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Auburn, Calif.- After considerable analysis, stakeholder engagement, design and planning, the Placer County Board of Supervisors were presented a plan for a re-envisioned Placer County Government Center and expressed general support for the direction of the master plan.

County staff narrowed three draft site plan options developed in recent months with community and employee input to a single recommended version for the board’s consideration, which envisions brand new campus amenities like an event center; consolidation of county buildings to provide an intuitive navigational experience for visitors; a wellness-oriented work environment for employees to promote walkability; open space to help preserve the area’s natural foothill esthetic; a DeWitt heritage district to honor the campus’s rich history; and non-county land use opportunities such as mixed-use residential housing, hotel and commercial retailers. Under the plan, the county’s executive office and board of supervisors chambers, along with related offices, would move from their current location in Auburn and join other county services at the PCGC campus.

“We’re really trying to create a new and exciting environment that brings together county services and community amenities, all in one vibrant area,” said Paul Breckenridge, senior architect for Placer County and project manager for the master plan update.

The master plan for the 200-acre campus was last updated in 1993. The campus was originally the site of a World War II-era U.S. Army hospital complex that was in use for two years before the end of the war. It was then used as a state psychiatric hospital, and eventually deeded to Placer County by the State of California in the early 1970s. Since then, the county has striven to be a good steward of the campus, using the buildings to provide county services, and replacing a number of them over the years with more modern facilities. A portion of the campus has also been leased for private use by Home Depot.

Evaluating future county space needs, potential relocation of county staff currently housed off-campus in Auburn and the cultural legacy of the campus are significant areas of study for the master plan update.
The importance of prioritizing various types of housing was a strong theme throughout the board’s discussion.

“The potential for mixed-use commercial and residential is extremely promising,” said District 3 Supervisor Jim Holmes. “It is important to me that we get workforce and affordable housing and more small, single-family units as there is such a great need in our community.”

“Affordable housing is always at the top of my list of concerns for the county,” said Chairwoman and District 5 Supervisor Jennifer Montgomery. “I am very pleased this proposal offers a broad spectrum of housing opportunities. This is not just a government center, this is the heart of Placer County and it’s the heart of this area.”

Upgrading the campus’s aging infrastructure to improve energy and resource efficiency is another high priority. Project planners have also sought broad public input on new potential uses for the campus, including possible commercial and residential development, as well as a potential multi-age community center, currently being studied in a separate feasibility study.

Planning proceeds for future county building investments, funding

In a workshop later in the meeting, the board weighed in on five requests by county departments to build new facilities, with a few of them to be located at the Placer County Government Center campus. The board voted unanimously to allow all five to move forward in the planning process, including a new administrative and field services building for the county’s Department of Health and Human Services, a new coroner’s facility, a new crime lab, a storage facility for the Clerk-Recorder-Elections Office and a retrofit to inmate housing facilities at the Auburn Justice Center.

With the board’s direction to continue development of the PCGC master plan update, environmental planning for the projects sited on the campus would proceed cooperatively with planning for the broader campus.

County staff is expected to return to the board this summer with a five-year, detailed capital financing plan to guide when the county will build and how it will be paid for. The board also approved the development of a long-range capital projects list and a plan for facility maintenance. As longer-term plans and priorities are developed, the board strongly encouraged county staff to facilitate a comprehensive public outreach effort to solicit input into those priorities.

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