California Bar Journal
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Bar, at long last, plans its move
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A year and a half after closing the deal to buy a building in downtown San Francisco, the State Bar's northern California staff will move into the new location sometime this year. Sale of the existing headquarters at 555 Franklin St. was expected to be finalized last month. The bar sold the building to the San Francisco school district for $10.75 million.

T. William Melis, the bar's chief financial officer, said money from the sale of the Franklin Street building will be used to repay a $6 million loan from Wells Fargo. The remainder will go toward making the new headquarters at 180 Howard St. habitable for the staff. More than half the building is not built out and needs extensive work before it can be occupied.

The costs of the move are uncertain because the bar does not know how many employees it will have next year.

It expects to hire about 200 people in San Francisco and Los Angeles as a result of last month's Supreme Court authorization of fees for the discipline operation. If the bar wins a dues bill in Sacramento, it may be able to hire other staffers as well.

About 30 employees currently work at Howard Street, and just under a hundred remain at Franklin Street.

Among the costs for moving existing staff to the new building are $861,852 for construction, $303,950 for furniture (the furniture at 555 Franklin St. was sold with the building), and $161,400 for computer and telecommunications costs.

If additional staff is hired, more construction will be required, with added architectural fees and other associated costs.

Purchase of 180 Howard St. and consolidation of the northern California staff originally was seen as a long-term cost-cutting measure when the bar bought the building in May 1997. The board first voted to pursue buying the building in August 1995. The purchase price was $22.5 million.

Renovation was underway when Gov. Pete Wilson vetoed the bar's dues bill the following October. Work was halted and escrow on the sale of the Franklin Street building, which was to close around the time of the veto, was extended repeatedly.

The bar took loans totalling $16 million on both buildings; under the loan agreement, $6 million is to be paid off on the Franklin Street building.

The new building is 13 stories high, with 205,000 square feet. It will include office space, courtrooms for the State Bar Court and support facilities. Space not occupied by the bar will be leased to outside tenants; about 60,000 square feet of space currently is leased.

The bar also has a long-term lease on space in the Transamerica building in Los Angeles, where some 75 staffers remain.