SORRENTO VALLEY — The technology and biotech giants of Sorrento Valley have a new neighbor — the FBI.
San Diego’s new FBI headquarters is a massive glass-fronted complex that sits atop a hill overlooking Interstate 805. The completed $120 million project provides more security and space for the 400 or so special agents and support staff who serve the county.
Employees began slowly moving into the new building last week, using the holiday weekend to transport sensitive materials under armed guard.
A flag-raising ceremony Tuesday morning will mark the first day of business at their new digs, off Vista Sorrento Parkway.
They are vacating the office compound in Kearny Mesa that has served as their headquarters since 1995, as well as other smaller offices leased around the area, bringing most of the bureau under one roof.
The Joint Terrorism Task Force and a North County branch will remain in separate offices.
The building was designed first and foremost with security in mind.
Unlike the old headquarters, visitors are screened through a small, separate building that puts guards behind bullet-resistant glass and drywall. The entire compound is surrounded by spiked fencing “that can stop a fully-loaded semi,” said FBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge Daron Borst, who oversaw the project.
Cars that are allowed past the visitors’ parking must get through two swinging gates and a metal wedge barrier that pops out of the road.
In fact, the security is so stringent that cellphones can’t get reception in the building, a frustration agents hope is resolved soon.
Other security features include a sally port to unload detainees (something lacking at the old building) and a disintegrator room that reduces top secret paperwork to a fine dust.
“Because shredding isn’t good enough for us,” Borst said.
Temporary holding cells — with security cameras, panic buttons and windows — were being designed right around the time when the local DEA was in the news for locking a drug suspect in a cell and then forgetting about him over a long weekend.
The FBI took notes and designed theirs for maximum visibility to avoid such a scenario.
The centerpiece of the 250,000-square-foot complex is a glass atrium-style lobby, topped off with a giant mosaic FBI seal that is lit at night.
The project was developed by Molasky Group of Las Vegas, which has constructed three other FBI offices across the country. The developer will lease the building for 20 years at a cost of $234 million to the federal government. At the end of the term, the FBI can leave or renew its lease, but there is no option to own the building.
It has been designed to LEED Gold standards, a rating system for energy-efficient and environmentally friendly buildings. Bamboo is a recurring theme in the design, including all the doors, decorative wall insets and landscaping.
New technology is also being installed, including 90-inch television monitors that double as dry-erase boards and computer screens.
Agents are especially looking forward to more elbow room.
The sprawling building (it takes two hours to walk every hallway on the six floors) includes a gym, many conference rooms, and an extra-large space that can be used as an emergency operations center in the event of a major incident.