Funded by Senate Bill 1407
Initial Funding Year: FY 2009-2010
This project would create a modern, secure courthouse with an adequate number of courtrooms to handle all case types, including criminal, family, traffic, juvenile, probate proceedings, probate investigations, and civil settlement. Improved security features would 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 would 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.
April 2012: Due to the current fiscal crisis, the project is being reassessed to determine the number of courtrooms needed. Once that is confirmed, lower-cost construction methods will be evaluated. As we learn more, this project web page will be updated.
California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) Compliance
The AOC is the lead agency for preparation of an environmental impact report (EIR) to comply with CEQA. The EIR for this proposed project evaluates two potential sites currently being considered :
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, the AOC's responses to comments, changes to the environmental impact report, and other information.
April 25, 2012: The AOC 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 impact of the state’s current budget crisis on this project?
The state Budget Act for fiscal year 2011–2012 contained unprecedented cuts to the judicial branch budget in general and to the account that funds SB 1407 projects in particular. Taking account of the state’s continuing fiscal crisis, in April 2012 the Judicial Council approved cost-reduction measures affecting all projects funded by SB 1407. News release.
As a result, this project is being reassessed to determine whether the plan includes the appropriate number of courtrooms. Number of courtrooms is a primary driver of the size of a courthouse. The reassessment will also evaluate lower-cost construction methods, with the goal of significantly reducing the project’s hard construction costs where that does not jeopardize the building’s safety, security, building performance, or court operations. At this time, the timeline for reassessment is not known, so the impact on the project’s overall schedule remains to be seen. Until the state Legislature resolves the budget for the coming fiscal year, any future impact on funding the next phases of this project is unknown. This web page will be updated with any changes.
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 AOC, and why are they managing this project?
The AOC is the staff agency to the Judicial Council of California. The Judicial Council is the policymaking body for the California judicial branch, which includes the trial courts, known as “Superior Courts,” based in each county. Among other responsibilities, the AOC is responsible for planning, acquisition, design, and construction of court facilities statewide. The Superior Court is responsible for the management of all court operations within Mendocino County.
What is the plan for a New Ukiah Courthouse?
The proposed project will construct a new courthouse for the Superior Court of Mendocino County. The proposed project would create a modern, secure courthouse with nine courtrooms to handle all case types, including criminal, civil, family, traffic, juvenile, probate proceedings, and probate investigations. Improved security features would 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 would 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 proposed 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. Since the funding from these projects comes from court “user fees” collected by all 58 courts in California, the projects do not affect the state's General Fund.
Who decides where the new courthouse will be located?
In deciding where to locate the new courthouse, the AOC is working closely with the Superior Court and with a Project Advisory Group, which includes community leaders who represent the business community, the legal community, the Sheriff, and local government (County/City). The AOC follows 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 proposed 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, the AOC 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. The AOC is now undertaking environmental review of both potential sites. The site selection was also approved by the State Public Works Board, giving the AOC 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 113,700 square feet. The AOC expects that the building will occupy three stories plus a basement. However, one option that will be examined in the environmental impact report for the library site is a taller building, five stories, with a smaller footprint, in the event that not all of the parcels for the library site can be obtained. Because of height restrictions related to the Mendocino airport, should it be necessary to pursue the taller building option, the AOC will seek approval from the California Department of Transportation’s Aeronautics Division to ensure that the building’s height does not create an aviation hazard.
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, but the AOC understands that the public will have questions about it as well. The AOC 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 will be held, and other public outreach will be conducted as needed. To begin this process, a presentation about the judicial branch building program and the initial studies for this project was made at the meeting of the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors on May 17, 2011.
How will environmental reviews be conducted? Who will be the lead agency for CEQA?
The AOC is 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, the AOC expects to perform a full environmental impact report (EIR).
What is 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. There will be a public meeting on the draft EIR on Wednesday, November 30, 2011, from 6 to 7 p.m. at City Hall. Comments on the draft EIR are due December 14, 2011. The AOC expects to complete the CEQA process by early 2012.
Will the project hire local contractors and use local suppliers?
The AOC 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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