- How Bad Are California Courthouses? Statewide Video Tour Including Woodland
- Superior Court of Yolo County
Funded by Senate Bill 1407
Initial Funding Year: FY 2009-2010
The Judicial Council is the lead agency responsible for CEQA compliance. A Mitigated Negative Declaration was prepared for the project.
February 16, 2010 to March 18, 2010: Draft report circulated.
February 24, 2010: Public meeting held.
After receiving public comments, the Judicial Council completed a Final Initial Study and Mitigated Negative Declaration (10 MB)
On April 20, 2010, the Judicial Council filed a Notice of Determination, completing the CEQA process.
Planning for a New Courthouse in Yolo County (3:36)
Fentress Architects, in association with Dreyfuss & Blackford Architects
Construction Manager at Risk
The New Yolo County Courthouse was completed in July 2015 and opened for business on August 16, 2015.
Why does Yolo County need a new courthouse?
The Superior Court of Yolo County provides court services from six separate facilities in downtown Woodland. The historic Woodland Courthouse, built in 1917 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, handles civil, probate, juvenile, family, felony, and misdemeanor cases. A shared-use facility with the County, the courthouse has been renovated as the court has grown, but continues to be severely overcrowded with significant seismic, security, functional, and accessibility issues.
The other five facilities, which host family court, the Court’s self-help center and Family Law Facilitator, traffic, file storage and staff functions, also have security, functional, and accessibility problems. Altogether, the physical and logistical deficiencies of these facilities, and the fact they are spread throughout downtown Woodland, prevent the court from providing safe, efficient, and effective court services for residents in a county where the population is projected to double by 2050. Examples include:
What was the plan for the new courthouse?
The new, five-story Yolo County Courthouse includes 14 courtrooms in approximately 163,000 square feet. It will replace the Court’s space in the historic Woodland Courthouse and five other facilities. The new courthouse will solve the current space shortfall, increase security, replace inadequate and obsolete buildings, and consolidate court operations. The new courthouse will include appropriately sized courtrooms, jury deliberation rooms, an adequately sized lobby and court administrative space, outside service counters, a self-help center, attorney/client conference rooms, and accessibility for people with disabilities. The new courthouse will handle all case types and services under one roof, providing a modern, secure courthouse for the county’s growing population. The new courthouse will be the most significant new civic building in Woodland in nearly a century.
What does the new courthouse look like?
The new courthouse was designed to reflect the appropriate mix of the Court’s historical past and its need for a modern, efficient courthouse from which to serve the public. The design includes a curved façade that faces Main Street, with a four-column portico at the entrance reminiscent of the historic, World War I-era Woodland Courthouse. The exterior, inspired by the Sierra white granite found in the region, features a granite base, along with a more economical façade on the upper levels. A covered arcade offers shade and protection from the elements. It also hosts outside service counters, allowing court users to pay fines and submit documents without going through security. Windows throughout the courtrooms, offices, and jury assembly space allow for ample natural light. The two-story glass lobby with a large skylight connects the exterior with the interior of the new courthouse.
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 historic, County-owned Woodland Courthouse and found that it would not be feasible, due to the building’s space limitations, security, safety, accessibility issues, and physical problems. In addition, under the State Historic Preservation guideline, it was deemed substantially more costly to renovate the building than to build a new courthouse. Also, the County holds title to the old courthouse, 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.
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 January 2010, the Judicial Council prepared an Initial Study for the proposed project. In February 2010, the Judicial Council issued a Notice of Intent to adopt a Mitigated Negative Declaration (MND) and a notice regarding the opportunity for public comment. The notice was mailed to interested parties. An abbreviated version of the notice was published in the local paper as well. The public comment period ran from February 16 through March 18, 2010. On February 24, 2010, the Judicial Council held a public meeting to take comments on the MND as well as answer any questions about the proposed project. On April 20, 2010, 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. Judicial Council staff work with the Project Advisory Group, composed of community leaders, 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 facilities when the new courthouse is completed?
After the new courthouse is completed and the Court vacates its space in the current Woodland Courthouse, the County, which holds title to the building, will use the vacated space for county agencies. The County is currently exploring the option of housing the Yolo County Archives in the old courthouse. Judicial Council staff will work with the Court and County to help determine the disposition of the Court’s space in the Old Jail and Family Support building. Leases on the two additional court facilities will be terminated.
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What is the location of the new courthouse?
The new courthouse is located in downtown Woodland, on a 3-acre site bounded by Main, Fifth, and Sixth Streets and Lincoln Avenue. The Woodland Redevelopment Agency expedited the state’s purchase of the land by assembling various properties on the block, and then selling the land to the state. This arrangement allowed the new courthouse to remain in downtown Woodland, creating a convenient, accessible location for county residents. In addition, Judicial Council staff acquired two sites close to the new courthouse from the Union Pacific Railroad to be used as parking lots.
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 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 at least two sites that met agreed-upon criteria for the proposed new courthouse in providing access to justice for residents of Yolo 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 April 10, 2010.
Will the new building be energy efficient and sustainably designed?
Yes. The building was designed with attention to sustainability. The building’s sustainability features qualified 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. This courthouse will be one of the first new construction projects funded by Senate Bill 1407 to reach completion.
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 new courthouse was designed by a partnership between two architectural firms: Dreyfuss & Blackford Architects and Fentress Architects. The Sacramento-based firm of Dreyfuss & Blackford Architects has nearly 60 years of experience in Northern California, including court buildings in Placer, Butte, and Napa counties. Denver-based Fentress Architects specializes in public buildings and has extensive California experience, including the San Joaquin County Administration Building in Stockton, an addition to Sacramento's City Hall, and an expansion to the Pasadena Convention Center. Both award-winning firms have extensive experience in sustainable design.
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 renderings 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.
Who is building the new courthouse?
Hensel Phelps is the construction manager at risk on the New Yolo County Courthouse. In business for more than 70 years, the firm has completed numerous California public projects, including courthouses, and is consistently ranked among the top general contractors and construction managers in the nation by McGraw-Hill’s Engineering News-Record. Two of the firm’s California public projects won McGraw-Hill Construction’s Best of the Best Awards, a national competition that recognizes design and construction excellence.
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. For this competitive selection, Judicial Council staff received 12 submissions and conducted interviews with five short-listed firms, from which Hensel Phelps was selected.
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 of the new courthouse was completed in July and the court opened for business on August 16, 2015.
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