Mendocino County, New Ukiah Courthouse

Ukiah courthouse

Superior Court of California, County of Mendocino

Funded by Senate Bill 1407
Initial Funding Year: FY 2009-2010

The current overcrowded and inadequate Mendocino Courthouse in Ukiah

Special Notice
Current Status
This project is in site acquisition. The current expected completion date is 3 Q 2020.

Vital Statistics
Courtrooms: 8
Square footage: 90,206
Current authorized project budget: $94,451,000 
More information

In anticipation of additional cost-cutting measures, all facts are subject to change.
February 2015

What is the current status of the project?

The new Mendocino County Courthouse is in the site acquisition phase, with an expected construction completion date in fall 2019. This schedule is subject to change.


Why does Mendocino County need a new courthouse?

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 most of the courtrooms and most clerical and administrative offices, and an older section in the rear, which dates to the 1920s and houses three outmoded courtrooms and clerical offices but is also used 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. Examples:

  • In-custody defendants use the same hallways as court visitors and staff.
  • Because the building lacks a secure sally port, in-custody defendants line up on a public sidewalk to enter the building.
  • The building is seismically unsafe. The old part of the building was rated at a critical level of seismic risk in a significant earthquake, in a condition making it unfeasible to retrofit to current standards.
  • The building’s single elevator serves only the 1st, 3rd, and 5th floors. The basement, 2nd, and 4th floors are only accessible by stairs.
  • The building has numerous other accessibility deficiencies, making it non-compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
  • The building lacks a fire and life safety system. Its electrical and mechanical systems are outdated and inefficient.


A second facility, the one-courtroom courthouse in Willits, was closed at the end of 2009 because of budget cuts, making the main courthouse even more overcrowded.

What is the plan for the new 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 separate hallways for the public, court staff, and those in custody, adequately sized holding areas for in-custody defendants, and a secure sally port. The project will also provide adequate space for basic services including 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.

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.

Was renovation considered before the plan to build a new courthouse was decided on?

Mendocino County retains ownership of the Mendocino Courthouse, so any renovations would involve expense to the county as well as the state. Renovation of the existing courthouse was investigated by the Judicial Council, but the existing building is in such a poor physical condition, with severe safety issues, that renovation was deemed infeasible. There is also no room to expand the building on the existing site.

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.

More information:

Judicial Council
Judicial Council Staff


How has the local community had input regarding the courthouse project?

The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) process included a number of opportunities for community input on the project, including:

  • A Notice of Preparation was issued to the public and published in the local paper on April 25, 2011, announcing the preparation of a draft environmental impact report (EIR) for the project. The Notice of Preparation was circulated for 30 days, from April 25 to May 25, 2011.
  • A public meeting was held on May 17, 2011, to take comments on the Notice of Preparation and answer any questions from the public.
  • A Notice of Availability was issued to the public and published in the local paper on October 30, 2011, announcing the availability of the draft EIR for the project. The draft EIR was circulated for public review from October 31, 2011 to January 31, 2012.
  • A public meeting was held on November 30, 2011, to take comments on the draft EIR and answer any questions from the public.
  • A Notice of Availability was issued to the public on April 11, 2012, announcing the availability of the Final EIR.

The Project Advisory Group, required by Rules of Court and state law, is the main source of ongoing community input to the project, particularly after CEQA is completed. The Project Advisory Group is composed of community, business, legal, and government leaders. Judicial Council staff provides accurate 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.

What will happen to the historic courthouse when the new courthouse is completed?

As stated above, the County holds title to the courthouse property. The courthouse will remain a County building after the new courthouse is built and the court vacates its current space. The County will be offered the first opportunity to either buy back or lease the space vacated by the court. The Judicial Council maintains financial responsibility for the cost of the vacated court space until the State is able to locate a party to take over that financial responsibility

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Where will the new courthouse be located?

The state is working to acquire the preferred site, approximately 4.1 acres located within a larger area of vacant land south of East Perkins Street and west of Leslie Street. The land was formerly used as a railroad yard for Union Pacific Railway. The site will allow for the building as well as parking for court visitors and employees. Two alternates were studied initially as site possibilities. This site was chosen over the alternate site because of the alternate site’s complexity due to multiple owners and because the alternate site’s appraised value was beyond the project budget.

The state is in negotiations with the current owner of the property, the North Coast Railroad Authority, to acquire the property.

What was the process used to select the site?

Judicial Council staff worked closely with the Superior Court and the Project Advisory Group, which includes community, business, legal, and government leaders to determine the preferred and alternate sites. 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 Mendocino County, within the confines of the project’s budget and schedule.

Among the key criteria was location within or near downtown Ukiah. The site selection has been validated by the Project Advisory Group, and the Presiding Judge 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 selections were approved by the State Public Works Board, who must also approve the terms of the acquisition.

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 responsible for environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Staff completed a full Environmental Impact Report (EIR) with two public meetings and extended timeframes for written comments. The Notice of Determination for this project was filed on April 25, 2012.

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 to receive 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 a “Critical 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 in the years to come.

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 is the architect on 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 as building services, engineering and urban design and planning. The company has won numerous awards from the American Institute of Architects. Its projects have included the recently completed, award-winning new courthouse for the Superior Court of San Bernardino County and the new federal courthouse in Los Angeles, currently under construction.

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?

  • A Request for Qualifications is issued to find and secure the best-qualified architecture firm.
  • Once site acquisition is completed, the architects begin the design, draw floor plans and elevations, and illustrate the design through renderings or scale models.
  • Once the design is complete and agreed upon, the preliminary plans are approved.
  • The design phase moves into working drawings.
  • Working drawings are approved and the project moves into construction.


Where can I see renderings of the new courthouse?

Once the project moves into architectural design, renderings will be posted on the project web page under the GALLERY tab.

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. The courthouse design will meet the energy-efficiency requirements set forth in LEED as well as by California Energy Code.



Who will build the new courthouse?

A Construction Manager at Risk 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?

  • When the project is in architectural design, a Request for Proposals is issued to find and secure the best-qualified CMAR.
  • The CMAR in turn issues bid packages to qualified construction professionals to build the construction team.
  • The construction site is prepared, the foundation is poured, and the core of the building and protective shell are completed.
  • The building is enclosed and infrastructure systems are completed.
  • Interior fixtures and finishes are completed.
  • The newly constructed building undergoes quality control checks and the major systems are tested.
  • The finished new building is inspected and issued a certificate of occupancy.


When will the courthouse be completed and operational?

Construction is currently scheduled to begin in 2017; the courthouse is scheduled for completion in fall 2019. This schedule is subject to change.


Architecture/Engineering Firm

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

Construction Manager at Risk

To be selected, schedule TBD

Subcontractor Bidding

Schedule TBD


Contact Info

Judicial Council of California
Capital Program

455 Golden Gate Avenue, 8th Floor
San Francisco, California

Customer Service Center:
888-225-3583 or
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