Funded by Senate Bill 1407
Initial Funding Year: FY 2009-2010
What is the current status of the project?
The new Kings County Courthouse is in the construction phase, with an expected completion date in December 2015.
Why does Kings County need a new courthouse?
The Superior Court of Kings County currently provides criminal, civil, small claims, probate, trust, traffic, and family and juvenile court services from three facilities located in the cities of Hanford, Corcoran, and Avenal. The Hanford Courthouse, part of the Kings County Government Center and the main courthouse, serves the public from three physically inadequate and unsafe buildings spread out across the downtown campus. Built in the late 1970s, the buildings are undersized and overcrowded, and have significant physical, seismic, functional, accessibility and logistical problems that prevent the Court from providing adequate and efficient court services to King’s County residents. Examples:
What was the plan for the new courthouse?
The new, four-story Kings County Courthouse, being built near the Kings County Government Center just west of the County Jail, includes 12 courtrooms in approximately 144,000 square feet. It will replace the court’s space in the Kings County Government Center. The new courthouse will solve safety and accessibility problems and increase security with improved entrance screening and a secure underground tunnel for the transportation of in-custody detainees from the county jail to the new courthouse. The facility will provide basic services not currently offered: a self-help center, appropriately sized and secure public lobby space, queuing areas for entrance screening and public service counters, in-custody and courtroom holding areas, a jury assembly room, jury deliberations and family court mediation rooms, attorney interview and witness waiting rooms. The new courthouse will consolidate the Hanford and the closed Lemoore court operations from five unsafe, overcrowded, and physically deficient buildings into a modern, centrally located and secure courthouse, greatly improving access to justice for Kings County residents. The Corcoran and Avenal branch courthouses will remain open to serve the public.
Was renovation considered before the plan to build a new courthouse was decided on?
The Judicial Council evaluated renovation as an option and found it would not be feasible. The court’s space in the Kings County Government Center is overcrowded and in poor physical condition with no room for expansion; the closure of the Lemoore Branch Courthouse has made this overcrowding worse. In addition, the county holds title to the court-occupied buildings, and in the majority of cases, the state cannot renovate a building it does not own.
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?
Initially, public input was a part of the environmental review process. The Judicial Council was the lead agency for environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). In early 2010, the Judicial Council began preparing an Initial Study (IS) Mitigated Negative Declaration (MND) for the project. This IS/MND was circulated to the public. The public comment period on the IS/MND ran from September 29, 2010 through October 28, 2010. On October 20, 2010, the Judicial Council held a public meeting to take comments on the IS/MND as well as answer any questions about the proposed project. On January 20, 2011, the Judicial Council filed a Notice of Determination.
Following the CEQA process, 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 existing space in the Kings County Government Center when the new courthouse is completed?
After the new courthouse is completed and the Court vacates its space in the county-owned government center, the County will determine what to do with the vacated space. The Corcoran and Avenal branch courthouses will remain open to serve the public.
What is the location of the new courthouse?
The new courthouse is located at 1640 Kings County Drive, near the Kings County Government Center and the County Jail. The 9.5-acre site was acquired in an equity exchange with the County for the Court’s space in the county-owned government center.
What was the process used to select the site?
Judicial Council staff worked closely with the Superior Court and the Project Advisory Group, composed of community, legal, and government leaders, to determine the preferred and alternate site. Council staff followed a standard site selection process. The process involved objectively evaluating potential sites and selecting sites that met agreed-upon criteria for the proposed new courthouse in providing access to justice for residents of Kings County, 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 Judicial Council is the lead agency for the environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). A Mitigated Negative Declaration was prepared and a Notice of Determination was filed for this project on January 20, 2011.
Will the new building be energy-efficient and sustainably designed?
Yes. The building was designed with attention to sustainability. The building’s sustainability features qualify the project 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, $1.5 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 designed the new courthouse?
The DLR Group was the architect for the new Kings County Courthouse. Established in 1966, the company is an award-winning architectural firm, experienced in designing civic structures, including courthouses. It was ranked first in criminal justice design by World Architecture magazine. The firm has worked on many California projects, including the new San Andreas Courthouse, the Santa Cruz Justice Complex, and the Arrowhead Regional Medical Center.
How are 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 a rendering of the new courthouse?
Renderings are posted on the project web page under the GALLERY tab.
Will the new courthouse be energy-efficient and sustainably designed?
Most courthouse projects funded by SB 1407 are being designed to qualify for 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. The courthouse was designed to meet the energy-efficiency requirements set forth in LEED as well as by California Energy Code.
What design approach was used for the new courthouse?
The New Kings County Courthouse was designed to harmonize with its surroundings. The new four-story courthouse features an expanded plaza that elevates the building and establishes it as a civic presence. The area leading up to the new courthouse is reflective of the long-dry Tulare Lake and creates a welcoming space for court users to gather. The interior is organized around a central atrium with a skylight that brings abundant natural light into the building. Visitors will be able to easily navigate between floors and departments that branch off from this single space. The lobby also will provide adequate space for accessing security screening and clerk services, and enhanced security will provide separate traffic patterns for the public, court staff, and in-custody detainees. Among the courthouse’s sustainability features is a cost-saving air-conditioning system that cools the air by blowing it over ice made at night, when energy rates are lowest.
Who is building the new courthouse?
Sundt Construction is the construction manager at risk on the New Kings County Courthouse. In business since 1890, Sundt Construction, Inc. is 100 percent employee-owned and operated. The company has completed numerous educational, commercial, and civic construction projects, including California courthouses in Mammoth Lakes, Tulare County, and the Richard E. Arnason Justice Center in Pittsburg. Sundt has won numerous awards for its work in the public sector including the National Design-Build Excellence Award for Educational Facilities.
How was the construction manager at risk (CMAR) selected?
The CMAR was 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 included an evaluation of the firm’s plan for outreach to local subcontractors, ensuring that qualified local firms were 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 were sold for this project and it was ready to be put out to bid, the construction manager at risk became the general contractor. Before the project went into construction, the contractor conducted an outreach to local subcontractors, ensuring that qualified local firms were fully aware of the bidding opportunity, process, and timeline. All qualified subcontractors, lower-tier subcontractors, and suppliers were considered.
What are the key milestones in building the courthouse?
When will the courthouse be completed and operational?
Construction on the new courthouse began in fall 2013; the courthouse is scheduled for completion in December 2015. This schedule is subject to change.
Kings County Groundbreaking Ceremony
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Construction Manager at Risk
The Superior Court of Kings County provides services in two full-time locations: Hanford, the county seat, and Lemoore. In Hanford, severe space restrictions have forced the court to spread operations among four separate buildings in the downtown government center. Three of the buildings were constructed in the late 1970s, the fourth in the early 1990s. The Hanford complex handles all case types except family law, which is handled in the Lemoore Courthouse, approximately 10 miles away. The Lemoore Courthouse is a very small shared-use building, constructed in 1959, with a single courtroom.
All five buildings have numerous security deficiencies, are overcrowded, and have many other physical and functional deficiencies. Dispersal of court operations among several buildings and locations inconveniences court users and creates inefficiencies in court operations. For example, there is no room in the Lemoore courthouse for on-site storage of active case files, creating the need for constant transfers of files.
The new courthouse will replace these facilities and consolidate all court operations in a modern, secure, full-service courthouse. The new facility is designed to handle all types of proceedings, including criminal, traffic, civil, family law, juvenile dependency and delinquency, small claims, probate, appeals, unlawful detainer, conservatorships and guardianships, and family court mediation. It will consolidate all family law proceedings and support services currently spread out of over three locations in three different towns into a centralized location.
The new facility will also enable the court to provide services currently not possible due to space restrictions: a self-help center; appropriately sized and secure public lobby, queuing for entrance screening and public service counters, courtroom waiting areas, jury assembly room, jury deliberation rooms and family court mediation rooms; and adequately sized in-custody holding, attorney interview/witness waiting rooms, courtroom holding areas, and a children's waiting room.
In May 2011, the state Public Works Board approved a site in Hanford for the new courthouse: approximately 9.5 acres immediately west of the County Jail and adjacent to 12th Avenue. Construction began in Oct 2013.
California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) Compliance
The Judicial Council is the lead agency for preparation of an environmental report to comply with CEQA.
Sept 29, 2010, to Oct 28, 2010: Draft Initial Study and Mitigated Negative Declaration circulated. The draft study evaluated the potential environmental impacts of the proposed project and recommended mitigation measures.
Oct 20, 2010: Public meeting held.
In response to public comments, the Judicial Council completed a Final Initial Study and Mitigated Negative Declaration.
On Jan 20, 2011, the Judicial Council filed a Notice of Determination, thereby completing the CEQA process.
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