Federal officials plan to relocate an office that helps oversee 60 national parks throughout the western United States from downtown San Francisco to Vancouver, Washington, in a move they say could save millions of dollars.
Staff at the National Park Service Pacific West Regional Office were told this week that the local unit is expected to move out of the Financial District building it has been stationed at since 2011.
Agency leaders say relocating will mean they can stop paying rent and pay their staff less.
"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.
The Pacific West Regional Office manages parks in eight states and several U.S. territories, spanning close to 13 million acres and visited by more than 66 million people annually.
The region includes popular parks in California, like the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Muir Woods National Monument and Yosemite National Park, as well as the Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument in Arizona and Crater Lake National Park in Oregon.
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. The 10-year lease on the space ends in 2021.
The park service plans to move the Pacific West Region staff to a vacant building it owns at Fort Vancouver National Historic Site.
Federal officials believe they will save money, not only by not having to pay rent, but by paying reduced salary and benefits to its workers after the move takes place.
The agency says it will save $1.8 million a year by paying their staff less.
"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.
The Interior Department approved the relocation plan, which is now awaiting 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.