Funded by Senate Bill 1407
Initial Funding Year: FY 2009-2010
This project will create a modern, secure courthouse with eight courtrooms, adequate to handle all case types, including criminal, family, traffic, juvenile, probate proceedings, probate investigations, and civil settlement. Improved security features will include adequately sized holding areas for in-custody defendants, separate hallways for the public, staff, and those in custody, and a secure sally port. The project will also enable the court to provide basic services currently not possible due to space restrictions: a self-help center, appropriately sized jury assembly and deliberation rooms, a children's waiting room, family court mediation, and attorney interview/witness waiting rooms.
California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) Compliance
Judicial Council staff are responsible for preparation of an environmental impact report (EIR) to comply with CEQA. The EIR for this project evaluated two potential sites:
April 25, 2011 to May 25, 2011: Notice of Preparation and Initial Study circulated.
May 17, 2011: Public scoping meeting held.
October 31, 2011 to January 31, 2012: Draft EIR circulated for public comment.
November 30, 2011: Public meeting held.
April 11, 2012: Final EIR released. The Final EIR includes stakeholder comments, council staff responses to comments, changes to the environmental impact report, and other information.
April 25, 2012: Judicial Council staff filed a Notice of Determination, approving the project and adopting the existing EIR, thereby completing the CEQA process.
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill
Construction Manager at Risk
To be selected, schedule TBD
What is the current status of this project?
The new Mendocino County Courthouse is in site acquisition, with a current expected completion date of 2 Q 2019.
What is the impact of the state’s current budget crisis on this project?
Since 2009, $1.7 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 several delays, and has been required by the Judicial Council to undergo reductions to its construction budget, overseen by a statewide oversight committee of justices, judges, and public building experts.
Because number of courtrooms is a primary driver of the size and cost of a courthouse, the project was reassessed to determine whether it included the appropriate number of courtrooms. The reassessment also evaluated lower-cost construction methods, with the goal of significantly reducing the project’s hard construction costs where that would not jeopardize the building’s safety, security, building performance, or court operations.
As of fiscal year 2014-2015, the project was downsized from nine to eight courtrooms. The project is currently authorized to proceed into the first phase of architectural design once site acquisition is completed. Funding of future phases depends in part on what happens to court construction funds in future fiscal years.
Why is a new courthouse needed?
The current Mendocino Courthouse in Ukiah is a shared-use building that includes two poorly integrated structures: the main building, constructed in the 1950s, which houses the courtrooms and most clerical and administrative offices, and an older section in the rear, which dates to the 1920s and is used mainly for storage, county offices, and jury assembly. Currently, the Superior Court of Mendocino County occupies a little over two-thirds of the building, with the County occupying the rest. This seven-courtroom facility is overcrowded and has significant security deficiencies and severe functional deficiencies, as well as problems with access under the Americans with Disabilities Act. For example, in-custody defendants use the same hallways as court visitors and staff and because the building lacks a secure sally port, in-custody defendants line up on a public sidewalk to enter the building. A second facility, the one-courtroom courthouse in Willits, was closed at the end of 2009 because of budget cuts.
Who owns the existing courthouse?
In 2002, the Trial Court Facilities Act made the state responsible for court facilities statewide. However, Mendocino County retains ownership of the Mendocino Courthouse. The courthouse will remain a County building after the new courthouse is built and the court vacates its current space.
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 staff office—is responsible for planning, acquisition, design, renovation, and construction of court facilities. The new courthouse will be owned by the judicial branch.
What is the plan for a New Ukiah Courthouse?
The project will create a modern, secure courthouse with eight courtrooms to handle all case types, including criminal, civil, family, traffic, juvenile, probate proceedings, and probate investigations. Improved security features will include adequately sized holding areas for in-custody defendants, separate hallways for the public, court staff, and those in custody, and a secure sally port. The project will also provide adequate space for the following basic services: a self-help center, appropriately sized jury assembly and deliberation rooms, a children's waiting room, family court mediation, and attorney interview/witness waiting rooms.
What facilities will the new Ukiah Courthouse replace?
The new courthouse will replace both the current Mendocino County Courthouse in Ukiah and the now-closed Willits Branch courthouse. There are no plans to close other locations of the Superior Court of Mendocino County, including the Ten Mile Branch Court in Fort Bragg, the Round Valley Branch in Covelo, and the Arena Branch in Point Arena.
Why can’t the existing courthouse be renovated?
Because the County owns the existing courthouse, it was not a feasible option for the state to renovate the building. There is also no room to expand the building on the existing site.
Why is the County spending money on a new courthouse when there are so many other local needs and there is a state budget crisis?
The project is funded and managed by the state and not the County. The courts are a separate branch of government, now independent of the County administrative structure. We share the same building, the County collects court-imposed fees and fines, and we work together in many areas, but we are separate branches of government. The new courthouse will also be funded without reliance on the state’s General Fund.
How is the new courthouse being funded?
The courthouse will be funded through statewide increases in court fees, penalties, and assessments authorized by Senate Bill 1407, which passed in 2008. This bill approved the issuance of up to $5 billion in lease revenue bonds to fund this project and 40 others throughout the state. The funding for these projects comes from court “user fees” collected by all 58 courts in California, not the state's General Fund.
Who decides where the new courthouse will be located?
In deciding where to locate the new courthouse, Judicial Council staff worked closely with the Superior Court and with a Project Advisory Group, which includes community leaders who represent the business and legal communities, the Sheriff, and local government (County/City). Council staff follow a standard site selection policy and process. The process, established by the Judicial Council’s Site Selection and Acquisition Policy, involves objectively evaluating all potential sites and selecting at least two sites that meet agreed-upon criteria for the new courthouse in providing access to justice for Mendocino County residents, within the confines of the project’s budget and schedule.
The Project Advisory Group identified site selection criteria of greatest relevance and importance to the court. Working with a local real estate broker, council staff identified possible sites that met the criteria. Among the key criteria was location within or near downtown Ukiah. All sites which met this and related criteria were then ranked, resulting in two potential sites:
The site selection has been validated by the Project Advisory Group, and the Presiding Judge has signed off on the preferred and alternate sites as required by Judicial Council policy. Council staff have completed environmental review of both potential sites, and the site selection was approved by the State Public Works Board, giving council staff the authority to begin negotiations with the sellers. Site selection and acquisition typically take two years or more.
How big will the building be?
The courthouse will occupy approximately 90,00 square feet and is expected to be three stories tall.
Who is the architect for the project?
The San Francisco Office of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP was selected to design the new Mendocino County Courthouse in Ukiah. Established in 1936, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP provides architecture and sustainable design services, as well building services, engineering and urban design and planning. The company has won numerous awards from the American Institute of Architecture as well as the American Architect Award from Chicago Athenaeum. Its projects have included the new courthouse for the Superior Court of San Bernardino County and the new federal courthouse in Los Angeles, both currently under construction.
Will the local community have input regarding the courthouse project?
The Project Advisory Group is the main source of ongoing community input to the project. Judicial Council staff will provide accurate and timely information throughout site selection, design, and construction: Updates will be posted to the California Courts website, and media advisories will be distributed at key milestones. Public meetings on environmental issues have been held, and other public outreach will be conducted as needed.
How will environmental reviews be conducted? Who is the lead agency for CEQA?
Through its staff, the Judicial Council was the lead agency for environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). To ensure the most comprehensive review of the project's environmental effects, council staff performed a full environmental impact report (EIR).
What ws the timeline for the CEQA process?
The Notice of Preparation was released on April 25, 2011, and a scoping meeting held May 17, 2011. The draft EIR was published for public review and comment starting October 31, 2011, for a 45-day period. A public meeting on the draft EIR was held on November 30, 2011. Comments on the draft EIR were due December 14, 2011. Judicial Council staff filed a notice of determination, completed the CEQA process, on April 25, 2012.
Will the project hire local contractors and use local suppliers?
Council staff will contract with a construction manager at risk to provide preconstruction services and manage construction. Among selection criteria for the construction management firm will be the quality of its plan for local outreach to ensure qualified local first-tier and lower-tier subcontractors and suppliers have the opportunity to bid on the construction work.
Will the new courthouse be energy-efficient and sustainably designed?
All courthouse projects funded by SB 1407 are being designed to achieve 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. More information on LEED
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