumps.
That’s where most of the 2,000 state workers picked to move to new office facilities in Los Angeles seemed headed Tuesday as Gov. Pete Wilson confirmed plans to consolidate state operations.
Workers at 37 state agencies across Los Angeles County said they do not relish leaving the comfort of the suburbs to work in the congestion of Downtown Los Angeles.
“Everybody’s against it,” said Maria Savino, a management-services technician for the Department of Commerce, which leases space for 20 workers at a wood-shingled office beside a shaded courtyard on Del Mar Boulevard in Pasadena.
“Just look at this place,” she said. “It’s beautiful. It’s nicer than Downtown. And safer and quieter. Most of us live close by. I certainly wouldn’t move if it was up to me.”
Across town in Norwalk, agricultural inspector Lisa Thurman looked out the third-floor window of her brick and wood office building at well-tended homes across Firestone Boulevard.
“I like working in Norwalk,” she said. “The Downtown area they’re talking about for us is not the nicest part of town.”
State employees working at 40 office buildings around the county said they were stunned to learn of the planned relocation in news reports Saturday. Wilson confirmed details of the plan Tuesday in Sacramento.
“It was a shock,” said Jerry Jolly, deputy division chief at an Alcoholic Beverage Control office that has been headquartered for 13 years in an idyllic garden office in Cerritos.
“Higher-ups will tell you, ‘Yeah, it’s good.’ But I don’t see how anybody can look you in the eye and say they’re looking forward to moving Downtown.”
Inside their newly re-carpeted and repainted office, Jolly’s dozen employees were dejected over the prospect of uprooting themselves.
“Cerritos doesn’t have street people harassing you constantly,” said Sharron DeRudder, a senior legal typist who has worked 25 years for the agency. “Here we have a shopping center two blocks away. There’s restaurant row. There are parks to go and relax in. Here we have free parking right outside our door. Downtown, we’ll have to pay $40 or $50 out of our own pockets to park.”
Co-worker Terri Mason, a beverage control investigator, said she plans to request a transfer to the agency’s Santa Ana office to avoid moving Downtown. She wasn’t buying the idea that the influx of new state office workers will improve the scruffy Central City area, either.
“If they want to bring the area up, they should beef up the LAPD,” she said.
At a 16th-floor Century Boulevard office suite near Los Angeles International Airport, which the state has leased for the last three years, Deborah McConville can see the high-rises of Downtown Los Angeles. If it’s a clear day.
“We used to be Downtown at 1st and Broadway. I was very happy to get out of there,” said McConville, executive director of the California Commission for Economic Development.
“The safety issue is my biggest concern. But Downtown is close to city and county offices, and it’s easier to meet people there.”
The economic office shares space with Lt. Gov. Leo McCarthy. He and his staff were taking Wilson’s proposal in stride.
“I’m not running for reelection in ’94. When I leave this office, the lease will expire simultaneously,” McCarthy said. “I think the consolidation is fine. The L.A. County economy is in very bad shape. We need to do everything we can to give it a boost. The point is to provide some energy and a morale boost to Los Angeles.”
The lieutenant governor wasn’t the only supporter of the relocation plan. In Glendale, state toxicologist Lou Levy was looking forward to heading Downtown.
“You go two blocks one way and you’re at Grand Central Market, and it’s like Central America. You go two blocks the other way, and there’s Little Tokyo,” he said. “I’ll enjoy it.”
Levy is one of 125 workers at the state’s Department of Toxic Substances Control office, headquartered in a one-story office building on Grandview Avenue. Across the street is Pelanconi Park, where workers eat lunch and sometimes gather for barbecues after work on Fridays.
Workers will miss all of that, said office spokesman Richard Varenchik.
“There’s a divergence of opinion on the idea of moving,” he said.