NPS plans to move its regional offices out of San Francisco’s pricey Financial District to a cluster of buildings near Fort Vancouver, saving millions in rent and reduced salaries.
VANCOUVER, Wash. — The National Park Service is planning to relocate a Western regional office to Vancouver in a move that could save almost $4 million a year.
The decision was reported by KQED in San Francisco, where the National Park Service Pacific West Regional Office is located. The Pacific West Region staff will be moved to a building at Fort Vancouver National Historic Site. The lease on the space ends in 2021.
The move fits nicely with the master plan guiding redevelopment at Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, which took over property in 2012 that until then had been part of the U.S. Army’s Vancouver Barracks.
The plan called for using the former Army property, including several historic buildings, as a public-service campus.
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The headquarters of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest moved into one of the century-old, two-story barracks buildings in February 2017.
A smaller building is being renovated for use by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
The park service staff in San Francisco was told the unit is expected to move out of the Financial District building it has been stationed at since 2011, according to the memo.
Local park service officials could not be reached for comment over the weekend.
Agency leaders say relocating will mean they can stop paying rent and pay their staff less.
About 150 people work in the regional office’s current space at 333 Bush St., where the rent is $2 million a year, according to the park service.
Officials expect to save almost that much a year in salaries.
“We have struggled with recruitment in San Francisco for years due to the high cost of living,” said Stan Austin, the region’s director, in a staff memo obtained by KQED.
Federal officials believe paying reduced salary and benefits to its workers after the move takes place will save $1.8 million a year.
The regional office helps oversee 60 national parks in eight Western states — Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Washington — and three U.S. territories in the Pacific.
The region includes attractions that are among the crown jewels of the system, including Yosemite National Park, as well as Mount Rainier in Washington and Crater Lake in Oregon.
“The NPS considered various factors in making this decision, including the more favorable cost of living, the expected long-term taxpayer savings from using an NPS-owned building rather than leasing, and the preservation benefits of adapting a historic building for modern use,” said Park Service spokesman Andrew Munoz in an email to KQED.
The Interior Department approved the relocation plan, which now awaits approval from Congress.
It is unclear how many current employees will make the move to Washington state.
“We recognize that many of you are thinking about what this move means personally, as well as what this means in terms of the service we provide and the relationships we have,” Austin wrote in his memo.
The building that was renovated for use as the Gifford Pinchot headquarters — one of four structures facing Officers Row known collectively as the “front row” — can accommodate about 85 employees.