Funded by Senate Bill 1407
Initial Funding Year: FY 2009-2010
Photo: Bruce Damonte
Construction time-lapse: new Butte County Courthouse in Chico
The new North Butte County Courthouse is a full-service, five-courtroom courthouse in the greater Chico area. The facility consolidated court operations of the existing Chico Courthouse and the closed Paradise Courthouse. Initially, the new courthouse will handle civil, probate, traffic, family law, and juvenile dependency cases. Site support includes surface parking for visitors, staff, and jurors. Criminal cases and juvenile delinquency matters will continue to be handled in Oroville.
In November 2010, the California Public Works Board approved acquisition of a site for the courthouse: approximately 4 acres in the Meriam Park area in southeast Chico, north of 20th Street and east of Bruce Road. The acquisition was completed in October 2011.
California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) Compliance
The Judicial Council complied with CEQA by filing a Notice of Determination for this project on April 5, 2010.
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Tate Snyder Kimsey
What is the current status of the project?
The New North Butte County Courthouse was completed and occupied in March 2015.
Why does Butte County need a new courthouse?
Seventy percent of Butte County’s population lives in the northern half of the county. The main courthouse, located in Oroville in the southern part of the county, handles the majority of the county’s case filings. Because of space and security issues—compounded by the closure of the Paradise Courthouse—the Chico Courthouse cannot handle the volume and variety of cases and is restricted to civil and some traffic calendars. For all other judicial services such as criminal, small claims, juvenile and probate, northern county residents must travel approximately 25 miles to Oroville. In addition, the current Chico courthouse is in poor physical condition and has significant operational and accessibility issues which prevent the court from providing safe and efficient court services to the public. Examples:
What is the plan for the new courthouse?
The new North Butte County Courthouse will include five courtrooms in 65,096 square feet, replacing the inadequate and obsolete Chico Courthouse and the closed Paradise Courthouse. The new courthouse will initially include civil, probate, traffic, family law, and juvenile dependency cases, better serving the county’s growing population center, where the majority of social services, justice partners, and local bar members are located. Criminal matters and juvenile delinquency cases will continue to be handled at the Oroville Courthouse.
Was renovation considered before the plan to build a new courthouse was decided on?
The Judicial Council evaluated renovation as an option and found that it would not be feasible. The Chico Courthouse is overcrowded and in poor physical condition, with no room for expansion, and the closure of the Paradise Courthouse has made this overcrowding worse.
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?
The Project Advisory Group, with members from the Superior Court, the City, and the County, was the main source of ongoing community input to the project. In addition, the project team held periodic community meetings to keep the public informed about project progress.
What will happen to the Chico and Paradise Courthouses when the new North Butte County Courthouse is completed?
The state, which holds title to both courthouses, is currently in discussions about selling the current Chico facility back to Butte County, which has first right of refusal. No decision has yet been made about the Paradise Courthouse.
Who is the architect on the project?
Tate Snyder Kimsey, with offices in Las Vegas, Reno, and Los Angeles, has nearly 50 years of experience in a broad range of civic, academic, institutional, and commercial/industrial projects in California and Nevada. The firm has designed several award-winning courthouses in Nevada and brings extensive sustainable design experience to the project.
How are the architects for courthouse construction projects selected?
Judicial Council staff use a competitive selection process, factoring in qualitative criteria, such as the firm’s experience, as well as its fee.
What are the key milestones in designing the courthouse?
Where can I see a rendering of the new courthouse?
For a rendering of the new courthouse, please see the GALLERY tab on the project webpage.
Will the new courthouse be energy-efficient and sustainably designed?
This project has been designed to comply with CALGreen standards for energy-efficiency, water conservation, resource efficiency, and environmental quality. Sustainability features include extensive use of natural light throughout the building, bioswales that capture and direct storm water runoff, natural plants and drip irrigation to provide water-efficient landscaping, and energy-efficient lighting systems. The building is also designed to qualify for a LEED rating from the U.S. Green Building Council, the national standard for sustainable design.
What design approach was used for the new courthouse?
The design of the new, two-story courthouse was inspired by the Sutter buttes and plateaus of nearby Table Mountain, and includes features reflective of traditional justice architecture while reflecting Chico’s unique culture and environment. The energy-efficient design for the new building includes an abundance of natural light in the lobby and courtrooms, an entry area cupola, and a flat roof that resembles the brim of a hat. The first floor houses a single courtroom, public service counters, a jury assembly room, and space for family services. There are four additional courtrooms on the second floor. Part of the Meriam Park development project, the new courthouse will serve as an anchor property for the park and is expected to draw considerable traffic to the area.
What is the location of the new courthouse?
The new courthouse is located in Meriam Park, near the corner of Bruce Road and East 20th Street in Chico.
What was the process used to select the site?
Judicial Council staff worked closely with the Superior Court, the City, and the County to determine the preferred and alternate sites. Council staff followed a standard site selection policy and 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 Butte 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 local government throughout the site selection process.
Was an environmental review completed for the project?
Judicial Council staff are responsible for environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Staff completed the CEQA process by filing a Notice of Determination for this project on April 5, 2010.
Will the new building be energy-efficient?
Yes. The building is designed to qualify for a LEED rating from the U.S. Green Building Council, the national standard for sustainable design. Energy-efficiency features include extensive use of natural light throughout the building, natural plants and drip irrigation to provide water-efficient landscaping, and energy-efficient lighting systems.
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. Bonds to finance construction were sold on this project in the fall of 2012. This courthouse will be the first new construction project funded by SB 1407 to reach completion.
How did the state arrive at its initial 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. Bonds to finance construction were sold in fall 2012. 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 many 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 built the new courthouse?
Otto Construction is the general contractor on the project. In business since 1947, the company provides preconstruction and green consulting services and promotes efficient, cost-saving construction methods and is experienced in civic and government construction.
How was the general contractor selected?
The competitive selection process factors in qualitative criteria, such as the firm’s experience, as well as the contractor’s fee. 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.
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?
The Judicial Council requires that the contractor conduct 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 were considered.
What are the key milestones in building the courthouse?
When will the courthouse be completed and operational?
The completed courthouse opened in March 2015.
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