State lawmakers will be asked to intervene in a dispute over the Bay Area transportation commission's plan to move from Oakland to San Francisco.
State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, said he will introduce a bill next month to block preparations for the move until state auditors say whether it is legal to use bridge toll money to buy the new headquarters building.
"We need an opinion from a third party," said DeSaulnier, chairman of the Senate Committee on Transportation and Housing.
DeSaulnier and other East Bay legislators have criticized the Metropolitan Transportation Commission's decision in October to buy an old postal building in San Francisco for $93 million and renovate it for another $74 million.
The majority of commissioners have defended the move -- the vote to approve the purchase was 8-6 -- saying the new building will provide badly needed extra space for overcrowded workers at MTC and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.
State auditors, at DeSaulnier's urging, have agreed to do an audit to say whether it's legal to use bridge toll money on the purchase. The audit, however, is expected to take several months.
During the wait, DeSaulnier said it would be prudent to delay renovations or other preparations -- especially if state auditors reach an opinion forcing MTC to reconsider.
The building renovation has not yet begun, but the regional transportation commission is expected within weeks to hire an architectural firm to oversee the job, said Randy Rentschler, a commission spokesman.
It is expected to take 18 to 24 months to prepare for the move.
A legal opinion prepared for the commission concluded that it was permissible to use the toll money on the new building, Rentschler said.
Amy Worth, the MTC vice chairwoman, said she voted against moving to the San Francisco building but is concerned about the precedent of state lawmakers intervening in legal decisions of local and regional agencies.
"I didn't support the decision, but it was on solid legal ground," said Worth, an Orinda city councilwoman.
The commission's decision to move its workforce of 230 people from Oakland to San Francisco was sharply criticized by East Bay political leaders, who described it as a blow to Oakland.
Administrators at the transportation commission said they reviewed several building sites in the Bay Area and concluded the building at 390 Main St. in San Francisco is the best one for a new regional government headquarters.
Contact Denis Cuff at 925-943-8267. Follow him at twitter.com/deniscuff.