Funded by Senate Bill 1407
Initial Funding Year: FY 2009-2010
This project is in architectural design-preliminary plans with a current expected completion date of 4 Q 2019.
Square footage: 169,342
Current authorized project budget: $174,309,000
In anticipation of additional cost-cutting measures, all facts are subject to change
At the Jun 28, 2013, Judicial Council meeting, council member and Judge Mary Ann O'Malley describes deteriorating conditions at the Sonoma Hall of Justice, the building slated to be replaced by this construction project.
California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) Compliance
The Judicial Council--through its Capital Program--is the lead agency for preparation of an environmental report to comply with CEQA.May 25, 2011, to June 24, 2011: Draft Initial Study and Mitigated Negative Declaration circulated. The draft study evaluated the potential environmental impacts of the proposed project and recommended mitigation measures.
June 16, 2011: Public meeting held.
In response to public comments, the Judicial Council staff completed a Final Initial Study and Mitigated Negative Declaration.
On July 27, 2011, the Judicial Council staff filed a Notice of Determination, thereby completing the CEQA process.
Richard Meier & Partners
Construction Manager at Risk
To be selected, schedule TBD
What is the project's current status?
The New Sonoma County Courthouse is in architectural design-preliminary plans, with a current expected completion date of 4 Q 2019.
Why is a new courthouse needed?
The Sonoma Hall of Justice, constructed in 1965, is overcrowded, has significant security problems, numerous accessibility deficiencies, and many physical problems. The court also uses two courtrooms and associated support space in the attached current jail or Main Adult Detention Facility (MADF). The proposed new criminal courthouse will consolidate all criminal court operations in a single and secure facility for greater efficiency, replacing these inadequate, undersized facilities as well as administrative space formerly located in the Family Court Services leased facility.
Who owns the existing Sonoma Hall of Justice?
The building is owned by the County of Sonoma. The Superior Court occupies just over half of the building. The Trial Court Facilities Act of 2002 made the state responsible for court facilities statewide. Under the transfer agreement executed between Sonoma County and the Judicial County, the County holds title to the courthouse, and council staff has responsibility for the space occupied by the Court.
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.
Why wasn’t renovation considered for this project?
Renovation was considered, but the state does not have enough space in the Hall of Justice building to accommodate the Court’s consolidated space needs and efficient operations.
What will happen to the current courthouse when the new courthouse is completed?
The criminal court will vacate its space and move into the new courthouse. Council staff, with input from the local Court and County, will determine the disposition of the court’s space in the building.
Where will the new courthouse be located?
The project site is located adjacent to 600 Administration Drive in the Sonoma County Administration Center campus, north of downtown Santa Rosa. The site is generally bounded by US Highway 101 on the west, Paulin Drive on the east, county offices and multi-family housing on the north, and Administration Drive and Fiscal Drive on the south. Ventura Avenue bisects the project site. The new courthouse will be located where the Old Jail facility was previously located, just east of the Hall of Justice. The site includes the surface parking adjacent to Ventura Avenue. Locating the courthouse close to the jail would enable the County in the future to build a tunnel connecting the jail to the new criminal courthouse.
How big will the new courthouse be?
The new courthouse will house 15 courtrooms, space for court administration, the court clerk, court security operations and holding, a jury assembly room, and building support space in approximately 173,500 square feet. The environmental review has been done on a building six stories tall, surrounded by landscaping and parking. A 20-foot-high enclosed penthouse would be constructed on top of the building to conceal the mechanical equipment. The project also involves adding to existing parking for the courthouse.
How much land is required for the project?
The site is approximately 5.5 acres for both the courthouse and new associated surface parking.
Where will courthouse visitors, jurors, and employees park?
Parking will be available in an existing surface lot adjacent to the former Old Jail facility and lots located directly across Ventura Avenue, east of the courthouse site and north of the Hall of Justice on Russell Avenue. In addition, a new parking area will be created from the removal of the Fleet Building located across Ventura Avenue, east of the site. Visitors and jurors will also be allowed to park at available county campus lots or surface parking. As is current practice, parking time waivers will continue to be honored for jurors.
Who is the lead agency for review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)?
Through its staff, the Judicial Council is the lead agency for environmental review under CEQA. Staff's environmental review, a Mitigated Negative Declaration, indicates that environmental impacts will be less than significant when proposed mitigation measures are implemented.
When did this project undergo review under CEQA?
The draft report was released on May 25, 2011. The public comment period extended through June 24, 2011. A public meeting was held on June 16, 2011. Council staff completed the CEQA process on July 27, 2011.
Why is money being spent 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, not the County, using funds specifically approved by the state legislature for courthouse construction. These funds come from court fees and fines (specifically collected for this purpose according to statute), so new court construction is paid for by “user fees,” not the state's General Fund. The courts comprise the judicial branch of state government, now independent of the County administrative structure. The Court and County share the same building, and the two entities work together in many areas, but are separate government entities.
How is the new courthouse being funded?
The courthouse will be funded from statewide increases in court user fees, 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, to be repaid by court fees, penalties, and assessments.
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. Funding of future phases of this project depends in part on what happens to court construction funds in future fiscal years.
As a result, this project will be required to undergo a budget reduction of 10 percent of hard construction costs. Further reductions beyond the minimum are expected if no compromises to safety, security, building performance, or court operations will result. The project has also undergone schedule changes to accommodate funding shortages. This web page will be updated with any changes.
How will the local community have input regarding the courthouse project?
A Project Advisory Group that includes local officials and community leaders has been working with Judicial Council staff and the Court and will continue to do so for the project’s duration. Members of the public were invited to review and comment on the project’s draft environmental report under the CEQA. As the project progresses, the public will be kept informed of key project milestones.
Who will design the building?
Council staff request for qualifications for this project went out in February 2009. Staff and the Court interviewed a short list of candidate firms. In October 2009, Richard Meier & Partners Architects was selected as the architecture firm for this project. Architectural design cannot begin until site acquisition is complete, expected by the end of 2011.
Will the project hire local contractors and use local suppliers?
When the project is in architectural design, the state will select a construction manager (currently scheduled for late 2011). The construction manager will perform local outreach to ensure that qualified local subcontractors and suppliers have the opportunity to bid on construction work when that phase nears.
Will the new courthouse be energy-efficient and sustainably designed?
Yes. All courthouse projects to be funded by SB 1407 are being designed to receive LEED Silver certification by the U.S. Green Building Council. This is a national standard for sustainable design, and energy efficiency is among its key criteria.
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