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The Obama administration on Wednesday reinforced efforts to set up a special commission that will help get rid of some 14,000 surplus federal properties, including more than 1,150 in California.

By using a non-partisan panel resembling those that closed military bases, administration officials hope to sidestep the impediments that until now have hindered surplus property disposal.

"Having an independent board of experts can push through political gridlock," said Jeffrey Zients, deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, adding that "it will change how Washington works."

Though President Barack Obama proposed a surplus property commission earlier this year, as part of his fiscal 2012 budget plan, officials on Wednesday provided specific legislative language for the first time.

The surplus properties range from empty lots and unused roads to empty warehouses and office buildings. Many of the sites have little or no market value, administration officials acknowledge.

In California, for instance, the surplus properties identified on a new federal interactive map range from irrigation facilities in the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge and to a small field office in Los Banos and a modest building in Yosemite National Park.

Yosemite alone has had 35 distinct pieces of property -- housing units, warehouse, utility systems and roads -- declared surplus by federal officials. Overall, the surplus properties in California span some 1.5 million square feet.

The surplus property commission will need approval from Congress, where the concept already has some supporters. Freshman Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Atwater, has used his chairmanship of the House subcommittee that oversees federal buildings to urge faster disposition of what's excess.


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