- How Bad Are California Courthouses? Statewide Video Tour Including Banning
- Superior Court of Riverside County
The Hemet courthouse handles civil, small claims, family law, probate, and traffic cases, but not criminal trials, which are currently handled in Murrieta, more than 20 miles away, or in courthouses even further away. The current Hemet courthouse is overcrowded, substandard in size, and physically deficient, and the property surrounding it is too small to accommodate further additions or renovations.
The proposed project would create a full-service courthouse in the Hemet area to replace the current facility, securely accommodate criminal trials, and provide space for four new judgeships. The project would also enable the court to provide basic services currently not possible due to space restrictions, such as jury assembly and deliberation rooms, an adequately sized self-help center, a children's waiting room, and attorney interview/witness waiting rooms.
A site has not been selected for the new courthouse. To meet the planned building and parking requirements, a site of approximately 5.2 acres will be needed.
Construction Manager at Risk
To be selected, schedule TBD
What is the current status of the project?
The New Riverside Mid-County Civil Courthouse is in the site acquisition phase, with an expected construction completion date in summer 2021. This schedule is subject to change.
Why does Riverside County need a new courthouse?
Located in one of the most diverse and fastest growing areas in the state, Riverside County’s mid-county region has seen an explosive growth in population predicted to continue well into the future. A growing need for court services in the region has put a strain on the court’s already limited judicial capacity. Currently, the Superior Court of Riverside County provides limited services for mid-county residents from an outdated courthouse in Hemet: A facility it shares with county support agencies. Built in 1969, this mixed-use courthouse hosts small claims, family law, probate, and traffic cases. The building has been added onto twice, and the resulting maze of corridors makes it difficult for the public to find their way. In addition, the Court’s space in the county-owned facility is overcrowded and has severe physical, functional, accessibility, and efficiency issues that limit the Court’s ability to provide adequate access to justice to mid-county residents. Examples include:
What is the plan for the new courthouse?
The New Mid-County Civil Courthouse will house nine courtrooms in over 89,000 square feet. The current plan is to locate the new courthouse in the Menifee Town Center as part of an envisioned government center, replacing the Court’s space in the aging Hemet Courthouse. The new courthouse will include appropriately sized courtrooms, jury deliberation rooms, an adequately sized lobby and court administrative space, a self-help center, attorney/client conference rooms, enhanced security, secure screening and circulation for court visitors and staff, and accessibility for people with disabilities. The new courthouse will continue to handle civil, family law, probate, small claims, and traffic cases, providing a modern, secure courthouse for one of Riverside County’s growing population centers. Criminal cases will continue to be heard at the Southwest Justice Center in Murrieta.
Was renovation considered before the plan to build a new courthouse was decided on?
The Judicial Council evaluated renovation of the Court’s space in the Hemet Courthouse and found that it would not be feasible, due to the building’s space limitation and security, seismic, safety, physical, and accessibility issues. In addition, the County holds title to the Hemet Courthouse, and in most cases, the state cannot renovate a building it does not hold title to.
Who is the Judicial Council, and why are they managing this project?
The Judicial Council is the policymaking body for the California court system, including the trial courts, known as Superior Courts, based in each county. Among other responsibilities, the council through its Capital Program office is responsible for planning, acquisition, design, renovation, and construction of court facilities. The new courthouse will be owned by the judicial branch.
Judicial Council Staff
How has the local community had input regarding the courthouse project?
The Project Advisory Group, required by Rules of Court and state law, is the main source of ongoing community input to the project. The Project Advisory Group is composed of community, legal, and government leaders. Judicial Council staff work with the group throughout the site selection, design, and construction process. Project updates will be posted to the California Courts website, and media advisories will be distributed at key milestones.
What will happen to the court’s current facilities when the new courthouse is completed?
After the Court vacates the Hemet Courthouse, the County, which owns the property, will determine what to do with the Court’s space in the building. Judicial Council staff will work with the Court and the County to help determine the disposition of the Court’s space in the current courthouse.
Where will the new courthouse be located?
Judicial Council staff are in the site acquisition process, working closely with the Superior Court and Riverside County to acquire 3.8 acres in the Menifee Town Center from site owner Regent Properties. Through the Judicial Council’s standard site selection process, potential sites for the new courthouse were identified and evaluated in both Hemet and Menifee. The site in Menifee was ultimately chosen because of its central location within the county’s growing population center where the majority of filings originate, the reduced cost of the property, access to public transportation and Interstate 215, and being a part of the City’s envisioned future government center.
What is the process used to select the site?
Judicial Council staff works closely with the Superior Court and the Project Advisory Group, which includes community, legal, and government leaders to determine the preferred and alternate sites. Council staff follow a standard site selection process. The process involves objectively evaluating potential sites and selecting sites that meet agreed-upon criteria for the proposed new courthouse in providing access to justice for Mid-County residents, within the confines of the project’s budget and schedule.
Why does the Judicial Council decide where the new court is built? Why isn't this a County decision?
Historically, trial courts functioned largely as county departments, but that changed in 2002, with passage of the Trial Court Facilities Act. This law made the State of California responsible for court facilities statewide, rather than the counties. The law gave the Judicial Council responsibility for facilities owned or occupied by the courts and made it responsible for operations, maintenance, and repairs, as well as site acquisition, planning, design, and construction of capital projects that replace or renovate courthouses. Council staff work closely with each affected Superior Court and the Project Advisory Group throughout the site selection process.
Was an environmental review completed for the project?
The City of Menifee was the lead agency for the environmental review completed for the new courthouse as part of the Menifee Town Center Environmental Impact Report (EIR). After a thorough review of the project description and project impacts, the Judicial Council decided to adopt the City's previously certified EIR. On January 8, 2015, council staff filed a Notice of Determination, adopting the previously certified EIR.
Will the new building be energy-efficient and sustainably designed?
Yes. The building will be designed with attention to sustainability. The building’s sustainability features are expected to qualify it for a LEED Silver certification by the U.S. Green Building Council. This is a third-party certification program and the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction, and operation of high-performance “green” buildings.
How is the new courthouse being funded?
The courthouse was ranked as an “Immediate Need” in the judicial branch’s capital-outlay plan, making it among the branch’s highest-priority infrastructure projects. It is funded by Senate Bill 1407, enacted in 2008 to provide up to $5 billion in bond funding for new and renovated courthouses using court fees, penalties, and assessments rather than taxpayer revenues from the state’s General Fund.
How did the state arrive at its budget for the project?
Council staff develop each project budget by first determining the building size, site size, and number of parking spaces. Then it provides this information to a professional cost estimating firm that creates a hard construction cost for the building and site work. To this, staff add all project soft costs, which includes all costs associated with evaluating, selecting, and acquiring a site, analysis required to comply with CEQA, the fee for the architecture and engineering team, geotechnical testing, project management and construction management fees, commissioning fees, and the cost of furniture, fixtures, and equipment.
How can the state afford a new courthouse at all, given current state finances?
To fund desperately needed renovations and repairs, criminal penalties and assessments, parking offense penalties, and civil filing fees were created or increased. This ensured a revenue stream to finance courthouse construction and renovations, promising these projects would be paid for from within the court system rather than drawing on the state's General Fund or local taxes. When the project is ready for construction, the state will sell bonds to finance the project. Once the courthouse is completed and occupied, the same revenue stream will repay those bonds over 25 years.
What is the impact of the state’s current budget crisis on this project?
Since 2009, $1.8 billion in court construction funds have been borrowed, swept to the General Fund, or redirected to court operations. As a result, this project, as with other courthouse projects statewide, has been subjected to delays. In addition, every Senate Bill 1407 project has been required by the Judicial Council to undergo budget reductions. These reductions are overseen by a statewide oversight committee of justices, judges, and public building experts established by the Judicial Council.
Who will design the new courthouse?
Perkins + Will Architects was selected to design the new Mid-County Courthouse. Founded in 1935, the company provides architecture, planning, interior design, and sustainability services for civic, commercial, and education projects. In 2015, the firm was ranked number four in Fast Company’s top 10 most innovative companies in architecture in the world and has designed several state and federal buildings.
How are the architects for courthouse construction projects selected?
Judicial Council staff follow a competitive, qualifications-based process to select the architects. Qualifications under consideration include the experience of the design and technical staff, the previous experience of the firm, and other criteria. Once the firm is selected, the fee is negotiated, and an award is made.
What are the key milestones in designing the courthouse?
Where can I see renderings of the new courthouse?
Who will build the new courthouse?
A Construction Manager at Risk (CMAR) will be selected through a request for Qualifications and Proposals.
How will the CMAR be selected?
The CMAR will be selected through a competitive process factoring in qualitative criteria, such as the firm’s experience, as well as the contractor’s fee. The CMAR is retained early in the project for preconstruction services. Following a competitive bid for all subcontracts and the approval to award, the CMAR becomes the general contractor. Selection criteria include an evaluation of the firm’s plan for outreach to local subcontractors, ensuring that qualified local firms are fully aware of the bidding opportunity, the process, and the timeline.
What are the Judicial Council's policies with regard to local hiring and purchasing during design and construction? How will members of the public find out about these opportunities?
Once bonds are sold for this project and it is ready to be put out to bid, the construction manager at risk will become the general contractor. Before the project goes into construction, the contractor will conduct an outreach to local subcontractors, ensuring that qualified local firms are fully aware of the bidding opportunity, process, and timeline. All qualified subcontractors, lower-tier subcontractors, and suppliers will be considered.
What are the key milestones in building the courthouse?
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