County Relocates Social Services Agency to Orange

Orange County Supervisors Tuesday voted 4-0 to approve the relocation of the county Social Services Agency headquarters from a controversial building in downtown Santa Ana to a new office space in Orange.

The vote comes just before the expiration of the county’s current lease on Dec. 31 with developer and downtown property owner Michael F. Harrah, who has leased the building to the county at a fixed rent for 17 years.

The vote comes after Voice of OC published a story Monday detailing the deteriorating condition of the building located at 888 N. Main Street, including major mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems that have not been replaced since the building was constructed in the 1960s.

Although Harrah offered during the negotiations to make any renovations to the building without cost to the county, staff backed the proposal to relocate the agency altogether.

Under the new deal for the property in Orange, located at 500 N. State College Boulevard, the county would pay $59.5 million in rent, more than twice the amount the county has paid to Harrah in rent since 1996.

The lessor would also pay the county a $619,555 commission and $1.2 million in moving expenses, according to a staff report.

At an annual holiday party on the Hall of Administration’s Fifth Floor, hosted by County Supervisors Todd Spitzer and Lisa Bartlett Tuesday, Harrah was upbeat in greeting newly-elected Supervisor Bartlett, telling her that while she didn’t vote to renew the lease for his building, he wished her the best.

Later, in a brief elevator interview as he left the building, Harrah said he wasn’t that disappointed with the Board’s vote and would now likely turn to build condominiums on the property.

Norberto Santana Jr. contributed to this story.