Calaveras County, San Andreas Courthouse

Current Status
This project was completed in 4 Q 2013.

Vital Statistics
Occupancy date: November 25, 2013
Courtrooms: 4
Square footage: 44,644
Authorized total project cost: $45,364,000 
More information

Awards and Recognition
Certified as LEED Gold by the U.S. Green Building Council
The previous Superior Court of Calaveras County provided services from a single location. Operating out of the county Legal Building and awkwardly augmented by an adjacent modular building, the court facilities were functionally deficient, significantly overcrowded, and among the worst in the state in terms of security and physical condition. The deplorable situation of the existing facilities and the public's hindered access to court services were among the reasons why the proposed new San Andreas courthouse was urgently needed.

This project created a new four-courtroom San Andreas Courthouse for the Superior Court of Calaveras County, replacing the court's space in the Legal Building and adjacent modular unit. The new courthouse includes space for court administration, a court clerk, court security operations, a holding area, and building support space.

In August 2009, the AOC acquired from the County 6.9 acres north of the county government campus, adjacent to what would become the site of a new county justice facility, for the new courthouse.

This project has been recognized by the American Institute of Architects' Academy of Architecture for Justice, receiving an award of merit in the 2010 Justice Facility Review. Online profile

California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) Compliance

The County of Calaveras was the original lead agency for the CEQA environmental studies done on the site for the new courthouse. The AOC adopted the county's existing Mitigated Negative Declaration prior to the acquisition of the property.

April 29, 2009: the AOC filed its own Notice of Determination for the courthouse project.

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Architecture/Engineering Firm

DLR Group

General Contractor

McCarthy Building Company Inc.

Subcontractor Bidding

Completed. Construction began 2/12


Why do we need a new courthouse?

Calaveras County is served by one trial courthouse, operating out of the county’s Legal Building where it occupies less than half of the space. Lack of space requires the court to use the county Board of Supervisors’ chambers and an offsite courtroom in the historic county courthouse, now a museum. The court also leases an adjacent modular unit for administrative space and contracts with a local non-profit organization to host a self-help center. Onsite parking is also inadequate.

The deplorable conditions of the Legal Building and adjacent modular unit, inefficiencies caused by having court services and operations dispersed in four buildings, the public’s hindered access to court services, life safety and security problems, severe overcrowding, and the county’s projected population growth—nearly doubling in population by 2050—are among the reasons why a new courthouse is needed.

What is the plan for the new courthouse?

This project will solve the current space shortfall, increase security, replace inadequate and obsolete buildings, and consolidate court operations currently located in four separate buildings. It will become a one-stop location for public access to all court services.

The new four-courtroom, 44,660 square foot courthouse will be located near the current court building in downtown San Andreas and adjacent to the new county jail to which it will be connected.

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

The county owns the Legal Building. This means that the state does not have title to the Legal Building, which would be necessary to make the needed improvements and bring all court services under one roof. For that reason, renovation was ruled out. Also, the Legal Building has other functional and efficiency problems which include:

  • The security screening station is too small to accommodate X-ray screening equipment in an area that is grossly undersized and frequently congested.
  • Deputies escort defendants in chains through public corridors.
  • The courtroom and the hearing room are undersized according to state standards, lack adequate entryways, appropriate soundproofing, and attorney conference and witness waiting rooms. They are also not accessible for people with disabilities.
  • The hearing room’s jury box is too small to accommodate high-volume proceedings, such as arraignments.
  • Lack of a holding area adjacent to the courtroom means that in-custody detainees enter the courtroom through the same doors as the public and court staff.
  • The queuing area for the clerk of court is extremely limited, and lines for services spill into the hallway and out the front door.
  • The building lacks a fire sprinkler and alarm system.
  • Other problems include poor ventilation and climate-control problems, inaccessible electrical, data, voice, and other lines in the ceiling, and the presence of asbestos.
  • The leased modular building is too small to accommodate staff and computer servers and does not meet safety standards.

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?

During the site selection and acquisition phase local members of the Project Advisory Group (including members of the Calaveras Superior Court, local government representatives and other justice partners) viewed and ranked prospective sites based on standard criteria. Judicial Council staff then pursued the acquisition of the top ranked sites.

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

As part of the transfer terms for the existing San Andreas courthouse, the County of Calaveras agreed to provide the site for the courthouse in exchange for the state’s equity in the court space to be vacated in the Legal Building.

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Who is the general contractor on the project?

McCarthy Building Company, Inc. is the general contractor. In business since 1864, it is 100 percent employee-owned and operated. It is also one of the top 10 commercial builders in the country and has completed numerous civic construction projects, including courthouses. The company has won numerous awards for its work in the public sector including the California Council on Excellence Award and Department of Energy Excellence Award.

How was the contractor selected?

The Judicial Council’s competitive selection process factors in qualitative criteria, such as the firm’s experience, as well as the contractor’s fee. Selection criteria for the general contractor 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, process, and timeline.

What are the key milestones in building the courthouse?

  • A Request for Proposals is issued to find and secure the best qualified general contractor.
  • The prequalified general contractors submit bids on the work. Contract was awarded to the lowest responsive bidder.
  • 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 began in February 2012; the courthouse is scheduled for completion in early fall 2013.

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 on the project. Prior to the project going 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 is the location of the new courthouse?

In August 2009, the Judicial Council acquired from the county 6.9 acres north of the county government campus for the new courthouse. Located in downtown San Andreas, the site is not far from the current courthouse and is adjacent to the county’s new jail, which is being built simultaneously.

What was the process used to select the site?

Judicial Council staff worked closely with the Superior Court and with the Project Advisory Group, which includes judges, court staff, representatives from city and county government, justice partners, and the business community, to determine the preferred and alternate sites. The 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 Stanislaus County, within the confines of the project’s budget and schedule. A cost reduction subcommittee of the Court Facilities Advisory Committee, which oversees the court construction program statewide, directed the project team to pursue the city block bounded by G and H Streets and 9th and 10th Streets in downtown Modesto as the preferred site. The presiding judge signed off on the preferred and alternate site, and the site selection was approved by the council's Administrative Director of the Courts and the State Public Works Board.

The Project Advisory Group for the Calaveras County Courthouse included:

  • Hon. John E. Martin, Presiding Judge, Superior Court of Calaveras County
  • Hon. Mark Ashton Cope, Judge, Superior Court of Calaveras County
  • Hon. Douglas Mewhinney, Judge, Superior Court of Calaveras County
  • Mary Beth Todd, Court Executive Officer, Superior Court of Calaveras County
  • Jeffrey Tuttle, District Attorney, County of Calaveras
  • Michael Walker, Undersheriff, County of Calaveras
  • Robert Lawton, County Administrative office, County of Calaveras
  • Brent Harrington (County of Calaveras)
  • Scott Gross, Calaveras County Public Defender’s Office
  • John Trifilo, Attorney

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 justice agency stakeholders throughout the process of replacing or renovating courthouses. By Rules of Court, staff involve the public primarily through the Project Advisory Group, although depending on the needs of the project, public input may be sought at various stages.



What environmental review was conducted on the site before it was developed?

The Judicial Council is the lead agency for environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). In April 2009, the Judicial Council approved a mitigated negative declaration for the project. The mitigated negative declaration evaluated the potential environmental impacts of the project and identified appropriate mitigation measures. Some of the mitigation measures that will be applied during construction include watering disturbed earth to severely limit dust emissions and establishing protection zones around endangered wildlife and vegetation.

Will the new building be energy efficient?

Yes. The building has been designed with attention to sustainability. Energy-efficiency features include a solar panel array on the roof and a system to store ice at night, taking advantage of off-peak power to minimize energy use in the building’s air-conditioning system. The building’s sustainability features will qualify it to receive LEED Silver certification by the U.S. Green Building Council.



How is the new courthouse being funded?

The courthouse is being funded without impact to the state’s General Fund. The funds come from statewide increases in court user fees, authorized by the Trial Court Facilities Act of 2002. This bill approved the issuance of lease-revenue bonds to fund this project, to be repaid by court fees, penalties, and assessments. Bonds were sold for this project in fall 2011.

How did the state arrive at its initial budget for the project?

Judicial 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, council 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?

The San Andreas, Calaveras County courthouse was authorized under the Trial Court Facilities Act of 2002, which transferred responsibility for court facilities—their repair, renovation and construction—from counties to the state. To fund desperately needed renovations and repairs, penalty assessments and parking offense penalties were increased, and civil filing fee surcharges were created. 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. The state sold bonds for this project in November 2011. Once the courthouse is completed and occupied, the same revenue stream will repay those bonds over 35 years. This means that funds from other court jurisdictions will support Calaveras County’s critical needs in years to come.

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.



Who is the architect on the project?

The DLR Group was the architect for the new Calaveras County Courthouse. Established in 1966, the company is an award-winning architectural firm, experienced in designing civic structures, including courthouses. The DLR Group was ranked first in criminal justice design by World Architecture magazine. The DLR Group was also the architect on the Sacramento Juvenile Courthouse project. The company has worked on many California projects, including the Santa Cruz Justice Complex and the Arrowhead Regional Medical Center.

How was the architect selected?

Judicial Council staff use a competitive selection process, factoring in qualitative criteria, such as the firm’s experience, as well as its fee. The architectural company is retained early in the project to begin preliminary drawings.

What are the key milestones in designing the courthouse?

  • A Request for Proposals is issued to find and secure the best qualified architect firm to begin the design process.
  • The architects complete design development, floor plans, and elevations, illustrating the design through renderings or scale models.
  • Comments are solicited on the design at key points.
  • 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?

Renderings are posted on the project web page under the GALLERY tab.

Will the new courthouse be energy efficient and sustainably designed?

All courthouse projects are designed to receive the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver certification by the U.S. Green Building Council. This is a national standard for sustainable design. Energy efficiency is among its key criteria.


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